From: Dortmund, Germany
Internship: Mach Media
Function: Marcom Project Assistant
Mother tongue: German
Working language: English
City: Ghent, Belgium
What I did on the job: Doing this internship, after already having done a semester abroad, was another great opportunity to experience an international environment; this time in a different context and a different country. I am currently studying Communications & Marketing at the International School of Management, Dortmund so experiencing the real world and working professionally was an exciting prospect for me. I had previously never thought I would work in such an international office located in Ghent, Belgium!
On my first day I didn’t know what to expect, but what positively surprised me was how welcoming and friendly everybody was. I immediately felt comfortable. I was given the resources I needed – a laptop, a professional email address, login details for online accounts, etc., and everyone explained the programs that Mach Media uses. It was a great first onboarding experience. I even met colleagues in the USA office, who introduced themselves via Skype.
The environment I experienced was open-minded, focused and enthusiastic and I got involved in a lot of different projects. My first task was helping to write copy for a real client and I learned a lot about social media, especially LinkedIn, which I hadn’t previously used in this way. My German mother tongue was useful too when I created presentations for German audiences and translated texts from English into German for several clients.
One of my main tasks was to develop my own communication plan for Mach Media including a SWOT analysis, positioning and ideas for external communication tools. I worked with a colleague to develop a Messaging Framework, which was new to me and it was a great exercise. The whole task was a real challenge for me because I had to transfer the theory I learned at university to my professional work life. Combining learned concepts with practical work was definitely interesting; to see contrasts, clashes, similarities and actual value.
A Valuable Lesson: I had heard a lot about external vs. internal communications at university and how difficult it can be to combine the two to guarantee effectiveness. Working in a Marcom agency means, among other things, developing and executing communication strategies for your clients; but in addition the agency itself needs to work out its own strategy to communicate with its stakeholders (of which clients and employees are just two examples).
My favorite moments at Mach Media were the weekly team meetings because this is when the whole team (Belgium and USA) comes together with a lot of energy. Different topics are discussed and everyone is welcome to contribute. The input of fresh eyes helps colleagues working on different projects. I saw the value of internal teamwork and the importance of connecting with colleagues – listening to their ideas, emotions and feedback. This is crucial for better external work.
Culture Shock: Even though Belgium and Germany are neighbors, this was my first experience of staying in Belgium. I didn’t really have a clue what is going on at first and I was a bit worried, but after the first week I was positively surprised: everybody was so friendly and understood English. Getting around Ghent was easy and my questions were always met with helpful responses.
Free Time: You can’t be in Belgium without hearing about one of their specialities in cuisine: Belgian fries! It was comical to find out that you can order them in every restaurant, they are part of almost every meal and if not, of course, you can add them. My two other culinary experiences were eating mussels and the delicious Belgian waffles – you can get these everywhere as well, needless to say, I ate all of these things as often as possible.
Most of my weekends here were spent travelling around and I think I can now work as a Belgian tour guide. First I explored Ghent, naturally: shopping and sightseeing. I also visited Antwerp and Bruges. I immediately fell in love with all three cities because I love the connection between historical cities and the modern world. Another place I visited was the sea, where I relaxed in the sun and again ate those delicious Belgian treats. After travelling around I can say that Belgium is definitely worth visiting.
Julia’s Intern Travel Tip: If you are under 26 you can buy a “GoPass”. With this ticket, you can ride 10 times on the train wherever you like in Belgium and it’s only 50.
In the real world: My “In the real world” moment of realization came with the deadlines. Of course, you have deadlines at university and I am a really organized person but it is no comparison to the real Marcom office. Sometimes you have to shift your whole day’s workload and get just one task done because the client has an urgent need or a colleague is waiting for something from you. In my perspective, these surprising and sometimes unexpected situations really helped to improve my time management and organizational skills.
Julia’s “Real World” Tip: Learn to prioritize and expect the unexpected!
Team: Working in a business team means being focused, motivated and communicative. Every day there are ongoing projects and other tasks which are waiting for you just around the corner. In Marcoms, the variety of work is huge so especially as an intern, you learn a lot, even in just three months. I had the opportunity of being introduced and briefed on tasks and projects, and to discuss the results of my work, so from the beginning I felt that I was a part of the team and part of an agency.
Julia’s Intern Advice: Every student who has the time and the opportunity should do an internship abroad. It is a truly wonderful experience and a way to broaden your horizons. You get to meet new people and cultures in a professional context, try different food, live in a totally different environment and visit cities you probably never expected to visit. Even day-to-day situations like catching the bus or going to a restaurant or bar are different and essential to the experience!
Last but not least: The three months at Mach Media elapsed way too fast. I learned a lot about Marcoms, got to know super cordial colleagues and just enjoyed being part of an international team. My last words would be to say thanks to everyone, I had a great time!