Exploring Summer Internship Opportunities in Central Europe

UW-Madison student Christopher McAttee helps a young English learner in Poland
UW-Madison student Christopher McAttee helps a young English learner in Poland

“Going abroad is an amazing opportunity,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison student Scout Inman. “I think it’s something that impacts you for the rest of your life.” Inman, a senior in the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, reflects positively on her summer 2015 internship in the Czech Republic working as an editorial assistant at the Prague Post. The summer positions at the Czech Republic’s only English-language newspaper are one internship opportunity in Central Europe offered through the UW-Madison International Internship Program (IIP). IIP also connects UW-Madison undergraduates with summer and fall internships in Warsaw, Poland through the nonprofit charity CARITAS for Children.

At the Prague Post, UW-Madison students can work as editorial assistants, like Inman, or as marketing assistants. Marketing assistants provide support to the newspaper’s advertising department and perform other duties such as managing social media and assisting in event planning. Inman’s experiences as an editorial assistant were perfectly suited for developing her journalistic skills and provided opportunities to explore exciting events throughout the historic city as she covered local events for publication. “I got to do a lot of really cool things,” shAe recalls. “I went to some museum openings, I got to interview some art curators, I went to a party at the Irish Embassy, and I went to the Prague meeting ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference. I just got to go around and do various interesting things for the newspaper.”

During summer 2015, Inman’s work offered challenges that allowed her to build considerably upon her set of professional skills. She notes that “getting experience interviewing people was hugely influential for me. I actually wasn’t in the Journalism School yet when I started the internship, so I had no formal training in journalism at all. It was super intimidating at first because I hadn’t had a lot of experience doing interviews, but it was a great learning experience. And the interviews were with people who were really established and well-known in their fields, so I was meeting accomplished, smart people.”

The IIP summer internship with CARITAS in Poland gives students the opportunity to tutor children in English language. Christopher McAttee, a junior at UW-Madison studying philosophy, found that his time interning for CARITAS in summer 2015 provided another means to explore his own Slavic heritage. “I was born in Russia, in Khabarovsk, which is a city in the Far East near Vladivostok. So that’s my tie to Slavic studies. I’m trying to regain a little identity in that way.”

Interns for CARITAS in Poland, says McAttee, live and work “in a Franciscan center – so entirely run by nuns – in a suburb of Warsaw about twenty-five minutes outside of the city.” At the center, American interns tutor local children and, McAttee explains, “try to get the kids comfortable with the idea of speaking English.”

Though he both lived and worked at the center, McAttee found that the internship offered substantial freedom of movement for its interns. “The kids were always gone from the center by about three in the afternoon, so interns can easily go downtown to explore, and weekends were very free, too. I did a lot of traveling, mostly by PolskiBus or bullet train. That’s how I traveled to Gdansk, a city in northern Poland, as well as to Krakow.

As McAttee considers his options following graduation next year, he suggests that his internship experience has become a source of inspiration. “It was powerful to have been able to compare my lifestyle with such a different lifestyle. It’s actually motivated me to consider doing Peace Corps in Eastern Europe. The internship grounded me in a sense of purpose, and I’d like to find a similar environment to continue working after I graduate.”

During their internships, both McAttee and Inman took the opportunity to learn some Polish and Czech, respectively. McAttee, who has studied Russian at UW-Madison, notes that the CARITAS internship did not require any Polish language skills. He comments, “That’s one reason I applied. It offered an opportunity to work in a Slavic country without really needing to know a specific Slavic language.” Inman likewise began her internship without any background in studying Czech, but managed to pick some up from her flatmates in Prague. Since coming back to the United States, however, McAttee has been taking Polish classes at UW-Madison. “I started studying Polish last semester. The internship last summer really inspired me to learn the language.”

Inman and McAttee both offer perspectives on summer internships abroad as experiences that can shape a student’s conception of their career path and themselves. For Inman, “being in Prague was a really-self reflecting experience, which was great.” Offering wisdom to those considering a summer internship internationally, McAttee advises that prospective interns “know the history of the country you are going to, and research cultural norms. You’re going to make mistakes, but at least be somewhat aware of different cultural expectations.”

The International Internship Program, located in 261 Bascom Hall, identifies, cultivates and promotes high-quality internship opportunities for students. Learn more at internships.international.wisc.edu.