While in New Zealand, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience both uni life and professional life by interning at a super rad start-up called Ministry of Awesome. Before going abroad, I had planned to do an internship for credit — not because I actually wanted to do an internship, but because I thought international work experience would spice up my resume. And it does look good, and it is a plus in the job market — but I sigh at my pre-New Zealand self for being motivated solely by a resume.
It has to do with American career culture, for sure. On my first day at Ministry of Awesome, my boss, who moved to Christchurch from California herself, smiled at my questions and said, “You’ll be fine. We never have a problem with the American interns.” And they haven’t — at Ministry of Awesome, Lauren, Catarina, and Erica (my bosses) valued my opinion and entrusted me with real responsibility. I wasn’t around to observe; I was around to be involved. Honestly, it was a treat.
It would be helpful if I explained what Ministry of Awesome does, exactly. In a previous post, I blogged about the rebuild efforts in Christchurch following the 2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, and the entrepreneurial hub the city has become. Ministry of Awesome is one of those start-ups that emerged from the earthquake, and focuses on helping social entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Social enterprise start-ups are like non-profits, but support themselves by making their own money rather than relying on donations. What’s not to love about helping the world while also making money?
Ministry of Awesome (MoA) is central to the Christchurch community as well. MoA only has three full-time staff (the aforementioned Lauren, Erica, and Catarina) and operates a co-working space out of their headquarters to help support themselves (office space is lacking in Christchurch at the moment). MoA also
provides resources to entrepreneurs (they are the self-proclaimed “starting point” for New Zealand entrepreneurs) and runs a weekly community event called Coffee & Jam where two speakers pitch ideas on how to improve and rebuild Christchurch. Coffee & Jam also features delicious locally sourced coffee, bread, and spreads, and allows time for people to chat and get to know each other. There are regulars, there are newbies, and mostly there are inspiring, organic conversations. At the end of Coffee & Jam, anyone can give a “20 Second Shout Out” asking for a job, advice, offering a service, etc. It’s a lovely event, and I’m actually hoping to start something similar once I am back in Philly.
This week is my last week with MoA, and I’m wrapping up my time here by running the social media campaign for Unreasonable Lab New Zealand, a social enterprise conference that MoA is running in conjunction with a start-up in Boulder, CO called Unreasonable Institute. It’s an absolutely inspiring conference — check it out! Or help me out and see the hashtag #AUL15. (apologies for that shameless plug)
So, to give you the scoop on international internships — they’re invaluable. Working at Ministry of Awesome, I’ve become more aware of both the pros and cons of American work culture. New Zealand has taught me that leisure time is invaluable, that networking should be about forging real relationships rather than just using people for their connections, that competitiveness and overstress are overrated, and that a sense of humor and social skills go much further than a spiced-up resume. That being said, I also value the “American work ethic” more — we definitely get things done in a timely fashion. But I have never felt so supported by a community as I have in Christchurch, and I’ve never felt so nurtured in a professional environment.
I highly recommend an internship abroad. Not only did mine illuminate the highs and lows of my own culture, it also enriched my experience abroad by exposing me to more than one type of community. Do you really know Philly if you only hang out with college students? Of course not. I’m indebted to New Zealand and indebted to Ministry of Awesome for an incredible ride, and who knows? Social enterprise could finally be my thing.
*(all photos courtesy of Erica Austin)*