08 Oct Program Coordinator Success Story - Maria Pizzo
We had the pleasure of sitting down with one of our colleagues; Maria Pizzo, she is an Italian-American expat who has been living in Spain for five years. In this interview, we will delve into her story from becoming a Program Coordinator to a full-time employee at Absolute Internship.
Maria accepted her offer for the Program Coordinator vacancy and she started off as an intern in the Enrollment Team in order to gain a deeper understanding of Absolute Internship and its processes. Afterwards, she excelled in her job as a Program Coordinator in Hong Kong and Shanghai, where she was pushed to her boundaries.
How has working for Absolute Internship and living abroad shaped you personally and professionally?
I just finished my Master's degree in Global Education, when I saw the vacancy on LinkedIn. Since I had already studied abroad before, it became one of my missions to bring as many students abroad as possible, to share this incredible experience.
When I got accepted, I started as an intern in the Enrollment Team at Absolute Internship before starting my job as a Program Coordinator.
Moving to China was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I never would have guessed that I would be able to experience such a completely new environment, its culture, food, language and customs.
What were your tasks and biggest challenges as a Program Coordinator?
As a Program Coordinator, I was in charge of the logistics of the program. I prepared the welcome packs, the city tours, orientation, sim card/travel card, day trips/weekend trips. Furthermore, I worked closely together with the placement team to organize career speakers, company visits. One of my biggest tasks was supervising the students, helping them if they have any questions or problems. I loved organizing group meals, I was able to check in on the students every week to see how they were doing and bond with them.
My biggest challenge was communication and not being able to communicate with locals. I am a big communicator, I love to talk and connect with people. It was difficult to be on the metro and being unable to understand the conversations around me or not being able to read signs. I had to use my phone translator, gestures, etc. Overall the people were very open, understanding, and helpful!
How does Absolute Internship prepare students in terms of culture shock?
During Orientation day we talk about culture shock, in the sense of business culture, how to save face, how to interact with your colleagues as well as the language barrier or how to use public transportation prior to your internship. With specific problems, students can talk to their Program Coordinators. That’s what they are there for!
One of the biggest criteria in becoming a Program Coordinator is having international experience. Since they have experienced culture shock as well, it gives them a better understanding of what our students are going through. Maria’s pro tip regarding culture shock is to expect the struggle, to be immersed in an absolutely new culture that is not your own.
“Get out of your comfort zone. That’s where you grow, out of your comfort zone. Be open-minded, remember to breathe and take one day after another, especially in the beginning because it is a new environment, language. The outcome will be rewarding.”
- Maria Pizzo, Enrollment Team Leader at Absolute Internship
Besides the hardships as a Program Coordinator, Maria’s most memorable experience was a success story of one of her students. She was able to connect with a student who has no prior experience in the business environment.
“[He] had no LinkedIn profile, so we had to start him up from zero. It is part of our career development workshop to help students with their professional online profile, in order to help them present themselves in a professional manner.”
After the summer, he contacted Absolute Internship and proudly announced that he has been recruited through LinkedIn for a Marketing position in London!
After four incredible months abroad in China, Maria was hired as an Enrollment Coordinator. Only a year later, she was promoted to the Enrollment Team leader position where she took over more responsibilities. She still works closely with students, interviewing potential candidates for her locations in Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. But more importantly, she is also overseeing and guiding two other Enrollment Coordinators, coaching them and making sure that everyone meets their goals.
To end this interview, what advice would you give to people considering gaining experience abroad?
Just do it. All the feedback I’ve been given by students is to just do it. It can be scary and overwhelming. But the great thing about Absolute Internship is that we organize every aspect of it, from your guaranteed internship in your industry, your accommodation, your activities, professional development. We don’t leave a lot of room for problems or difficulties, we try to give our interns a complete package. Don’t be afraid to be outside of your comfort zone, because that’s where you grow.
It has been two incredible years since Maria has joined the #AbsoluteTribe, gaining irreplaceable international experience and personal growth.