Milka Nissinen: "The Best Thing about My Internship in New York Was Facing My Fears and Conquering Them"

Ever dreamed of living in New York City? Turns out, it's possible to find an internship there even while you're studying in Helsinki. We talked to Milka Nissinen, an English major and member of our Her Campus team, about her experience interning for an online newspaper in New York.

Why did you start looking for an internship in the US?

At first I had decided that I wanted to go study in the States for a semester, preferably through the ISEP program. However, getting in the program turned out to be a lot harder than I had expected. I was turned down twice because of inadequate amount of study credits. By this time I was so deep in the mindset that I was going to the US that I started to explore alternative options. I had thought about doing an internship before but always felt that it might mean biting off a bit more than I could chew. Now however I was open to any option that would take me to the States so I started to pursue an internship.

Basically, what I did was to just google different options, since it was difficult to find much information on the university’s website. That’s when I found the internship program provided by Kilroy and their partner German American Chamber of Commerce. In exchange for a fee they would help you find and secure an internship spot in your own field and in a city of your choosing. They would also help you with all the documents and visa application (a private person applying for an internship visa in the US needs to have back-up from an organization).

Was the application process difficult?

Most of the process was fairly easy — they would help you with perfecting your application and prepping for the visa interview. The only thing that at times caused me some gray hairs was the amount of bureaucracy but then again, that is to be expected when you’re intending to spend more than three months in the States. As an overall experience, I felt like I was well taken care of and received plenty of advice and help in all stages of the process.

What was the best thing about doing an internship and living in New York? What was the hardest?

The best thing must have been facing my fears and conquering them. Leaving to New York completely alone to work in an online newspaper, of which I had zero experience, was unbelievably scary, yet without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done. I met wonderful people, saw amazing places and gained a lot of confidence in what I do and what I’m capable of. Making friends worried me the most, since there was really no safety net, but it turned out that New York is the best place to meet new people and it didn’t take me even two weeks to meet the people I now get to call dear friends. The key to socializing in a new city is to put yourself out there and participate in every little happening that comes your way. In most cities there are also various different Facebook groups where you can meet people, like in my case there was Nordic Interns in New York City and also Finns in New York. Getting to know a lot of new people on a daily basis takes some effort but it is also really rewarding!

Did the internship change the way you see your future and/or plans for when you’ve graduated?

Even before my internship I knew that someday I wanted to work in the publishing industry; I still have that dream but now I’ve also broadened my horizons. After working in journalism I’ve started to see a career as a content producer a great possibility as well, maybe in a magazine or as a copywriter for a marketing company. Who knows! But I do feel like I have a better grasp on what it is that I want to do with my life and what I want to use my education for. A degree in English can offer so much more than just teaching or translating.

Do you miss New York? Would you move back?

At times I really miss the City, but part of it is missing the amazing people I met there. New York is hard to describe, there are so many different worlds colliding in one city. People seem to think I’m sort of an expert after living there for 3.5 months, but that time wasn’t nearly enough to get to know the entire city. In a way I’m thankful for that because now I still have new things to see and learn the next time I go there (which hopefully will be really soon). It wasn’t nearly as scary a place as I had at first thought and after a while I was already feeling pretty homey. If you love good food, appreciate a colourful cultural scene and enjoy a vibrant nightlife, New York is the place for you. And of course there’s shopping. A lot of shopping.

The only thing with New York is that the more money you have, the more you get out of the city. New York is really expensive and there are clear distinctions between neighborhoods that have money and those that don’t. In order for me to move back there I would definitely need a well-paying job so that I could afford to live in a good neighborhood and still be able to enjoy the city. And it wouldn’t hurt to have my boyfriend with me there as well! Even though I’m just really happy to be back home and stay here for a while, my heart is always filled with wanderlust, so you never know when the urge to move abroad might strike!

Finding information on different internship opportunities outside Finland can be hard. Any tips for people who’d also like to go abroad but are not sure how to make it happen?

Definitely go check out Kilroy’s website. There’s a lot of information on how to find an internship abroad, not just in the US. Also, many people find their internship by simply contacting interesting companies and asking for available positions. This seems to work even for foreigners, so don’t be shy and just send them that email! There’s also an organization called CIMO that operates in Finland, who offer really interesting internships in various countries and fields. Also, if you are a student at the University of Helsinki you can apply for university funding, which in my case was 900 euros because I was travelling outside the EU. There are also different public and private trust funds where you can apply for grants depending on your field of study. In the end, however, funding and everything else that might seem like an obstacle for your internship can always be overcome in one way or another — the experience you gain is going to be worth more than anything else.

For more internship stories, check out our interview with Caitlin Barán about working at a cultural centre in Benin!