How I landed an internship on the other side of the world

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Those were my thoughts as my semester in Australia neared its end. It’s a pretty common sentiment among college students, especially those reaching the end of their college career. Which includes me.

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I couldn’t graduate yet. I wasn’t mentally ready.

Yet, at the same time, I didn’t want to just take extra classes and drag out my degree. That would just be delaying the inevitable and creating an extra financial burden on my parents. No, if I was to delay graduation, I would do it by doing something worthwhile.

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For those who don’t know, my school– Northeastern University– has a program where students work full-time for 6 months in between taking classes. It’s a great program, one that I really believe in. After all, kids get real-life experience in the field that they’re studying, bolstering their resume, helping their personal development, and allowing them to discover what they really want to do. I completed a co-op last spring and was keen to get another one.

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Though Northeastern has a lot of connections with local companies in Boston, students still have to go through the job-seeking process. We write resumes, contact employers, and go to interviews. Sending off my resume and applying for jobs was no problem– but I had one little bump to get over:

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I e-mailed my co-op advisor in concern, who believed that it wouldn’t be a problem. We live in an age with internet and video calling. Any employer should be willing to interview via Skype, right?

Wrong.

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Since I have a good bit of work experience, I was contacted by many companies. All of whom reached the same conclusion:

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Soon, no fewer than five companies had asked me to interview with them– only to retract their interview soon after. I was starting to lose hope.

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I was reaching the end of my semester in Sydney, so finding a job was becoming urgent. My friends and I were leaving Sydney after exams were over. Soon, I’d be on the road, traveling through the Australian boonies. Who knows if I’d even have internet?

My co-op advisor was really on-the-ball for this one. Stunned that so many employers were unwilling to give me a chance, she went the extra mile to help me out.

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And then, as my semester came to a close, a ray of hope appeared.

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Could it be?! Someone was actually willing to Skype me! My co-op advisor even arranged the time and webcam for the interview to happen.

Thus, from my bedroom in Sydney, I went through my first Skype interview.

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I was nervous, of course, but I thought the interview went well regardless. A few days later, I was even contacted for a second interview!

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Additionally,

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And…

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So. Two weeks from then, in some hostel or campground, I would have to interview for two hours in the middle of the night. I was a little freaked out by this. What if the hostel we were staying at didn’t have internet?! What if it was a loud, rambunctious party hostel?! My friends offered up their smartphones if I needed them.

But I lucked out. The night of my interview, we were staying in a campground. The family running the camp had an area of their house set up for guests with wi-fi. The owner was kind enough to keep the area open for me that night.

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And thus, the interview began. I would be talking to 5 different people over a course of 2 hours.

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It wasn’t the greatest interview. As I discovered, I barely knew anything about the equipment I worked with the previous year. I was also falling asleep by the end of it. The interview concluded and I finally went to bed…

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…only to wake up 4 hours later.

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All during that tour, I tried not to think about my interview. I was convinced it went horribly. I obviously didn’t have that much technical knowledge, and I was half-asleep the whole time. Plus, they had other candidates that they could interview in person! How could I make an impression over that?

But I still held on hope.

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I got the job.

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No way. 

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For some reason, the people had decided that I was the best fit for the job. I have no idea why they thought this.

Seriously, though. I was about to fall asleep during my interview.

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But I’ll take it.

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Now I’m happily employed until the end of June, working for a pharmaceutical research company in Boston. I still can’t believe I managed to land such a good position after that insane Skype interview.

And that’s how I netted an internship while on the other side of the world. Life is crazy sometimes, you know?

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If job interviews were graded, I would get an F minus.

So I’m trying to go on co-op next semester.

Or should I say, cooperative education. It’s when a school tries to integrate classroom learning with real-life work experience. Northeastern, which is built on the philosophy of “experiential education,” drives this point hard with its students. The majority of kids at NU get some sort of work experience while going here, whether it be an internship, volunteering, or, of course, the famous co-op.

In this context, co-op refers to a 6-month long time where a student doesn’t take classes and works full-time instead. There are a lot of variations of the co-op (like, 4-month co-ops, part-time co-ops where kids pick up a second job as well, etc.) I want the full shebang, though. 6 months. Full-time. Working in a company.

Last I checked, NU actually has the #1 Career Services in the nation. We’ve got lots of resources to help kids get jobs, not to mention a lot of connections to potential employers. However, this doesn’t mean that an NU kid will be handed a job on a silver platter.

Like with finding any job, we have to go through the whole process. Including:

That’s right. I’ve been interviewing. It’s been a, uh, terrifying process, to say the least. I mean, the only other time I’ve interviewed for a job was when I applied to McDonald’s. And that doesn’t even count as an interview.

So I went to my first real interviews last week. The company I was interviewing with happened to be a larger one, with several different departments. However, candidates were not told which branch they were interviewing with until the actual meeting itself. (The job description was just a very generalized “Research Assistant.”)  In other words, I went with really no knowledge of what exactly I was interviewing for.

Thus, I had an interview that looked like this.

This was off to a good start. And then it gets even better.

And to kick it off:

So I didn’t get that job.

(But never fear! I actually got hired for that company, under a different department. That guy seemed to like my rants about the importance of organization and how awesome research is. And I took the job. Coming in January: Vy is gainfully employed!)