Colombia has become a popular destination for international university students to do an internship. The leading agency that specializes in connecting these students with Colombian companies is Paisa Internship. We had the chance to interview Tom who gave us a better insight into what it is like doing an internship in Medellin.
If you have any questions about internships, feel free to contact Paisa Internship here.
1. Who are you and what is your academic background?
Hi, my name is Tom. I am a 25 year-old Dutch Human Resources student and I did an internship at Todo Fresa, a large restaurant chain in Medellín, Colombia.
2. In which city did you do your internship and why did you choose this city and Colombia in general?
I chose Medellin for my internship because I’ve always wanted to go to South America. Colombia wasn’t ranked first on my list because at the time I did not know much about the country itself, apart from the regular, stereotypical things you hear from your family and friends. I was thinking about what things are important during my internship. Topics such as safety, where I can feel relaxed and happy, how much there is to learn and, above all, what gives me the unique, useful experience for my future professional career.
Fortunately, I heard of an agency called Paisa Internship. This firm is specialized in providing international university students with internships in Colombia. I had a very pleasant and straightforward phone call during which we talked about all the topics I wanted to tackle. The call removed all my fears about the country because they told me two important things. First of all, most people are very kind towards everyone. Second, the opportunities for learning many things is limitless.
3. Is Colombia how you would have imagined it to be?
Colombia is an amazing country and Medellín in particular is a great city. Driving down the canyon from the airport gives you a spectacular sight of what the city has to offer. Medellín has the nicest people, the tastiest food, the most comfortable climate, and the best public transportation. Nightlife is considered one of the best in Colombia. I’ve experienced the nightlife in Bogotá, Cali and Cartagena, but above all in Medellín I found myself feeling the most relaxed and safe.
4. What is the thing you miss most about Colombia?
The thing I miss most about my internship in Medellín is the kindness of people. They are nice towards each other and actually take time to talk to you. One thing I will never forget is when an older guy I barely knew invited me for a couple of beers in his shop. By barely, I mean occasionally buying some crisps or beer. After some thinking I thought: ‘Why not? I was going to the shop this evening to buy some beers anyway’.
Furthermore, most of these shops also have a grill outside, where they prepare ‘picadas’ or small dishes. So I ate some picada and then sat with the man and drank some beers. We talked about the differences between our countries and then he mentioned that most of his children went abroad and are now making a living in the US. Afterwards, he insisted that the beers were on him. This is just one of the many examples of how friendly and warm most ‘Paisas’ are.
5. Where did you do your internship and what did you like about this internship?
I did my internship at Todo Fresa, a big restaurant chain in Medellin. What I liked most about the internship is that many Colombian companies lack structure in processing. I hear you thinking; “But how is that positive?”. Well, it gives you an opportunity to work on a project. For example, in terms of automatization in a certain process, you start working from the beginning of the process. This kind of work is more interesting as you are involved since the beginning of the project, instead of just being ‘along for the ride’ when everything is already running smoothly. After some thinking, I decided to go for an internship with the assistance of Paisa Internship.
6. What does a regular working day look like?
First things first, a regular day should definitely start with freshly brewed Colombian coffee. I joined meetings, held interviews with potential candidates for positions, I learned how to cooperate with other cultures, how an all-round HR-department works and I explored new opportunities to improve my skills as a professional. For my thesis, I investigated how to decrease the risk of occupational accidents in their restaurants. The results gave an amazing insight into how to improve policies in general. The company is currently applying my recommendations in their office and restaurants.
7. Did the internship that you chose fit your studies?
Very much so. I am studying Human Resources and as mentioned above I was able to get a good insight into how a Human Resources department works. In addition, there were great research opportunities within Todo Fresa.
8. Did your Spanish improve as a result of the internship?
My Spanish level increased exponentially, due to the fact that I was working in a Colombian office where everyone speaks Spanish and also because I was living in a house with Mexican and Colombian students.
9. In your experience, how is the work culture different from the one in your home country?
From an internship point of view, I think you are more valued and can contribute more in a Colombian company. Furthermore, the work days are longer but the work pressure is lower.
10. How did the collaboration with Paisa Internship go?
First of all, they arranged almost everything, from the internship to the accommodation, from Spanish lessons to a car-service to pick you up from the airport when you arrive. Especially the car-service was very comfortable, as you arrive in a foreign country where you’ve never been before, you think it’s dangerous and at the time I didn’t speak the language, I could only order a beer in Spanish. Try to haul a taxi with little knowledge of where you are going to. I ended up in a house in the neighborhood of Belén La Palma. One thing I quickly noticed was that I was living in a house where I was the only one who spoke English. Because I was living in a house full of Mexican and Colombian students, I hadthe best experience I could get.
11. Would you recommend students to do an internship with Paisa Internship in Colombia?
I would definitely recommend an internship with Paisa Internship in Colombia. The way they offer extra services, such as the car-service, is definitely worth the money. Doing an internship in Colombia changes your way of thinking and improves your skills as a professional for your future career.