As promised, I’m going to tell you all about the internship I had for 8 months at an advertising agency here in BCN. It was definitely an interesting and challenging time for me. First and foremost I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity, because without this, me and Markus wouldn’t have been able to move to Barcelona. (And we seriously seriously love it). ♥
But for the internship now. I didn’t go there with many expectations, I only hoped for getting real-life projects to work with, which I did.
Overview of the agency
The agency I went to was more of a traditional advertising agency, meaning, we did more TV and print ads rather than social media stuff. There were about 10 people, with 3 of them being the founders and bosses.
Although the projects were really interesting, the vibe of the workplace really bothered me. It was so stressful and…quiet?! Like not something I’d imagine an advertising agency to be. The bosses argued quite a lot and there was a lot of tension in the air.
The gap between bosses and workers was also HUGE. I feel like they didn’t take their team members as equals and they didn’t really listen to anyone’s opinion nor ideas. The bosses were not leaders, they were just rulers. It felt like they didn’t really respect (nor trust) the workers. And that made everyone unmotivated.
Also, the workers’ well-being was totally forgotten about, or rather ignored. For example, there wasn’t a water machine, which meant everyone had to bring their own drinking water to the office (as the tap water is not drinkable here). Also, there was a coffee machine, but no coffee. No soap in the bathroom at least for the last 3 months, haha. In the winter it was so cold that people worked with their jackets on. The bosses didn’t remember anyone’s birthday and when someone mentioned it to them, like, “hi, did you know that today is X person’s b-day?”, one of them answered with something like: “instead of focusing on birthdays you should be focusing more on work”…We still celebrated each other’s b-days, but without the bosses (see the gap there).
During the 8 months I was in the agency, there was quite a change of people – one left, one was fired, two new came and others looked for new jobs the whole time, haha. The management part of the agency was quite off, or at least it felt like that to me. A lot of people stayed till late at night and there was never a clear agenda of what we have to do.
We came to work around 9.30 and we had to stay till 18.30 (regardless of if we had work or not). On Fridays we finished at 15.00, which was really really nice. What was so hard for me to get used to at first was the 1,5H long lunch break. In Estonia, I’m used to having like a 30 min lunch and finishing the day an hour early (which I’d actually prefer). But here after lunch, we went out for an afternoon coffee. Of course, it was nice to just chill and relax, but this kind of made the day so long.
The projects I worked with
I was really happy with the projects I got to work with. I just filled out the last Erasmus documents and counted that all together I took part in 14 projects. Some of the brands were, for example, United Colors of Benetton, Bulldog Gin, Jack Daniels, Antonio Banderas’ fragrance, Buff and also some locals like Cinesa cinema, Grec festival, Mercat de Les Flores etc. As I was a creative intern, my tasks included coming up with campaigns, concepts, creative ideas, visual identities, searching for mood boards and design solutions, writing scripts and slogans etc. I also got to be in one TV ad filming and modelled for one print campaign.
For the first 5 months, I had a really talented-creative-fun mentor, who taught me A LOT. Like, A LOT. (Hi, Dani, if you are reading this!) But after he left, it felt like nobody was guiding me anymore. Again, bad management I’d say. Having an intern does not equal free work. As a company, you are also responsible for providing the intern value and teaching about the business. The teaching part was missing in the end, but I didn’t let it bother me as I knew I was going to leave soon and focused more on my freelance projects anyway.
Although the bosses were like they were, I got really lucky with the people, who worked there as well. The nicest, sweetest, friendliest people. Really-really going to miss them. And the long coffee breaks together. Although the language barrier was pretty big, we still got along well. It’s such a different experience and gives you a whole another level of understanding of the culture when you interact with locals. I learned so much about the Spanish and Catalan culture from them. And it was a win-win, as they could practice their English with me.
So I kinda thought that Barcelona is more multi-cultural than the rest of Spain. And oh I was wrong. It is as Spanish as a city can be. Everyone in the agency was speaking Spanish and most of the briefs were also in Spanish, so that made the work process a bit difficult. I thought that the English level there is better, but it actually makes sense that people here don’t get a lot of practice as all their movies, apps and everything else is translated.
Most of the work meeting (even if they started in English) very smoothly changed into Spanish. The language thing was the most difficult part of the whole experience. I cannot say it didn’t affect me. Often it made me feel left out and lonely. I’m not blaming anyone as I understand the mentality of a big country. To compare, in Estonia it seems obvious that even if ONE person in a team is speaking English, everyone is speaking English. Here, NO. You are lucky if 10% is translated to you. Mentally this was the hardest part – to feel like an outsider.
Was it worth it?
YES YES YES. I’m not even talking about the work experience, but how much I feel like I’ve grown as a person. Living and working abroad is challenging, but so worth it.
I feel like with this year I’ve mostly learned what I don’t like, haha, but I think this is as important as learning what you do like. For me, it’s being in the office 9-5 and working time-based, not task-based. And this experiences in the specific agency also made me realize that there are more important things than money, like having a good energy in the workplace (and actually wanting to go there every day). So all in all, a very good lesson learnt there.
For my future self and for you reading this, I’d consider 10 times before going to a team, where you are the ONLY one not speaking the language. I’m actually pretty sure I wouldn’t do that again. And other advice – Go. Whenever you get the chance to live or work in another country. Go do it. It’s one of the greatest things you’ll ever do.
Thanks for making it to the end! ♥
Let me know if you have any questions (about living in Barcelona or about the Erasmus internship) or if you’ve had a similar experience living abroad.