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Intern Insights: Interning Beyond Borders

Riina Posti – South East Skills Marketing and Events intern

Hi! I’m glad you have found your way to this post where I introduce myself and the upcoming Intern Insights blog series.

I’m Riina, a 23-year-old currently living in Essex. Originally I am from Finland, and talking about how I ended up here in the UK was the inspiration to the topic this week: Interning Beyond Borders. Keep reading to find out more about my intern experiences internationally, and how I personally have found internships to help shape my career path, add to my professional AND personal skill sets, as well as just have been an experience of a lifetime!

Taking you back all the way to 2015, I completed my very first internship experience at an Arctic Zoo in Finnish Lapland. I was 17 years old, studying a college level diploma in Tourism, and faced with a task to find an internship which would align with the learning topics of the course. The course structure I went through back then would be comparable to the new T-levels, which include job placements within the chosen area of study (Find out more here).

The college I went to did offer a range of businesses which had previously had students in internship positions, however none of them seemed like a very exciting opportunity when tourism is such a broad industry. This was my first ever time researching potential businesses to present an internship opportunity to, and I was having to put myself out there. In retrospect I am so happy I did this, as the internship gave me such an all-rounded experience and a sense of accomplishment of having created the opportunity for myself.

The most important skill I learned while working at Ranua Zoo (go check them out here if you are ever planning a trip to Lapland) was the ability to jump on any given task. Because the manager and I essentially created a scope for the internship as we went along, this meant that doing ad-hoc tasks went beyond the usual measure – from running midnight tours of the zoo, to creating a new t-shirt organising system, to mapping out all the contestants of a bear cub naming contest into an Excel sheet, to even doing a couple of taster days with the animal care department.

Had I not been ready to do anything and everything, I probably would not have been offered a summer contract for the following year – which is not a bad achievement at that age! I am also forever greatful for the team there to have trusted me with tasks which I had no previous experience of, like doing guided tours for large groups and various administrative tasks. Employers should remember that an internship is a learning opportunity and it works both ways, not just for the benefit for one or the other.

After the first touch of working in an exciting environment and staying away from home for a couple of months, I was hungry for more. Luckily for me, in my final year of that very same tourism diploma I had turned 18 and was offered a chance to go abroad for one more internship, and that is how I ended up in Tenerife.

The best thing about working in Tenerife was getting a taste of a different working culture in a very international team, not to mention that my job consisted mostly of having fun! I was part of an entertainment team in an all-inclusive hotel located in Costa Adeje in the south of the island. This internship particularly required me to just throw myself into it completely, we slept at the hotel, ate at the hotel and worked in a shift pattern of 5 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the evening after siesta and dinner.

Without knowing all the details beforehand and knowing I would not be able to just pop home if I fancied it, I was a little hesitant to go abroad. In the end I thought: It’s only 8 weeks. Looking back now I wish it would have been even longer, because the experiences of learning about a new industry, trying out another job, and growing more independent cannot be measured in time or money. All of these have given me confidence since then to apply for jobs, try out new things and even move abroad to the UK!

This takes me to now lived in England for the past four years. Although I am based in Essex, after living here a couple of years I decided to apply to Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, where in a short time I have come across loads of exciting opportunities. I did not apply for further study until a good few years after I finished my final exams, which is one of the reasons I advocate for different learning and career paths, and that old “it’s never too late to go to uni” chestnut. Having just finished my second year of studying Events Management and Business, I am pleased to be interning with SELEP for the upcoming weeks. I am looking forward to finding skills to add to my roster, and how I can improve my lifelong learning while completing this internship.

Do stay tuned for blog posts in the Intern Insights – series, where I will cover topics related to skills, employability, and my own personal experiences of the positive impacts of interning and learning on the job. I would also love to hear any thoughts or comments you may have, or even wishes for some topics you would like to read about. Just drop me an email at artp100@student.aru.ac.uk.

Thanks for reading!

-Riina