This past summer, I had the opportunity to gain some international work experience in one of the world’s greatest cities – New York. I was able to take advantage of the University of Alberta International’s Education Abroad program, and more specifically, its Work Abroad partnership with the Boston-based Academic Internship Council. As a result of this program, I was lucky enough to spend most of my summer working in the Big Apple.
Working in a foreign city is usually a pretty incredible experience, and New York City is no exception. It is a bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis that is amazingly diverse – from the towering skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan, to the peaceful ambiance of Central Park, to the multicultural diversity of Queens, to the independent bakeries and bookstores in Brooklyn. For an undergraduate intern from Edmonton, New York is a great place to spend a summer (despite its borderline unbearable temperatures and humidity during heat waves).
After a significant amount of paperwork and a few phone interviews, I secured a position with the Business Outreach Center, a small economic development organization that provides loans and other assistance to small businesses in the Greater New York area, particularly those started by recent immigrants and minorities. I worked in the Queens office, in a predominantly Hispanic neighbourhood. And by predominantly, I mean very few people actually spoke English. Three years of high school Spanish classes sure helped.
Unfortunately, my internship was unpaid, as many summer positions are these days – however, the experience can definitely be worth it. I was exposed to not only the U.S. office environment, but also to the realities of small business development in the economic powerhouse that is New York City.
As part of the internship program, I was able to stay in one of New York University’s student residences. The location was great; it was in the middle of the artsy SoHo neighbourhood, just a block or two away from Little Italy and Chinatown, and a short walk from NYU’s lovely main campus. It was definitely a New York living experience – the noise outside was endless, with constant honking, sirens, and yelling. My building happened to be situated directly above one of the city’s many subway lines, which shook the building frequently.
Of course, there’s much more to an international experience than just working. In a city like New York, there are an endless number of things to do. I was able to snag tickets to see a taping of The Colbert Report, and had the rare opportunity to see Mr. Colbert out of character. I was almost knocked over by Leighton Meester and the mob of paparazzi surrounding her.
I was also lucky enough to embark upon a gastronomic journey while in the city, thanks to a visiting friend, who is incredibly knowledgeable about all things food. We visited some of New York’s top restaurants – Daniel, Del Posto, and Jean-Georges. The food was exquisite – the best meals I’ve ever tasted, ranging from angelhair pasta to egg caviar. The ambiance of such restaurants lends itself to excellent and lively conversation. Sure, each restaurant left us with a $400 bill, but it was so worth it.
I had a great time in New York, and it’s an experience that I will never forget or regret. The University of Alberta’s Work Abroad programs can offer some great career experience, not only in New York, but many other international destinations. If you’re looking for a more interesting job next summer, take a look at Education Abroad. There are many opportunities to be had.
Graeme Archibald is a fourth-year Political Science student who survived heat waves, humidity, paparazzi, and New York City prices for a summer. He is more awesome because of it.