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Traveling is an Internship

My name is Bonnie, and I’m a communications intern at GSD&M. In a short amount of time I’ve been immersed in the company culture, had a hand in PR efforts for campaign launches and gone on spontaneous team outings to Amy’s Ice Cream. Work hard, play hard. Right? This is my last internship before graduating college, and as I transition into the real world I’ve heard a lot of the same things: build credit, cut out boxed mac and cheese and travel while I’m young. Let’s be honest, that last bit is the most interesting.. 

In recent years, I had the opportunity to travel to multiple countries and experience cultures that I was not familiar with. My travels taught me to be independent, embrace the unknown and soak up as much knowledge as possible—much like the experience of my internship. Between traveling and getting a taste of a “big girl job,” this is what I’ve learned so far:

Appreciate people. Learn from strangers.

Last summer I went to Spain to visit family, most of which I had never met before. In my two weeks there I experienced more warmth and hospitality than I thought possible, especially from people who were basically complete strangers. We spent hours enjoying each other’s company over food, rather than rushing a meal and moving on. I learned the importance of treating people we don’t know with love and compassion, and to take time to embrace other traditions no matter what. In the workplace we also collaborate with people of different cultures, experiences, upbringings, etc. and traveling to other places helped me empathize with all kinds of people and appreciate different skills and perspectives. 

Dive into culture, but remember to be a tourist.

Italy is a big bucket list item. I was lucky enough to spend two weeks experiencing its rich culture. While I dove into cultural experiences like making pasta from scratch with locals who didn’t speak English and experiencing the secret restaurant basement that hid the golden Roman Trojan horses, I also made it a priority to be the stereotypical tourist. I spent time at the Colosseum, went on food tours and explored the ancient iconic churches. I saw creativity and innovation that went back thousands of years and inspired millions who came after it. I understood why millions of people travel there to experience history. It’s been proven that traveling enhances your creativity, and I can attest that it absolutely ignited a new creative flame inside of me, which is something I’ve been able to carry into my work. 

It’s not us vs. them.

Sometimes to truly understand people, we need to see how they live and what’s important to them. While I experienced the best of the above cultures, I also saw people protesting on the streets for their rights, and young, educated adults begging for jobs. I saw their challenges and realized we might not be that different despite being on opposite sides of the world. I learned to humanize world issues that I only heard about on the news or in articles. Advertising and communications are about creating genuine connections with people across cultures, and my experiences traveling helped me reshape the way I want to use communications in my professional and personal life. By placing yourself in the lives and culture of other people, you can walk a mile in their shoes quite literally.  

Traveling is an internship. You’re thrown into an experience that you’re not used to and quickly gain more responsibility and independence. My experience in my travels and my internship have forever made me a better colleague, a better creator and a better person. I wouldn’t take back either experience for anything.

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