The Goal and The Company
Since I have been doing my Master’s in Digital Media and Society program at Universität Bremen, my primary purpose of doing an internship was to engage in the practical and professional work in the digital media industry. Thanks to Erasmus+, I had the opportunity to live and do an internship in Brussels for 8 months. Between January and September 2021, I did an internship at the Belgium-based startup UNBLND.

UNBLND is a social network that was launched in October 2020. The mission of the app is connecting people from all around the world and turning them into a group of friends. It helps people to communicate with others who specifically share the same personal interests and hobbies.

The Tasks
My position for UNBLND was determined as Event Management during the recruitment process. As a social networking platform, UNBLND had set its main difference from other social networking platforms as keeping the online chatting periods as short as possible, instead encouraging people to meet in real-life. However, as it became almost impossible to meet outside and organize offline events during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNBLND needed to develop a new strategy about organizing events, more specifically online events. In this case, my main responsibilities were presenting online event ideas, creating event concepts, making the schedule for the events/promotion of the events, finding guests when necessary, being a contact point and moderating the event when necessary.

While working to fulfill these responsibilities, I also team up with the social media interns and prepared the contents for the event promotion with them. But the spirit of a startup sometimes doesn’t make it possible for you to have only one task. For me, I can say that this situation was definitely a chance. Because I realized what I want to do exactly in my future career. While trying to organize at least two events every week, I had no enough insights about the profile of the users/potential users. So, it turned out that I had to work like a researcher as well. This is exactly what I want to build my career on right now.

For UNBLND, I conducted basic market and user research, I organized online surveys to understand the expectations of the existing users, I transformed the collected data into meaningful insights and made monthly presentations for both improving the events and the user experience.

Life in Brussels
Brussels is a capital that made me impressed and feel ‘gray’ at the same time which reminds me of Ankara, a city from my home country, Turkey. But of course, Brussels is much more multicultural than Ankara.

As of 2020, people from 182 different nationalities live in Brussels and 102 different languages are spoken. In this respect, it is a city where no one can define her/him/themself(ves) as foreigner(s). Even in my flat which my manager from the company helped me to find, I had the experience of multiculturalism on the first hand. In my flat which I shared with three people from Italy, Brazil and Belgium, I had the greatest chance to experience the multiculturalism and an amazing friendly support during the lockdown.

Although there was no opportunity for me to go to the famous museums or pubs in times of the lockdown (between October 2020 – May 2021), I have to admit that I was impressed that it was possible to find various kinds of fine cheese, amazing beers, delicious wines in the supermarkets, even in the basic ones. And honestly, I have to admit that financially this situation helped me to spend less, because after the lockdown I had become almost addicted to couple of restaurants and if there was no lockdown I might have spent all of my grant to eat in those places: Fin de Siecle, Friture Rene, Le Pre Sale

Apart from that, the public transportation, subway and tram are abundant here. Their shared bike option, here called Villos, is very easy and inexpensive to use. Brussels is a refreshing capital with its parks and green spaces, although the proportion of green spaces does not satisfy Brussels residents (as I heard from my friends from Brussels). Despite the fact that I couldn’t spend much time there until May due to weather conditions and COVID-19, it was the best weather since June to spend time there.

This internship was very beneficial for me in two ways: Firstly, it made me feel very confident that I could work in an international professional environment. I experienced that the situations that seemed scary at first such as working in a foreign language or with people from very different cultural backgrounds were not actually obstacles. Briefly, I was able to overcome certain doubts about myself.

Secondly, I had the opportunity to discover my own skills. As I had the opportunity to practice these skills and received positive feedback, my career plans for the future became quite clearer during my internship. For me, calling this experience ‘life-changing’ is definitely more than just a cliché.