If I have to describe my summer in a single word, it would be either ‘luck’ or ‘change’. I just used two words, but imagining a one-word title to my summer full of new experiences was extremely hard.
In July and August, I stayed at seven different places in three different countries. It was absolutely crazy. My whole life was packed into two suitcases: winter clothes, bathing suits, millions of earrings, my clarinet, notebooks… you name it.
Do I regret going? No. Definitely not. It is true that I was never fully at ease, but this summer was so much than just an internship. It was full of new people, new places, and new perspectives. As a girl who loves wearing my pyjamas all day, being away from home all summer was definitely something else.
I should probably tell you where I went and why I went there. I was in Copenhagen until my student visa expired in July. It was very sad. I loved that city and its people, but since I did not want to break the law in a foreign country, I had to leave. But to where? Although I could go directly back to Canada, I had neither a place to live in London nor any friends because they all went home during the summer. I definitely did not want to go back to London.
Why didn’t I go back to my real home? Well, I am from Japan and it is VERY far. Going back to Japan from Denmark and flying again in one month to Canada is not ideal.
And could I have even found any job during my stay in Japan? Probably not. Japanese students do not have their summer vacation when we have ours, so no one would hire me just for about a month during such an in-between time.
Besides, what would I do if I went back home? Nothing but hang out with my parents’ cat. Even though I would have loved that, my parents did not. They told me, “don’t come home if you’re just going to be lazy at home”. Harsh, but okay, it makes sense. I wouldn’t waste my precious summer taking naps with the cat all the time.
Thus, I decided to fly to San Francisco and find something to do! This idea had been somewhere in back of my head for a little while, but it came into shape only three days before the expiry date of my Danish visa.
Why San Francisco? First, it sounds like a nice big city, second, the flight tickets from Denmark to SF and from SF to Toronto were cheaper overall than most other destinations, and third, my dad knew some people who could show me around the area. That was enough for me!
I booked a hostel two days before my departure. Having somewhere to sleep is extremely important, needless to say, so I just booked the first one for about a week. It was the longest period I could book – summer in SF is so booked that it was very hard to find a cheap hostel. At that point, I did not know when to go back to Canada or if I would actually get some opportunities to work. My plan was to go back to Canada only if I did not find anything to do in the first two weeks. Why two weeks? Just because it sounded somewhat reasonable.
On the way to the States, I encountered my first problem. The officer at the airport in Sweden (I had to transfer there) stopped me because I did not have my return ticket from the US. So, I had to quickly go online and book the cheapest bus from Portland to Vancouver or something just so that I could prove that I was going to leave the States at some point. I don’t recommend that any of you organise your travel this way. I didn’t know how long I was going to be in the US, but I knew I was not going to break the law, so I could stay for a maximum of only 90 days. I probably should have put more thought into the whole process and booked a refundable ticket, but I was in panic. Oh, well. Better luck next time.
Without any more problems–other than the time the same officer came to get me right before takeoff because he forgot to make me go through the security check–I arrived in SF. Everything–Dry air, moderate temperature, golden mountains, and the English language–was so fresh and new to me.
Getting to the first hostel was a real challenge. When you think of SF, the image of steep hills comes to mind, doesn’t it? Well, the image is quite accurate in reality. Such steep hills appear all of sudden when you are wandering in SF. Anyways, I had two 20kg suitcases and a huge backpack. What’s more, I was wearing tons of clothing so that I wouldn’t exceed the luggage allowance. I was like a snowman in the middle of summer carrying a few pieces of luggage that were nearly as big as me.
For the first few days, I did not think about getting an internship. I was just exploring the city with people I just met in the hostel. They became my best friends within seconds and I still keep in touch with some of them. It was great. I had so much fun and met so many people from all over the world. Travelling really brings about many benefits. I truly recommend that you do travel solo at some point because otherwise you will not go out of your way to meet people like this.
After a few days, however, I remembered that looking for work/internship opportunities was the whole purpose of my flying all the way there, so I signed up for an awards event for some innovative tech-related start-up companies. I was extremely nervous; I was shaking on the way to the conference. It was my very first time stepping into a professional world by myself. I didn’t know what to wear or how to act.
At the conference, I looked around and realised I was probably the youngest attendant. This alone made me worry no one would treat me seriously, let alone if they knew I still had one more year in undergrad philosophy and had no knowledge about technology.
I tried to talk to people but many of them did not offer me any internships. They either were not looking for interns at the moment, or did not have room in their office for me to work.
Interestingly, my chance came from not an employer but an intern at a start-up company. He asked his boss if he wanted another intern, and he set an interview for me right on the spot.
I have to admit I was very lucky. Still, I would also like to give myself some credit: I went there. I made a move.
Finding a job like the one I got was very unexpected. I did not even know the name of the company when I got the interview. Still, somehow, I got it. I just tried my very best to show that I am trustworthy and would work hard.
It was an IT company – you know, all the coding and programming that have nothing to do with my studies at university. Naturally, I had to make up for this disconnect. The only thing I had with me was a positive attitude, motivation, and great curiosity. But that’s why my boss liked me. He said, “working hard is the only requirement; no one can work perfectly from the beginning”. And that is how my very first professional experience started.