Life lessons learned from my internship in Canada

Last summer the School of Graphic Communications Management (GCM) at Ryerson University in Toronto, together with the Ted Rogers School of Management, hosted Mariana Kozar – an international research student from Ukraine. This was part of a 12-week program funded by Mitacs, a Canadian not-for-profit organization. Kozar is a senior undergraduate student at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (Ukraine) studying International Economics with a special interest in marketing. In addition to her studies, she completed a marketing agency internship, published an article in the Index Copernicus database, and ultimately also completed an internship as a Research Assistant at Ryerson. Her goal is to continue her research in marketing and make her findings applicable to the printing industry. What she has to say is a fascinating glimpse into her very personal journey.

“How’s your international internship going?” That is the most popular question I was asked during my three-month stay in Canada. Well, it literally feels like I’ve lived an entire lifetime during this single summer. I couldn’t have even imagined that I would make my way to another continent on my own. Last autumn I applied to the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship Program, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Its scholarship program matches qualified international students with professors at Canadian universities, allowing them to work together on summer research projects.

Always being in downtown Toronto and seeing everything happening was one more feature that maximized my experience in Canada. Was it difficult for a 19-year-old to fly more than 7,000 kilometers to a completely unfamiliar country? Well, it was quite challenging, but there was a lot of support along the way. My own university accommodated some scheduling challenges, the granting organization provided mentors, Ryerson openly shared resources with me, and I had the most helpful supervisors in the world:  Natalia Lumby (Ryerson School of Graphic Communications Management) and Julie Kellershohn (Ted Rogers School of Management). Together, this network made me feel like there were no problems at all to deal with.

During the 12 weeks, we worked together as a team to discover the impact of packaging and technology on millennial wine consumers. Being involved in focus groups was a one-of-a-kind experience. We managed to complete our research and finalize the results in an article. There was also a plethora of possibilities for me to upgrade my soft skills while attending marketing conferences – and even volunteering at some of them. But last summer meant much more to me. It was definitely about exploring new places and travelling. Though we had tough deadlines, I managed to see a lot of Canada. I visited Parliament Hill in Ottawa, I saw Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, I was enchanted by Niagara Falls, and I visited the coolest company office I’ve ever been to – Google in Waterloo, Ontario. I even had an opportunity to accomplish one of my childhood dreams and made it to New York to visit the famous places that I’ve seen in films.

So my internship was also about experiencing multiculturalism while being surrounded by other research interns from Mexico, China, Tunisia and India – who were involved in projects ranging from engineering to medicine. You quickly realize that you have many more similarities than differences when you interact with people from other cultures. You don’t feel alone because you always have people around you who are also aiming to make the most of their Canadian experience.

Most importantly, my internship made me understand myself much better. I discovered hidden parts of my personality and realized what I’m really capable of. Working in an impressively progressive research environment also helped shape my goals for the future. The experience has motivated me to continue my research in marketing when I return to Ukraine. And next year, when I finish my Bachelor Studies, I’ll do my best to become a graduate student in a world-leading business school.”