By: Nadeem Abboud
The first day I woke up in a completely different country, I was in denial. On that first day of my exchange semester, I had no idea that it was the start of what would soon be the best five months I’d ever experience. Standing on my balcony, observing people as they walked by and went on with their day, it was astonishing to fully take in that there was a whole other world of people living, working, and chasing their dreams. A few days in, I was finally able to understand the remarkable opportunity I was given to explore this new world and work to learn more about Spanish culture and traditions.
It’s tremendously difficult to put everything that I’ve experienced in words. Because this chapter of life is so far beyond anyone’s comfort zone that it simply changes you whether you like it or not. The people I met and the places I’ve seen have opened my mind to a whole other view on life. I fell in love with the people of Barcelona, whether they were locals or immigrants working within the Spanish community. Barcelona is one of the central hubs of Europe, and with that comes a large and diverse group of Europeans that I had the pleasure of getting to know. Each person with a different life story and path. Although my semester abroad only lasted five months, I met people from all around the world that I call family now.
With exchange, I understood that there would be a million activities that I’ll be exposed to. With this, I promised myself to be a “Yes Man” all the way through till the end. Anything that sounded intimidating or was outside of my comfort zone, I dove into without batting an eye. It was this attitude that allowed me to experience life-changing events that at points brought me to tears. Additionally, I had a remarkable time studying at the University of Barcelona. I found it incredibly interesting to follow the Spanish academic curriculum and the diverse learning methods that local students live by. Eventually, I was so in tune with the culture that it felt like I truly belonged there. I felt the need to start contributing towards their dreams, goals, and vision as a society. Fortunately, I saw this coming a few months before I began my semester abroad, and it is why I decided to try and complete my Commerce Internship in Spain as well.
I got in contact with a multinational company called Allianz a few months prior to my semester abroad. I wanted to gain a more in-depth international experience, and working abroad for a year ought to do it. After seven months of back and forth emails, gathering any legal or required documents, and setting up a completely new life with all the logistics that come with it, I’m back in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As of today, it’s been three weeks since I started working, and I’ve already learnt more than what I would have in a year back in Canada. My role at Allianz encompasses working alongside the HR and IT departments as a Junior Consultant on a multinational project. I plan alignment meetings, give in-depth analysis of each HR function the company carries out, and forecast any legal, fiscal or regulatory conflicts that might arise in the future after the implementation of the global platform.
This work experience is providing me with an invaluable global mindset and specific knowledge around how businesses function across different countries. I’m gaining advanced project management skills as I’m in charge of organizing and communicating any progress that our entity achieves with the central team at Allianz Germany. These skills will be tremendously important for any future positions I may encounter back in Canada, and align perfectly with my long-term goals of connecting more Canadian businesses with foreign entities, increasing Canada’s global presence in the international market.
Again, it’s super difficult to put everything that I went through into words. That’s why beg anyone that reads this to take a leap of faith and love yourself enough to study abroad. One year ago, making the decision to go through with it was hands down the best investment that I’ve ever made.
Nadeem Abboud is a student in Finance and International Business Studies, DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. He studied abroad for a single term at the University of Barcelona, Spain. He is now conducting a one-year internship with Allianz España as part of his Commerce Internship Program (CIP).