Katie Uniacke spent her year abroad in Bonito, Brazil through AIESEC. She worked as a social media manager and a tubing monitor, as well as brushing up on her Portuguese in the process.
How did you find out about AIESEC?
I was looking for a work placement to do on my year abroad, and it was proving impossible to get an internship on my own. I had heard about AIESEC, through the university, as an option for finding placements outside of Europe. AIESEC offers short term volunteer placements, perfect for a summer; but they also offer internships of 3-12 months, perfect for a year abroad or for an adventure after you graduate.
Where did you go with AIESEC and how did you choose your opportunity?
As I study Spanish and Portuguese, I had to go to a Portuguese speaking country and I had my sights set on Brazil. It took about 2 months to find a placement, after I’d signed up to the database and started looking through the placements on offer. I struck lucky and found a placement in the ecotourism capital of Brazil, Bonito, working as their social media manager and a tubing monitor.
What was the best part about working abroad?
Where do I start? One of the best things about working in Brazil, apart from the weather, was getting to know the locals and my fellow interns. I worked long hours; but I made the most of my time off and made fantastic memories with new friends from all over the world, in a pretty idyllic setting. The fact that I was working rather than volunteering meant that all my costs were covered (although, I wasn’t able to save as well) and I could save my student loan for travelling afterwards. As a language student on my year abroad, another brilliant thing was that I was completely immersed in Portuguese, all day, every day and by the time I left I was bordering on fluency. Lastly, AIESEC’s constant support reassured me that I had people looking out for me.
What was the biggest challenge you faced whilst working with AIESEC?
Working abroad long-term makes you realise just how differently we do things in the UK and it can be extremely frustrating when everything you thought you knew, about how to behave in the workplace, gets thrown out of the window. The culture shock got to me pretty badly at one point because the Brazilians do things very differently to the British, but I realised I just had to go with the flow. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
What did your experience with AIESEC teach you?
I learnt to be flexible and I learnt an awful lot about cultural differences and how to deal with them. My problem solving and negotiation skills went through the roof along with my language ability. I learnt to take things as they come and to make the most of every second because time flies when you’re having fun! Overall, I would say my people skills were one of the things that improved most during my work placement and that I’ll be able to cope with pretty much anything the world of work throws at me in the future.
Would you recommend an AIESEC placement to everyone, or just those doing a year abroad?
AIESEC is a fantastic solution for those looking to go further afield than Europe on their year abroad; but still have the security blanket of an organisation to support them and negotiate complicated visa systems. But, there’s no reason why the year abroaders should have all the fun! I would recommend AIESEC to anyone who would like to work abroad. You never know where you might end up, or who you might meet!
Would you do the whole thing over again?
I wouldn’t go back to Bonito, as it would never be quite the same; but I’m looking at doing another internship somewhere else in South America after I graduate this summer, so I can get some Spanish practice in. AIESEC is available to students or anyone who has graduated less than a year before; so I want to make the most of it whilst I’ve got the chance!