Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Cristina Negru, one of our interns, is leaving after her three months long Erasmus+ internship at the Campus Life office of University CEU Cardenal Herrera. She was happy to share her experience with us before her return back to Romania, and so we sat down to talk.
Hi, Cristina! Before we go into your internship experience, please tell us about yourself! Who are you, where do you come from, what do you study, any special interests…
Hi! My name is Cristina Negru. I was born in the Republic of Moldova, and now I’m enrolled on my third year of Bachelor in Business and Management, at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies in Romania.
I’m keen on writing and traveling. I’m thinking about mixing these two hobbies soon by starting a travel blog. This idea actually came to me just recently through this internship, as one of my tasks was to write articles for the Campus Life blog once a week, and I understood that I could do it, I had been afraid to do it before. I want to give advice to other students on how to be a student and travel.
Why did you decide to do an Erasmus+ internship? Did you have any previous exchange experience, have you for example studied abroad before?
I think that nowadays studying and living abroad is a must. It’s not enough to have good grades, I think that the soft skills that you can develop only by interacting with people in intercultural situations can help you on the workforce market to achieve your dream job. So I think that an internship is the best possibility a student can have in growing and developing their personality.
I have previously studied abroad, I did an Erasmus+ study exchange in Greece. I chose Greece from the economic point of view as I was doing research at the university about the Eurozone. I think it’s always better to be at the centre of events rather than just hear about things from the news.
I also plan to do another exchange this upcoming spring. I’m planning another Erasmus+ study exchange, this time in Denmark, which is something new and exciting as the environment will be something totally different for me, and I want to experience it!
Why did you choose to come to Spain for your internship? Did you know any Spanish before coming?
Coming to Spain had always been a dream for me. Doing the internship here was a good opportunity to travel and at the same time to do something for my future career. This happened totally unexpectedly, but I worked for my dream and I achieved it!
It was a totally new world! I didn’t know Spanish before, just “hola”! It was a little bit hard, not knowing the language, not knowing the culture, not knowing anybody. It’s a new beginning, a new life, everyday you experience something new. You are full of excitement and sometimes there are hard situations that you have to pass.
But I had the feeling I would love it here, and in the end I did! Although everything was new, the Spanish language is related to my mother tongue Romanian, and I had experienced the Southern European culture in Greece. I wasn’t that afraid. And when I arrived here I just knew, “That’s my country!”
How did you find out about CEU UCH? What attracted you to this internship placement especially?
I found the offer on erasmusintern.org website, which is a platform for Erasmus+ internship offers. What attracted me the most to the offer was the fact that it was a placement in a higher education institution. In the future I would like to work in a university, and I think this was a good first step on that career. And now I know I want to do this in the future.
Also, I really liked the application process. It was very transparent: we had a Skype interview, everything was clear, everything was arranged and very detailed. Everything was very open, and that is the most important thing when you are going abroad for an internship.
What was your job as an intern like? What kind of tasks did you have? Did you get to learn something new, acquire new skills?
In the university you learn how to eat, and when you go to work you will actually eat! All the knowledge that I had gathered during my two years of university I have applied here. I have had the possibility to develop my management skills in event organization, planning and prioritizing the tasks, I gained experience in content marketing through writing the blog… I had never experienced that. I feel like I discovered myself! My self-discovery was the most amazing thing I could get from my internship.
What do you think of the Spanish working culture? Was it different from your previous experiences in Moldova and Romania?
In Romania the life is a bit more stressful, it’s university, work, and then home. Here I like that the life is more relaxed, even though we had deadlines and stayed overtime at work, even staying at work for twelve hours. It is really a job I enjoyed doing, I was never counting the seconds until I could leave!
We had a relaxed atmosphere at the office, but because of that I was more productive. I was doing things on my own, and also cooperating with others. We were planning the tasks together, and I got to do things on my own: I think that motivated me more than just being pushed around by stress. I think I would really like working here again in the future.
I remember the first day I arrived: meeting my coworkers was like coming to family that I hadn’t seen in a long time! They were really open-hearted. The relationship between us was a really friendly one.
What has been the most valuable experience from your stay at University CEU Cardenal Herrera?
My self-discovery of writing blogs, and having developed myself in marketing and with my management skills… organizing events for students, going with them, making arrangements and appointments.
Coordinating people, that’s tough. Taking care of everybody, making sure that they feel good and are enjoying the activities — working with people is always tough. It is always a lot of responsibility. And they were all from different cultures, I had to adapt myself to each and every person, and I think that is what developed me the most, this interchange of different cultures.
How did you like living in Spain? Did you like it here, or did you perhaps experience a culture shock?
I liked it here a lot, as I said before! I wouldn’t say that I had a culture shock. Though some of the Spanish habits, let’s say for example the meal schedule and having dinner at ten o’clock, felt really strange to me. What I really liked was that people practice sports a lot, you see them practicing sports everywhere on the street and in the parks. I found that doing sports and having a healthy lifestyle really motivates you, I haven’t seen people do that in Romania.
Eventually I got used to the Spanish schedule and the language. I adopted some Spanish expressions to my speech, and even when I’m talking in my own language the Spanish words come to me, “claro, perfecto”!
What is your fondest memory from this whole stay? What will you miss about Valencia?
What I appreciated the most was my experience of traveling in Spain. I can’t really pick one place, I’ve been to Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza, different cities in Costa Blanca… I regret not going to Andalusia, but I’ll let that be for the next time. That will be my reason to come back!
Regarding my work, I really appreciated the experience of working with people from different cultures. I will also always remember my first public speaking experience, when I had to hold a presentation of Campus Life during the Welcome Week. We were pressured by time, and we had to give the presentation in three languages, so we divided the tasks and I got the responsibility to hold the presentation in English. I entered the room so nervous even though I was so prepared! But in the end it went really well and I knew it was a success. Afterwards students came to me saying how good it went, and I will never forget the experience of doing something for the first time and succeeding.
I will miss all of it. I will miss the relationships, especially the relationship with my coordinator Nuria del Río, she was so nice. You really enjoy coming to work when the environment is like this. I will miss the palms, the beach, and the crazy life in a city full of students and great things to do.
Did the internship experience meet your expectations?
Totally — in fact, it exceeded them! My internship was full of adventures and activities, and even though I was always responsible for the students I was really enjoying all the activities I had with them.
What is in the future for you?
I have to finish my Bachelor’s degree. I have great plans, and I know I have to work hard for them. I wish to do a Master’s degree, there are some Erasmus+ Master’s, where you can experience different countries during your Master’s studies. If not that, for sure I want to experience different country in some other way during my Master’s period.
I have seen some good business ideas here in Spain, and I want to create my own! I hope I will open my business, and also do teaching, or get a PhD. I have big plans!
Do you have some advice for students who want to go abroad?
Before going somewhere, either for a study exchange or an internship, you should be informed. You should be prepared that what works in your home country does not necessarily work abroad. So prepare for big challenges! But don’t be stressed, this always happens. Be informed, be prepared, and — without trying to sound like a mom — take care of yourself.
What I would advice the students to do is to interact with other cultures. What I have seen here is that people often get in touch with people from their own culture, but I would advice everybody to open themselves. Open yourself, and try to make as many friends as possible with as many nationalities as possible.
Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself!