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May 2015

Last post. Last feedbacks. Last contribution… We all know what it means. The internship is almost over ! I have two more weeks to go. But I think it is not too early to be able to look back at the journey I have done. The moment to share with you my ultimate view on interning at the Parliament of New South Wales.

Working in a parliament was one of my professional aspirations. I had imagined giving it a go in France when I would be back but never, ever, had I thought I would work at the Parliament of NSW… in Australia ! If I can leave a little message here, it would be : do not fear. Do not censor yourself ! Try, try !
I have undoubtedly been lucky to be retained for this internship. But that did not mean that my internship would be great. Surely it was unique, as the only intern in the entire Parliament but what about the internship itself? Everything was still to come.
With some hindsights it is pretty clear for me that what made my internship an excellent experience is a result of both the opportunities and the work that were given to me as well as my own behavior towards this work.
The member of Parliament I am working for, offered me to see and to take part to every part of the parliamentary work. Writing submissions, investigating, answering emails, watching the debates, observing the protocol, party matters, taking part of campaigns… Almost all the doors were open.
As a foreigner it was even more interesting because I could get the chance to understand the Westminster system and the Australian - or at least New South Wales- politics.

I also got to understand how demanding politics actually is. I had the chance to work with a member who was completely dedicated to his mandate. Every day from 9 -sometimes before- to late in the evening, including weekend days, you have to assume your role as a parliamentarian. It is a duty given by the people but also a real commitment. So is working for a MP. You have to follow the rhythm and to be up to date. Things are going fast. In the same day you can be researching for the office and later on, giving your opinion for an ABC interview.
Whether you are the « front fighter » or the backstage worker, working at this level of politics requires a fierce involvement.
If I did not get an answer to the question of the position I want to have in this binary relation, at least I confirmed my view that working in politics, for the public good is actually an amazing responsibility.

Be positive. You’ve probably heard this over and over again, but do not underestimate the impact of a positive attitude. It will make the experience so much more fun, increase your performance, and make every day at work enjoyable.

Be eager to learn. Soak up all the knowledge and experiences you can. These experiences will probably end up being handy later in life and in your future career. The opportunity to do an internship at an Australian workplace is quite unique, so you might as well pack the suitcase full of new knowledge and insights.

And to go with that: be curios. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Dumb questions don’t exist. And it is much better to ask, than to not understand what is expected of you.

Have fun. Enjoy the opportunities that come your way. You are most likely going to see the working life from a different angle, and get many new and exciting experiences.

Last, but not least, be open! When I first started this internship journey I was told to expect the unexpected, and that was so true for my journey. It is important to have an open mind throughout your internship. Things change, new unexpected challenges arise, and things may not turn out as you thought they would. The unexpected times sometimes might just end up being the most valuable, and the ones you definitely remember!

Where has the time gone? As corny as it sounds, I feel like just yesterday I was taking my first step off the plane on the other side of the world. And now, I am counting down the days left on my calendar, trying to make the most of every remaining second.

As I come to the end of my journey, here are the five tips I would give to future interns about to embark on a life changing experience:

1. Have Fun

To some, this might sound like the most simple form of advice. But in reality, the idea of going into a workplace can cause one to be all serious business - but don’t forget you’re in Australia and every exciting part of life here deserves to be enjoyed!

2. Have an open mind

In any situation, but especially as an intern in a new country and new work environment, an open mind is key to ensuring the best overall experience and making the most of your time here.

3. Balance your time

Work. School. Travel. Friends. Fun. The key to fitting in everything here is balance and preparation. I have found making a schedule and getting the work and school part done ahead of time leaves plenty of room for the travel and fun.

4. Positive Attitude

Studying abroad can feel overwhelming, and possibly scary, especially when you’re working in a new environment on top of that. However, remaining positive will help to ease the nerves and allow you to settle into a new country in ways you never thought possible.

5. Embrace every opportunity

From school to work to travel, there are so many opportunities awaiting you in Australia. While keeping an eye on your budget of course, make sure to embrace all of them from a small work project in your internship to possibly following my lead and traveling to Thailand for spring break - the possibilities are truly endless!

Have you ever attended the opening of the NSW Parliament? If you have not, you should maybe watch it on Youtube or on the Parliament website. This is no more than a huge play, with very important people, among which his Excellency the Governor of NSW. The election of the Speaker of the Lower House and the President of the Legislative Council, the swearing to the Parliament and to her Majesty … As many other institutions, the Parliament of NSW has its own historical-based etiquette and protocols. But what is actually happening behind the scene? I am about to deliver to you the truth. The hidden truth. But before that, I would like to speak with you about the most interesting discoveries I have made during these two days of ceremony.
I have found very valuable things along my journey in Parliament. I have discovered skills that I had never suspected I possessed.

150513 Jordan in parliament.JPG

Among them, my ability to multitask. Everyday, I am invited to take part in the office’s work and I can therefore embrace very diverse tasks. The writing of question to the Government, researching in order to elaborate a policy, scanning the media landscape… I have been surprised by my flexibility. From one hour to another, the work I have to accomplish can completely change. This phenomenon has an impact on my ‘daily routine’ as it prevents me from getting bored or lazy into the practice of a specific position. Being able to mutate in these circumstances, is crucial!

Patience. This is a quality I have always been said not to possess. However in this internship I was surprised by my ability to keep on keeping on even if the outcomes of my actions were small. Without this patience I would have several times given up on missions that require time. Researching information is one of these tasks that can be time-wasting but yet necessary to an optimal and effective work of the political office.

Eventually, my capability of integration in a milieu which is not mine, where I am clearly in minority, namely on the side of the language, has allowed me to see that I should never restrict myself to certain kinds of job which could be seen as « safer ». Working in Parliament overseas is very challenging and oblige you to understand quickly. But, contrary to what I thought before, we all have a certain ability to adapt to new environments and workplaces. When there is a will, there is a way…

Oh. Well. I was about to forget. The backstage! Well. I drank so much orange juice and had too much food at the Governor’s function to remember… Oops!

Some truths should definitely remain hidden…

120 hours of internship work throughout a semester can seem like a lot, right? And on top of that, an extra 30 hours to get credit at my home university... Would I have time for anything else?

This question of course came to my mind when signing up for the internship study abroad program. Australia is a big place on the opposite side of the world and there are so many things to see and do on top of classes alone. Why add an internship to the mix?

Well, if you’re like me, you’ll take the risk and try to fit in everything you possibly can. Sometimes I end up taking on too much at a time, but luckily, not in this case. Managing school, my internship and yes, a social life has actually been quite manageable, with the proper planning.

From the beaches of Sydney to traveling through Thailand to sand boarding in Port Stephens, the list of trips I have taken within Australia and beyond is endless. Scheduling them around my school work and internship has not always been easy but by doing an a little extra school work ahead of time and adding an few extra hours to your internship day leaves plenty of time for friends and traveling.

Of course, as in any situation, it is always important to make school and work a priority, and let everything else come second. I am happy to say I have completed over 100 of my internship hours and have now published numerous articles - allowing me to feel like a real journalist! I am excited to see how the remainder of my internship turns out, and as the end of classes approaches, my travel plans include both Cairns and New Zealand.

Hour after hour of internship working, and demanding units: It might just seem impossible to do anything but study. When I first arrived in Australia, I had a long list of places I wanted to see, and experiences I wanted to have in the way-to-short five months stay. However, after school started I soon realized how busy the semester would be, and that it would require a whole lot of effort to manage it. For me the key proved to be good planning, and to get the most value possible out of my weekends and study breaks. So far I have seen Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, Fiji and New Zealand, road tripped from Cairns to Byron Bay, and are going to Uluru in the beginning of June. The experiences in the city of Sydney should not be forgotten either; discovering the Opera house and botanic gardens, spend the day at one of many beaches, or just the local café or pizza place. Sydney is a city to discover!

So how do I integrate traveling with my internship? My internship is flexible, and the work is group-based with some intensive weekends. This flexible approach has truly made it easier to combine with the student life in Sydney. As the work is also dependent on individual work, discipline is needed to accomplish the expected internship tasks, especially when there are assignments due in the next couple of days.

The key to enjoying a social life and to travel where the budget lets you, combined with internship, assignments and lectures, is planning. To use every opportunity to get ahead efficiently, and to avoid travel in the busiest periods would be a good tip. Even though it can be tough at times, remember: Make the most out of your Australian Experience.

For the Sydney Abroad Internship Program, you must complete 120 hours at your internship by the end of the program. It may not seem like a lot of work but when you are a full time student and are traveling on the weekends, 120 hours is a lot. I was lucky enough to start my internship at the end of March unlike my other classmates. I work every Tuesday from 9-5 and occasionally on Thursdays. I currently have 72 hours completed and I have 4 weeks to finish the rest. I have found my work load demanding but manageable. I have not come across any problems with balancing all of my commitments.

In order to make sure that I did not have any conflicts with work, I booked my trips after I was given my internship schedule. During the semester, I was able to travel on the weekends to different cities in Australia. So far I have been to Port Stephens, Melbourne and Cairns. This upcoming weekend I am going to Byron Bay and for study vacation I will be going to South Island, New Zealand.

In order to excel at my job and school, I have to plan out each week. I have to prioritize my work over leisure time because I do not want to fall behind. I am currently on schedule with my internship project and I will be able to complete my 120 hours by the beginning of June. I am currently on the consolidation phase of my internship project and I will be presenting my recommendation on the last day of my internship.

It is tough to balance work, school and social life but it is all about the planning and prioritization. I do not mind the extra time and work I put into my internship because this has been such a rewarding experience. I am so excited for my future travel plans and to see the end result of my internship project.