6 Take-Away Lessons From My Internship in Amsterdam
Have you finished your academic year and are now looking ahead on internship preparations? Curious about an international student experienced during an internship in Amsterdam? Hopefully, the small tidbits that I share here will give you some insight into an internship experience! Here I share some take-away lessons from my 5 month internship in an ingredient supplier company.
1. Stay open minded
Personally, my learning goals for my internship were targeted towards practical business based functions of a food quality manager/specialist position. I found that I was able to learn most when I was open-minded to different projects that were happening in the internship company. Taking up tasks outside of my position enabled me to gain experience in several different departments including purchasing, logistics, and sales. Luckily, my colleagues were always willing to share with me how they conduct certain tasks.
2. Languages are important
As a native English speaker that also speaks conversational Mandarin and French I found that many of my international colleagues spoke not only fluent English but also German, Spanish, Italian, Polish and of course Dutch. It was inspiring to see them carry out fluent business level speech. Chatting with my colleagues about their lives, upbringings and the places they have traveled to have made my internship also feel culturally enriching. Being in an environment of several languages being tossed around gave me the opportunity to learn the technical words of my field in different languages.
3. Take initiative
In a new environment with new people, it is normal to be shy. Although in Wageningen we constantly work with new students in various courses, during the first few weeks I was still feeling timid. However, after realizing my colleagues were super friendly people, I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Since my internship was very practical based, there were many new procedures I needed to learn. I was lucky that my internship company had a flexible organizational structure that allowed easy communication channels and flexibility. When I brought to attention the gaps in the internship company’s practices, the improvement methods I suggested became my main project. For me, taking initiative also enabled me to have more ideas when writing the compulsory internship report.
4. Be willing to help
I learned the most during my internship by helping in a variety of tasks. Since my internship company did not have a person in a quality-related position in the past, my responsibilities at times were unclear. By offering to help my colleagues in certain tasks or to offer my quality/food safety knowledge, I soon was able to formulate my scheme of daily responsibilities. This became a tremendous help to me as I was able to be at the office and have an expectation of my daily tasks.
5. My useful course
Going into my internship, I was not sure how much of my course knowledge I would use in my everyday responsibilities. However, if I could choose one of the most useful courses during my academic year, I would say that the EU Food Law course was the most beneficial for my internship. Although I did not memorize regulations by heart, the critical analyses of the most important EU foods regulations during the course provided me with confidence to search and regulations related to residue limits, heavy metal allowances, labeling and more. The skills I gained in navigating regulations made me a point of reference for my colleagues when questions or ambiguity arised for market and product safety information.
6. Amsterdam: liveable and bike friendly
One of the best experiences I had during my internship was living in Amsterdam. We all know of it as the big city in the Netherlands flocked by tourists. When I visited Amsterdam on the weekends during the first year of my WUR studies, I never thought it could be a livable environment. I realized once I moved to Amsterdam that life is not the same crowded scene outside the main tourist centre and the large shopping streets. There are many quiet areas in the city where you can enjoy a walk in the park, gelato on a sunny day, and scenic canals. Neighborhoods of De Pijp, De Plantage, Westerpark, Oost for example are beautiful places to roam around. They combine a decent number of locals and curious tourists. Not only is the city a manageable space to live in but also safe for cyclists. Contrary to what it looks like, the biking infrastructure in this city is sufficient for safety and there are plenty of cyclists to follow.
Lastly, I can’t believe the 5 months of my internship have flown by. It was an incredible experience to be part of a company. The cherry on the cake was the experience of living in Amsterdam. It is an amped up city-scene of the cozy town of Wageningen where traffic, bustle & hustle, late night restaurants and many expats cohabit. I enjoyed my experience and I hope the students anticipating their future internship can have a successful internship, regardless of the city you may live in.