The NewSLU

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University Madrid Campus

The NewSLU

The NewSLU

But That Wasn’t in the Job Description, Was It?

When students find their own jobs or internships, they sometimes discover unexpected duties and interests along the way
Arina Babashova in the SIH cafeteria. Barbashovas internship involved a surprise role: translating from French.
Veronica Fernández
Arina Babashova in the SIH cafeteria. Barbashova’s internship involved a surprise role: translating from French.

Arina  Barbashova, an art history major from Moscow, embarked on what she thought would be a straightforward content-creation internship with a Ukrainian hairdresser. She didn’t suspect that her skills would be tested as a translator.

The hairdresser’s assistant, also Ukrainian, couldn’t speak Spanish, but she could speak French – and so could Barbashova. “For me, it was challenging that I needed to speak French with her and be kind of a translator for the team,” Barbashova recalled. One memorable translation session even stretched out to a four-hour marathon.

Barbashova is one of many SLU-Madrid students who seek on-the-job experience to complement their academic training. Last semester, 22 students secured internships through SLU-Madrid, according to Patrice Burns, director of career services. But other students hunt for internships or summer jobs on their own, and like  Barbashova, they often stumble upon obstacles or suprise  tasks  along  the way.

Ana Ghontoria, an  international studies  major  at  SLU-Madrid, landed  a  job  last  summer at the Chamber of Commerce of Gijón, where she was asked to work as a “stewardess” at a business fair. She was expected to provide information and answer any questions clients might ask. 

One busy day, Ghontoria had 10 clients who asked many questions and wanted copies of a newspaper she was not allowed to distribute. It was reserved for employees of companies participating in the fair. The clients complained, and she called a supervisor. “He talked with the clients, and thankfully it got solved,” she recalled.

Her advice to future interns? “Remember to keep calm and keep on,” she says.

Ashlan Willburn, another international studies major at SLU-Madrid, performed many duties in English at her internship at a bustling international office: she revised official correspondence, attended meetings and diligently added English subtitles to videos. This is what she expected – the official language of the company was English. What she didn’t anticipate was that at one office, communication was dominated by Spanish. “Sometimes they look at me like, ‘What are you saying?’ and that’s a little awkward,” she said, in an interview last fall. She added that her colleagues  would warmly include her, recognizing her dedication.

Alejandra Madrid found an internship mixing cocktails. She discovered nightlife is less glamorous when you are working behind the bar. (Veronica Fernández)

Students outside of SLU-Madrid also seek a taste of the working world to complement their studies or earn some money. Alejandra Madrid, a Comillas university student, found herself an unusual internship — at a bar, memorizing orders, managing stress, and mastering the art of mixology.

“I wanted another view of life,” she says. “I’m at university, mainly focused on studies, and this opportunity allowed me to see what’s behind the bar.”

The transition to working nights in the lively atmosphere of a bar presented a whole new world for Madrid. Amid the numerous orders and stress of a packed venue, she found unexpected support. “I had a bad experience in the past, but this time they took care of me, and they took care of each other. The superiors looked out for us as well,” she recalls.

Madrid’s initial perception of what the city’s nightlife was took a fascinating turn as she delved into the intricate art of mixology. “When you go there, you think about having fun, and you don’t think about the people who work there,” she says, unveiling the different sensation she felt as a worker.

One night was especially challenging, with a packed bar, intricate cocktail orders and a group that wanted to separate bills. “That night was really stressful,” she recalled “You were running around, this person had this, another that — that was quite a headache at 1 a.m. We asked them to pay together at the end. My colleagues also helped me on how to make cocktails faster.”

Madrid’s internship experience left her with a newfound love for the cocktail world. While noting the challenge of balancing this passion with her studies, she envisions dedicating herself to the world of mixology during summers. “After my internship, I knew that I loved the cocktail world. It is difficult to combine that world with my studies, but maybe I could dedicate myself to that world in summers,” she says.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The NewSLU Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *