This post was written by Sage Corps Fellow, Dominique Lee.
I traveled around Europe the summer after my freshman year of college and it was amazing. Could any other summer experience measure up to those six weeks? I knew that I needed to take this summer more seriously and get an internship to be able to figure out my likes and dislikes within the field of Computer Science. So, I searched my school’s job listing platform for internships abroad because I just couldn’t give up my love of travel.
Sage Corps came up. After reading the site and learning more about the program, I saw that it was much more than just a study abroad program. Sage Corps had the selectivity component that I was searching for and thought would be a wonderful addition to my resume.
Fast forward a few months. My internship at Properati, an online platform for selling and renting houses, apartments and other buildings, was a great first experience in a professional setting. I worked in their development department specifically on blog posts--designing graphics and interactive maps that would be paired with a story. From the very beginning, I was thrown into projects and sometimes I had no idea where to start. Quickly I learned to use QGIS which is an open source platform for visualizing geographic data. I created maps using information from the Argentine and Mexican censuses about the percentage of apartments within each region of the country. It was very rewarding to see the maps that I made published on Properati’s website!
The first month of my internship was more structured. I was given projects the team thought would be fun and a meaningful learning opportunity. During my second month, I had more opportunities to collaborate with my bosses and come up with a new visualization that built on my previous work. One of the perks of working closely with all the members of a company is the ability to get input and feedback from each team member. Learning in a close-knit environment allows for so many opportunities to learn and ask questions.
By the end of my Sage Corps program, I will have lived in Argentina for eight months in total but at two different times. I am still surprised that the experiences were completely different. Landing in Buenos Aires was a very sentimental moment this time around. The first few weeks working and living in Buenos Aires were surreal. It was hard to recapture the feeling from my experience four years ago living in a small town of 20,000 with a host family. I did not really feel like I was back in Argentina.
Now I am an adult with a few years of college under my belt working in a tech startup. Then I was just 17. In addition, the culture of Buenos Aires is really different from the rest of Argentina. Buenos Aires and its province are home to almost a third of Argentina’s population and has its own culture, Porteño, and its own slang and dance, the Argentine tango. Around the office and city, I constantly hear words such as “chabon” (guy), “boludo” (friendly version of idiot or dummy), and “cheto” (delicious) being thrown around. During my first time in Argentina, for six months, I never heard these words. They’re completely unknown outside of Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires truly is a city for night-owls. Around 10pm, the city comes alive with tourists, students, and locals enjoying each others’ company. Whether it be an after office with coworkers or a night out at a speakeasy and then “boliche” (club) with friends, there is never a dull moment or early night in Buenos Aires.
And the food! The meat is incredible, the Italian influence impeccable, and the dulce de leche superb. I could and did eat my way through Buenos Aires. But are the fish and vegetable options? When I went looking for a quick easy meal, it almost always was empanadas or a hamburger (surprisingly trendy burger joints are quite a big thing in Buenos Aires). There were definitely a few days where I missed California cuisine.
My advice to future Fellows is to seek adventure and embrace the unexpected. That’s when the best experiences happen. Whether the adventure is travelling around the country, exploring new parts of the city, or taking on a new project at work, there are always going to be aspects of it that are unexpected.
During the middle of my time in Argentina, I traveled with one of the other Fellows, Marissa, to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city in the world. This trip did not go as planned. Our flight was cancelled and the ski slopes were not entirely open; however, we embraced these detours and turned our weekend into an unforgettable experience full of memories and new friends.
Being a part of Sage Corps means jumping into the unexpected and finding joy and learning opportunities everywhere. Any adventure whether professional or personal comes with its challenges and the unexpected should be something to be embraced rather than shied away from.
With the end of this summer, I am excited to begin a new round of applying for internships and seeing the ways in which my Sage Corps experience will open doors in my professional career. During the networking events this summer, I made contacts with locals in Buenos Aires and I’ll definitely stay in touch with them. I am not sure if I want to be back in Buenos Aires for another summer or in a new country, but I know that the international network that Sage Corps has helped me develop will be an instrumental tool in my job search. Being a part of Sage Corps and interning abroad will help me stand out amongst the masses when applying for jobs. I’ll happily tell potential employers about my ability to live abroad, adapt to a new culture, and work full-time. With Sage Corps on my resume, I can pursue opportunities on multiple continents and open doors I never knew were even there.