I am a Business Marketing Major and am once again in a short-term move abroad, after studying for a semester in London, England. Following a year post-London of wrestling and evaluating, I realized I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to permanently work abroad. However, I have come to realize that I will be working in an international marketplace. After all, aren’t you, too? As a marketing major, I’m likely marketing to not only Greater San Diego, but the Midwest, East Coast, Western and Central Europe. Learning cultural fluency is not about moving abroad; it’s knowing how to recognize needs among individuals who do not have the same upbringing as you, then effectively strategizing to bridge gaps in communication. Cultural fluency is not about “Westernizing” your marketplace -- it’s learning to read and meet needs.
For the last six weeks I have been interning abroad at a creative digital marketing agency in Prague, Czech Republic. The company creatively builds relationships between brands and individuals, specifically in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. The majority of clients are companies within the retail and consumer goods industry. It’s not the same as a digital marketing agency in San Diego, but it’s also not all that different.
I love my internship placement. If possible, I’d pack it up in my checked luggage and take it with me to sunny California, where In-N-Out drive-throughs are found off of every five freeway exits and where the nine-hour time gap to my friends and family is closed.
Despite my admiration, there are still significant steps in cultural fluency that I am learning. One of my coworkers remarks within my first few weeks at the agency perfectly encapsulates this communication teeter-totter: “They're probably more scared of you, than you are of them.” Wait, what? Me -- the redhead from California in her first internship? The one with the Americanized Czech-Slovak last name, with a few Czech phrases she stutters with half-confidence? Yup. The majority of schoolchildren in Prague grow up learning English at primary school. My native English fluency may be intimidating to a few adults who are not as confident in their well-versed language skills. Though, I don’t think they’ve caught on to the fear I have over not knowing Czech -- maybe I’m masking it better than I thought? I digress. Every day, I have an opportunity to engage in cultural fluency. An “Ahoj” as I enter the office, and “Ciao” as I leave exemplifies respect for the language -- not asking my coworkers to leave all their Czech at the door.
On the average workday, I conduct website and social media audits, review presentations that have been translated into English, and conduct international market research. Between tasks, I shadow coworkers and receive mentorship from my supervisor. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on significant client meetings, in which English is the shared language. I also attend client photo shoots and meet Czech social media influencers.
Agency life is fast-paced, engaging and a high-performance, high-pressure environment. The workplace culture of my internship is human-centered and family-oriented; there are flexible working schedules, several office dogs, Wednesday morning breakfasts, and dozens of hanging wall plants. Every day I’ve come to leave my expectations behind and challenge my personal comfort zone in order to embrace the opportunities and changing tasks for the day. I’m excited to take my professional development skills from this internship with me: to San Diego, the United States, and anywhere else in the world.
No matter where the pin drops on your internship plans, you are communicating and marketing on a global scale. Where will your summer take you?
Hanna Vanca is a Fall 2019 CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied and interned abroad with CEA in Prague, Czech Republic, during Summer 2019. She is currently attending Point Loma Nazarene University.
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