Conversations on Studying Abroad

What I Learned from a Summer Internship in Barcelona

Aug 9, 2019 11:17:00 AM / by Grace Pyron

Over the course of 6 weeks in the summer, Grace interned with the Barcelona International Human Rights Film Festival. She reveals 3 major things that she got a hang of for a great experience abroad. She shares how she embraced the cultural differences and centered her perspective on growth instead of failure. Whether you're nervous about interning in a different culture or motivated to exceed your internship expectations, read this post as you get your ducks in a row for a successful time abroad!

The Kiss of Freedom In Barcelonas Gothic QuarterThe Kiss of Freedom in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter.

During the summer of 2019 I was fortunate enough to study and intern in the multicultural city of Barcelona. For six weeks, I lived, worked, and studied like a Spaniard. I was placed with the Barcelona International Human Rights Film Festival as a marketing intern. Here are a few things I learned while interning in Barcelona.

1. Adapt Early On to the Cultural Differences

The Sagrada Familia at nightThe Sagrada Familia at night.

Going into your internship, whether you’ve interned before or not, you are bound to experience a few cultural differences. I have lived in over 5 countries, and I was still surprised by what I learned about the culture in Barcelona. Whether it be the fact that Spaniards tend to be late, are never in a hurry, or take two hours off in the middle of the day to get lunch, you are bound to notice a few things that are unfamiliar to the work environment at home.

It is important to recognize that businesses in Spain operate a bit differently than they do in the US and adapt to that notion early on. As a part of your internship with CAPA, you will be required to take a weekly class that focuses on the importance of intercultural competence while remaining open-minded in the workplace. This is important as someone who has never experienced such stark cultural differences may have a hard time adapting to these changes. When you start, identify what aspects of the job are different than the US, and adapt to these. You may need to ask a coworker, but by knowing how your company operates at the start, will help you stay on track for the rest of the trip.

2. Set Your Goals, But Don’t Be Afraid Not To Meet Them

Tibidabo At NightTibidabo at night.

At the beginning of the program you will be asked to fill out a Learning Agreement Form in which you will have to set certain goals for yourself for the duration of your internship. These goals are to help you visualize what aspects of your personal and professional life you would like to focus on during your trip. My main personal goal was to increase my understanding of the Spanish language while my main professional goal was to stay organized and maintain a set schedule, so I never felt rushed. However, as the internship progressed, I felt I was further away from my goals than I was before I started.

Halfway through your trip you will write a paper that focuses on how you feel your internship is going, and your views on your goals. At this point I realized I hadn’t come anywhere near to completing my goals. On the contrary, I realized I had forgotten about them completely. Coming from the US, where things are very detail-oriented and driven by results, there is this idea of if you have not completed your goals in the time in which you should have completed them, you have done something wrong. By the midway point, I started feeling as if I had failed in completing my goals.

Goals are still valuable, but completing your goals is a sign of whether you have succeeded in your internship or not. While goals are important because they give you an idea of what you need to, or want to improve on, there is nothing wrong with not completing your goals, or completing goals you didn’t know you had. I would prefer to have an idea of how I need to expand as a student and as a person, but not feel as if I have “failed” if I don’t complete those goals.

Some would say focusing too much on your goals presupposes that we know best where we ought to end up. The goals I have in mind now may be completely different from the goals I have in mind tomorrow. Both will help me to grow as a student and as a professional, but not completing one, or all, also does not equate to me not having grown professionally or personally.

3. Have Fun

Streets of BarcelonaThe streets of Barcelona.

This may seem like a bit of a fortune cookie response, but the most important thing you can do during your internship is have fun. You are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you don’t want to miss out on the excitement by being stressed or preoccupied by your internship.

Get to know your coworkers, go out for drinks, and generally just have a good time. Your time abroad will be over before you know it, so make sure you make the most of it. If you can, stay in Barcelona for the entirety of your trip. Too often people plan getaways for every weekend they are there, and never truly get to experience what Barcelona has to offer. You are in Barcelona, so make sure you enjoy Barcelona. You never know if you’ll get to see it again.

Thanks, Grace!

Grace Pyron


Grace Pyron is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Global Studies major at Arizona State University, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester. 

See more of Grace's journey in Barcelona.

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Topics: Internships Abroad, Barcelona, Spain, Internships in Barcelona