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My AIESEC Internship in New York!

Posted on October 16, 2014

Thought I’d share some my experience in moving abroad to work in New York for 6 months in 2014! 

What was the process like getting an internship through AIESEC?

The company I worked for, futurethink, had tried looking for someone to be their marketing manager in traditional ways locally, when did they didn’t have any luck, they turned to AIESEC, as two of their employees were AIESECers! Even through the AIESEC system, they weren’t happy with anyone, so AIESECers started reaching out to personal contacts to refer to the position.

In my role as National Director of Communications, I worked with Cassie, who was on the AIESEC Canada team at the time, she was friends with the AIESECer at futurethink and referred my name. They checked out my LinkedIn profile, and sent me a message asking if I wanted to apply. I figured there was no harm in trying – even though I wasn’t sure if I wanted to move to New York.

They asked me to create a marketing strategy for the company as part of the application process and I spent a good few hours coming up with a two page plan. I had two phone interviews, and miraculously I received an offer!

Soon after that I registered as an exchange participant on the AIESEC system and began figuring out the paperwork. It was a direct match so I actually did things in the opposite order of the usual AIESEC process.

What were some of your initial thoughts before leaving?

I was so scared. Mentally, I wasn’t prepared because I hadn’t set out to find an internship abroad. I was involved with AIESEC for four years throughout university, and for four years, I was marketing why students should go work and volunteer abroad but I had never planned on going myself! But the opportunity to go to New York came up and it was a once in a lifetime chance to go work in the most exciting city in America!

I was scared about the logistics:

  • Where will I live while I’m looking for an apartment?
  • I have no credit history in America, will I be able to rent a place?
  • What cell phone plan should I get? Where will I get an unlocked phone? What can I do with my current TELUS contract?
  • I won’t have internet or data when I arrive, how will I be able to get around?
  • How much cash do I need to bring with me?
  • How will health insurance work in the states?
  • Will I be able to fit enough of my essentials in my luggage?

And of course, I was also worried about feeling lonely, not making any friends, and getting lost in the big city!

What were your first reactions to your host country?

My flight was delayed and I had issues communicating my new arrival time to the AIESEC members that were going to pick me up. I felt so bad they were probably waiting for me.

When I arrived, I saw a group of guys sitting around looking really bored, I walked up to them and asked, “Are you AIESEC?” and they jumped up saying, “Yes!! Welcome!” They painted me a huge banner which was incredibly thoughtful!

Airport welcome

What were some of the culture shock (highs & lows) you experienced?

I didn’t really experience much culture shock since US and Canada are pretty similar, but there were definitely some differences.

  • It was just amazing to see such a large area, most of Manhattan to look like downtown everywhere you go. In Vancouver, our downtown is such a small area.
  • They have so many neighbourhoods, and they all have their own name, Midtown, Chelsea, Meatpacking, Soho, Noho, Greenwich, Hell’s Kitchen, Tribeca, Gramercy, of course Upper East Side and Upper West Side, and there’s so much more! It was quite confusing trying to learn all the areas.
  • I loved the subways there. There’s so many lines that go everywhere! It was confusing at first, but they use a colour system for the different lines, and you have to understand what express or local trains are.
  • Jaywalking was something I really had to get used to. I never like to do it and in New York, it’s just a way of life. It would be ridiculous to wait for the light to change! It happens in front of police officers too.
  • I was surprised that garbage is just left out on the sidewalk in huge piles and you have to avoid when walking. When it gets really hot out, they get stinky. Garbage is picked up three times a day, but there’s almost always garbage bags on the street because people put it out early for the next day’s pickup.
  • New Yorkers aren’t as mean as people make them sound! I’ve had people go out of their way to help me and be friendly. Most times everyone minds their own business and they just hate if you get in their way.
  • Everyone would say, “Wow, you don’t have a Canadian accent though!”
  • There are a lot of subway performers on the actual trains themselves, or around the stations. They need to get city permits to do this and surprising amount of people passing by actually donate money.
  • I was surprised no one uses Whatsapp! Only the people with international friends have heard of it and downloaded it. The AIESEC chapter there uses GroupMe.
  • Don’t order iced tea! They take it very literally.
  • I realized how many words we say are only familiar in Canada! Nobody knew what I meant when I said washroom (you’re going to wash yourself?), runners (only sneakers), pop (soda instead), caesars (only have bloody mary), or ” waiting in line” (they say “on line”)! They also don’t know toque, pencil crayons (colored pencils instead), double-double for a coffee, 26er for a bottle of alcohol, or two-four for a case of beer.

What was your best experience abroad?

There were a lot of amazing highlights, including:

  • Getting to become Marketing Manager for an innovation training company. I learned so much about strategy, management, and innovation.
  • Living by Grand Central was incredible. I was able to conveniently walk everywhere. Food available nearby, and I could hop on the subway.
  • Got a chance to crash my first international AIESEC conference! A few of us drove to the regional NorthEast Beast RoKS conference in New Jersey for one night. It was really fun to experience what other AIESEC conferences are like. The organizing committee was made up of AIESECers from Yale, Cornell, NYC, and George Washington.
  • AIESEC DC hosted a Cherry Blossom Festival for AIESEC chapters nearby and a ton of us went for the weekend. It was so much fun seeing all the monuments and museums.
  • Joining AIESEC NYC on their Executive Board meetings at dim sum on Sunday mornings in Chinatown and seeing how they do things in the same or different ways as us. I was even able to provide my experience to help them with recruitment ideas!
  • AIESEC NYC threw three of us a SURPRISE birthday party!!! It was amazing because I was starting to feel sad that I wasn’t going to do anything for my birthday and ends up everyone came out for us! So much love!!
  • AIESEC NYC also hosted their annual event called, Skyline, which is a weekend of activities in New York ending with a formal party! I got to meet and hang out with AIESEC Illinois members!
  • And of course, the food was amazing there! I miss the $1 dollar pizza!
  • Another highlight was having friends visiting New York, including a group of AIESECers from across Canada. I loved visiting the museums, watching broadway plays, and doing all the touristy stuff!

What were some of your final thoughts before coming back home?

After 7 months away, I was happy to come home and see my family and sleep in my own bed again! But I was sad to be leaving behind all the people I met. Thankfully, we live in the age of Facebook and social media, so people can always stay in touch. I’m still in AIESEC NYC’s GroupMe and Facebook Group and I love seeing all their updates!

How do you think this AIESEC exchange has changed you?

I was able to prove to myself that I can handle living on my own, moving to a new city, and nothing is really as scary as it seems. I realized I have the ability to create a network of support and make friends. For the first time, I felt really grown up.

The job also helped me grow. I had a lot of responsibilities, and it was the first time I was in a manager role so it was a challenge to learn everything I needed to do, and about the industry. It was an amazing experience that will definitely help me in the next phase of my career!

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