I write this blog post from the comfort of my own apartment in Seattle. I just returned from Prague in the Czech Republic yesterday (August 3). I have been rolling it over in my mind for the last few days what I wanted to say in this final post from out-of-region interns. For those who do not know, I completed my 300-hour internship through City University of Seattle and went to Prague with 41 college students from four universities in Mexico. While in Prague we were hosted by Vysoká Skola Finanční a Správní (VSFS) which translates to the University of Finance and Administration. So how did I come to that opportunity?…where do I even begin…okay, I know, I’ll begin with him – my site supervisor, Antonio Esqueda, Assistant Provost of International Education at City University of Seattle.
Back story: Networking led me here
In September 2003, when I was 17 nearly 18, I stood in Red Square at Western Washington University. It was there at that beautiful college campus that I met Antonio for the first time. Since that day he has been my advisor, mentor, teacher, supervisor, colleague, and friend. He fancies himself as my “lifelong” mentor – he literally calls himself that! And though I think it’s a bit hilarious that he does, I realize now more than ever that my ten-year relationship with him has been one of the foundational elements of my desire to work in student affairs. He is the first person that taught me student development theory! When I was an undergraduate he helped me get a job in two student affairs offices! Beyond this, Antonio knows me so very well; in fact when I was a college sophomore, he “predicted” that I would pursue my master’s in student affairs. And years later, what am I doing?…exactly! Here is a man who knows me so well that when the “right” time came he utilized his considerable resources and professional position to create an internship opportunity for me that brought together many of my great loves: international travel, direct student engagement, higher education, business, and professional networking. I am quite frankly in awe that I know someone, professionally, who knows me that well and in no small fashion created this way out of nowhere for me. Cause believe me when I say, I would not have even dreamed that an internship like this was in the realm of possibility.
My internship: Seattle à Prague
Last fall, Antonio approached me with this internship opportunity. I took a while to think it over and then decided to go with it. After all it is an amazing opportunity, especially considering that City U covered the costs of the roundtrip flight, travel insurance, lodging, all food costs, transportation in Prague, and program fees. I began the administrative portion of my internship in spring quarter. I completed 100 hours at the City U campus in downtown Seattle. During that time, I learned policies and procedures for City U, met with key administrators, coordinated logistics for the students in Mexico, had Skype meetings with the professional staff at the universities in both Mexico and Prague, and worked with Antonio on student profiles and speeches for the formal dinners and presentations in Prague.
On July 10, I took off to Prague and upon my arrival I was greet at the airport by VSFS staff members Zuzana Heranova and Petr Castka. As they were taking me to the Domyno (the lodging accommodations for our stay) I gave into the jet-lag that soon set in…once I readjusted to Prague time (which is 9 hours ahead of Seattle time) I was able to experience an adventure for 24 days that included getting to know 41 students who dazzled me with their fierce intelligence, global travels and professional aspirations. The one-on-one conversations that I had with the students inspired me to step my game up! Together with the VSFS staff, the students and I had rich interpersonal and cultural exploration experiences as well as inspiring academic and business lessons.
Interpersonal and cultural exploration included: walking tours of Prague; eating delicious, hearty Czech food all over Prague; tangling ourselves into a human-knot in a park in Prague & having a ball getting to know each other; traveling to Cesky Krumlov which is two hours south of Prague and visiting the second largest castle in the Czech Republic; spending a weekend in Vienna, Austria exploring the rich culture, art and architecture; touring a mine and church full of bones in Kutná Hora which is one hour east of Prague; having our final farewell dinner in one of the oldest restaurants in Prague located just south under the Prague Castle that included a middle-ages bohemian show complete with snakes and fire-blowing!
Academic and business lessons: the students took a “fundamentals of project management course”; I attended their final group presentations where I was blown-away to learn all of the business knowledge the students had gained in our short time in Prague; additionally we took a privatized tour of the Czech National Bank – where we went “behind the vault” and learned about the economic history and balance in the country…and the bank managers also let us hold a bar of gold! It was like being in a movie! Additionally, the HR manager from the largest advertising agency in the Czech Republic did a three-hour specialized workshop with our group; we also held an audience at the Mexican Embassy in Prague with the senior officials.
I have to be honest – some very fancy and officials things happened in Prague. During the planning stages of this program, it did not fully register to me how official and specialized this program was going to be, but I am SO VERY glad that I got to experience this opportunity. The merging of higher education, intercultural development, business and politics during this internship was so finely woven together that it makes me think deeper about how I could do this level of intentional work as a full-time professional.
After it was all said and done, I boarded a plane in Prague on Saturday morning and took a long plane ride home to Seattle. Upon my arrival, Antonio (unexpectedly) met me at the airport and took me to lunch at one of my favorite places in Seattle! I think he’s just softening me up for ALL of the paperwork that I still need to do to wrap up everything for CityU. But that is okay – it was all worth it! Wednesday after next, Erin, Antonio and I will meet at CityU in downtown Seattle and have my internship site visit. I have been reflecting so much, and I can’t wait to share it all with Erin!!
Key lessons: build your network of professionals; and accept opportunities that you didn’t plan on.
Ahoj (hello and goodbye in Czech)!
Keisha “Jet-setter” Jackson
P.S. As part of my internship I had to do social media updates on CityU’s Facebook page and three posts on their blog. The links to my first two posts are below (the third will be posted in a few days)
P.S. jr. Also, I have about 400 pics to share. I’ve only including six with this blog post. Let me know if you want to see all or some of the other pics!