Business College Helsinki

Internship in Spain was a great experience for Jonna Kuivasaari: “I would do it all over again”

Jonna is a 22-year-old girl from Finland and she is studying business in Business College Helsinki. Jonna has always loved traveling and before attending Business College she actually lived in America for two years. She is always looking for new international opportunities which is part of the reason why she wanted to do her studies in English. Her internship in Spain was another great experience and she can’t wait for what’s next!

Why did you decide to go?

I have always loved traveling and learning about new cultures so this was a great opportunity for me. Internationality is really important to me and has been ever since I was little. I believe that getting to know several people from different countries gives me a much broader view of the world and thus brings more content to life. I also want to learn new things, meet new people and see the world which is why I definitely choose living abroad over my home country and that will probably never change. However, I had not thought of a particular place and that’s why Seville came as a surprise when I applied for an internship through the Spain Internship office. Funny thing is that I ended up working for that office myself and this turned out to be a great fit.

How did you find the place?

The place was found when I decided to look for an internship through the Spain Internship office website. I never had any specific cities or placements in mind but when I got the message from the company I knew right away that this could suit me so we organized an interview and decided it was the best decision. I had wondered about many different countries and in the beginning I thought about possibly going to USA but that would have been a hassle and this option in Spain seemed quite easy and simple and I thought it would make more sense for quite a short term placement.

How did you prepare for the trip?

Before the trip I had hard time figuring out how to pack because when leaving Finland in the winter, it is relatively difficult to prepare for the Spanish climate. I packed my stuff and searched for quite a lot of information. Even before arriving in Spain I had the feeling I was going to a place that I will love.

Finding a room however turned out to be difficult because I didn’t know if the pictures were reality. I guess you can never know when you are searching for apartment in a new country and won’t be able to go and see the place before making the decision. Gladly my future internship office helped me look for apartments and I did end up finding one that is owned by my boss but the problem was that it was booked for 1.5 months after I arrived in Spain. Anyhow, I decided that this was an easy option and booked Airbnb for 1.5 months, after which I moved to this shared flat. This may sound like an odd decision, but I thought it was safer to book a room through people I know are reliable and not from a foreign site or someone who might not be trustworthy. In addition to this the room was very fair priced (325€ / month + electricity) and the flat was for girls only.

Later on I heard about the experiences of my friends in Spain and I was very glad I chose to do everything the way I did. Basically one of my friends had booked an apartment before arriving in Spain and upon arrival found that it did not even exist. She lost money and had to start searching again while staying in Airbnb and only ended up finding decent place 50 minute walk away from the office. She never got her money back even though she went to the police station to report the incident. This is not intended to intimidate prospective applicants. I just want everyone to understand how important it is to look for housing from safe and reliable sources.

Back to the Airbnb section which I must mention as my Airbnb host was the most amazing and wonderful person. She was like a family member to me even though I only got to know her for few weeks. We talked every night and she told me a lot of things about Seville. Something else I must mention is that she cleaned the whole place every week and made me breakfast everyday as well. I knew her so well by the end of my time at her place that I decided to get her a gift from her favorite brand and we still keep in contact to this day.

Did you notice any differences in the culture?

It’s hard to think of the differences in cultures when it comes to co-workers as everyone is, of course, a unique person regardless of nationality. However, the biggest difference was probably how relaxed and comfortable everyone was. As an example I want to mention the beginning of my work. One day I was told that the day starts at eight in the morning. Just like I would in Finland, I was at the office early because I imagined that when the day starts at eight, I have to be there early so I can start work at the exact time. Well, I waited for 20 minutes for the first person who had the keys to arrive to the office. To me it seems like Spanish time is way more flexible than what we have in Finland. Especially, because I am a person who doesn’t like to wait and I definitely do not want to let others wait for me.

Communicating with the locals turned out to be awkward at first, as many did not speak English so I decided to learn polite sayings and ways to communicate so I won’t come out as a rude tourist. It was very clear that people will treat you better if you invest in kindness and even try to communicate with them in Spanish. Unfortunately I didn’t learn much Spanish during this time though because all my friends spoke English well.

One big difference that I never got the chance to adjust to was the food culture. Often the Spanish people gather out after 7pm to eat which is why during the evenings many tapas restaurants and other places are quite crowded to say the least. That’s why I often got weird glances when I was with my friend eating at 4pm (only in places that were open because several restaurants and shops are closed during the day around 3-6pm for Siesta). At this time in Spain people might be having coffee or beer on the terrace but definitely not eating meals.

What did you learn?

Differences in the work culture. Wonderful work environment that I already miss very much. The times are not as strict in Spain as I have mentioned previously although of course the number of hours must be filled. Sometimes if you came to work, for example an hour earlier, you left according to it.

I was lucky to learn a lot about the great culture in addition to learning a little bit of Spanish (muy muy poquito) I learned so much about different cultures and living in a country that is so different from what I am used to. Working in a multicultural work community was one of the biggest learning experiences but above everything else I am lucky to have found amazing friends.

Working in a multicultural work community was one of the biggest learning experiences but above everything else I am lucky to have found amazing friends.

I definitely found many ways to spend my money during this time. Necessary and unnecessary clothing shopping to start with and of course food and necessities for living. Flights turned out to be more expensive than I imagined at first but it was because there are no direct flights to Seville unlike other cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. Depending on the day I would always have right amount of money with me because I knew that having cash was something that made me more comfortable and not only because sometimes card might not work at certain places. If I was planning on spending my day with a friend I would always be prepared to go for tapas and possibly shopping or having cold drinks by the river watching the sun set. Some other costs were my gym payments, which was very reasonable priced, only 25€ per month and of course my rent.

What could you have done differently?

Even in this particular situation, things could have been better but I do not regret anything. My time in Spain started better than I could have ever hoped, lovely co-workers, great new friends, beautiful city. Everything was like a dream that was then taken away due to an extremely unfortunate situation. However, I got a lot of wonderful experiences and friends that will always stay with me.

The only thing I can currently imagine doing differently is learning Spanish at some level before the trip. This would have made it a little more relaxed from the start and of course it feels good and comfortable to know how to act politely around their culture.

Advice for others?

You should definitely go if you have the chance, this is an experience you don’t want to miss. Even though my trip ended short I would never change what I experienced up until the point when everything changed. And even though I know the outcome I would definitely do it all over again.

Pros and cons?

+ lovely people
+ new friends
+ great culture
+ stunning scenery, city and experiences
+ cheap dining, shopping and living
+ lots of wonderful shops and restaurants
+ different work community, amazingly diverse

– language barrier in some situations
– difficulties caused by the current virus situation
– not being able to finish the internship in Seville
– ruined plans to have my family and friends visit me

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