Claire Wright has spent the past year in Strasbourg, completing the final months of her Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies at our partner institution, the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg. Internships form an integral part of the programme and Claire has just sent us this account of her experiences of the process of securing an international internship. Some great advice here.
“It wasn’t until my third year of my undergraduate studies at Stirling when I realised the importance of having internship experience.
It’s true that it’s always more appealing to depart on ‘grands voyages’ all over the world during the long summer university break as opposed to confining yourself to an office environment. Honestly, that’s what I thought, and on top of that, I was terrified of the concept of applying my ‘education’ to the real business world. What if I didn’t meet the employer’s expectations? What if I then suddenly realised that all of those years spent studying were irrelevant? And worse still, what if they rejected me? Well Claire, obviously you’ll never know until you try! Besides, everybody who makes it to university has a certain level of intelligence. Sometimes you can be savvier than employees who have been in the organisation for decades, minus the experience – yet another reason why you should grab any opportunity to complete an internship.
I must admit that during my undergraduate degree I did not try hard (enough) to find internships, instead, I mostly worked part time at different points throughout the semester, travelled during the summer and did odd voluntary/ seasonal work. The truth is that I was too easily offended by the generic rejections from companies when I was applying for internship posts, which now seems stupid because it’s normal – obviously there will be healthy competition when applying for this kind of thing. A telephone interview I had in my final year of undergrad really made me realise exactly that. Why be put off? I should be even more motivated to succeed. My attitude was exactly that. I didn’t get the internship, I believe it was down to my lack of experience, but it was the furthest I had ever reached in the various interview stages. That was enough to motivate me.
When I moved to France last September, I learned that in order to graduate with my Master Grande Ecole, it was obligatory to complete an internship. The fact it was obligatory gave me the fear, but it pushed me to seriously start looking. Given I had no real ‘professional’ experience, it was particularly difficult to find one, besides, many posts were exclusively for 1st-3rd year students, which I wasn’t. Not only that, but I was looking for post abroad, where the talent pool is significantly bigger than at home, and of course, required a fluency in the language. With the pressure mounting, I started to panic. I already knew I was extremely lucky to be in the position I was in, completing a double degree with a fully funded master’s component, but I was still kicking myself for not having grabbed opportunities at the beginning of my studies.
As I mentioned, I was privileged to attend the prestigious French management school, EM Strasbourg, and even more so to be able to take advantage of their partnerships with local and global organisations. Following a trip to France’s biggest wine producer and exporter, Les Grands Chais de France, my class was asked to work in groups to create presentations which focused on various business areas. My group was given the topic ‘strategy to penetrate the Chinese market’. As an individual, I always like to be prepared, and to source background information whenever possible, so naturally I put a lot of work into the task. Little did I know, when we were presenting, the HR team were there to observe. A few weeks later I received a call inviting me for an interview, which I got. Obviously I was thrilled to find an internship position, but to find one in my chosen industry was just amazing. I guess my motivation shone through that day, I really had had a kick up the backside.
To all my fellow students, you should take this piece of advice and just try harder. It is not a question of whether you have contacts in high positions, it’s down to you. Put yourself out there and grab opportunities. If you work hard, it will be recognised and you’ll be rewarded for it. In this way, you will never tire of opportunities and options. After being offered my current position, it seemed that all of the offers came at once. That just proves that your attitude matters.”
Thanks to Claire for this article. Best of luck for the rest of your time with Les Grands Chais de France and we look forward to seeing you back in Stirling in November for graduation!