BY: ISAAC CHAMBERS
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2019
Imagine this: It’s your first time leaving the United States of America. You’ve been anticipating this moment all semester: your internship + study abroad experience in Prague, Czech Republic. You’ve built an expectation of what this experience is going to be like in your head and then realize that reality doesn’t match this picture in your mind. Do you let this affect your emotions for the entire trip or do you roll with it and see where this new adventure takes you?
When I first learned I was going to be interning with Accent Artisan, I was ecstatic. I had longed for the opportunity to work for a start-up and was looking for direction and guidance for my future career. As a Marketing and Sales major here at UA, I wanted to ensure that I would be in a position that would support the education I was receiving. In my initial interview, we discussed that I would be researching B2B partners, researching trends, and monitoring social media analytics; which excited me. I thought my contributions were going to make a reasonable difference in the company.
Along with the anticipation of contributing and gaining experience came financing my summer trip, which presented challenges I was determined to overcome. Coming from a working-class family that resided on the southside of Atlanta, many of my peers who lived in my zip code weren’t able to be afforded this opportunity. One of my main goals for funding was to get my program cost not only covered, but also to have some financial cushion left over.. I wanted to minimize the impact that this decision was going to have on my parents, who were the ultimate deciding factor in whether or not I would actually be in attendance. When initially signing up for my program, I was under the impression that it would be fully covered by my Alabama GI benefits, which turned out to be untrue. At that point, I intensified my scholarship search efforts which ultimately allowed me to achieve the goal I had set. I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship through The University of Alabama and the Culverhouse College of Business that covered all of my direct program cost. A combination of smaller scholarships allowed me enough funds to book my flight and to have some financial cushion. The study abroad office at the University as well as my affiliate program (CEA) were amazing resources in helping me find funding.
Working at a start-up company provided a unique work experience for me. No two days were identical and I enjoyed this dynamic. Immediately I noticed that working for such a small company meant being laser-focused on that industry. This meant that my desires for what I wanted to learn were always going to take second place to what the business needed. During my time working with Accent Artisan, the main focus was the launch of a YouTube channel. Because the company didn’t have a dedicated social media person, we (the CEO and I) had about 9 weeks to write, film, edit and upload as many videos as we could. When I first learned that this was the task that I would be working on, I was upset. I knew from previous experience that I was not a fan of video editing. For the first week and a half, my only task were related to the videos and I was concerned about my summer trajectory. I expressed these concerns to Martin, CEA Prague Internship Specialist. The first thing he prompted was, “Did you tell your supervisor that you feel this way?”. It was in that moment I learned a valuable lesson on speaking up for things that I want. I returned back to work and expressed these concerns to my supervisor, who was very receptive. He explained to me that while these videos were still a priority for him, there would be opportunities for me to work on other projects.
Czech work habits were something I had to immediately adjust to. Working at a start-up company meant I worked directly under the CEO and had to adjust to his direct feedback. Because this isn’t the standard in America, I initially took his feedback very personal. It wasn’t until I spoke with some of the members of the on-site staff about this that I understood how to perceive his criticism. They explained that in the Czech culture, it’s very common for people to be direct and blunt. In American culture, feedback is “sandwiched” to avoid offending co-workers. I appreciated this method of feedback because it painted a clear picture of his exact expectations of me. As someone who considers themselves to be blunt, I was able to take this information back to the job site and understand where he was coming from.
My time in Prague was unforgettable. In addition to working my internship, I was able to travel to eight countries. This summer taught me many lessons inside and outside of the classroom. I was able to grow both professionally and personally, and got to meet some wonderful people. Most importantly, I was able to live out my dreams of living in Europe for a summer and gain experiences that will last me a lifetime.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Isaac Chambers is junior from Atlanta, GA, currently majoring in marketing and minoring both professional sales and computer technology & applications. He is passionate about working to improve minority representation on campus by serving as the Director of Campus Outreach for First Fellows and as a Peer Leader for the First Year Experience program. Isaac has been active and engaged with Alpha Rho since his initiation in Fall 2017, most recently serving as Chapter Collaboration Chair. When Isaac isn’t at The Capstone, he loves attending concerts and visiting new cities with his friends.