Chronicles of Erasmus

Lessons about being foreign in the workplace


Kelly Seegers is a Life columnist. She can be reached at

Marshall Bronfin and Marshall Bronfin | | The Cavalier Daily

As a part of my Erasmus — what they call study abroad over here in Ireland — I am interning at a magazine. As an English major and Cavalier Daily writer, I initially felt prepared for the job initially. But in the weeks since I started, I have come to realize there are many things even Mr. Jefferson’s university is unable to prepare us for.

To help you avoid making the same mistakes as I did, here is a quick primer on tasks that look deceptively simple.

1. Making tea

As a die-hard coffee drinker, I can count on one hand the cups of tea I had drunk before arriving in Ireland. I was mortified by the realization that I have no idea how to make a good cup of tea. So if you ever find yourself working abroad, do yourself a favor and learn how to make a quality cup of tea before you get there — your coworkers will appreciate you for it.

2. Affixing address labels

Never again will I underestimate how difficult it is to make the labels and the small clear portion of the envelope align. Do not, I repeat DO NOT put the labels on the letter until you have triple checked that everything will line up properly. If you fail, you will have to do the peel-of-shame, leaving smudge marks on the ink and ripped-off residue on the section of the letter where the label once was. Having experienced the peel-of-shame too many times, I will forever look upon clean envelopes as works of art and admire whoever beautifully placed the label on the letter inside.

3. Phone calls and emails

When traveling aboard, always learn what the proper formatting of a phone number is and how to dial it. I had no idea how complicated this could be. In addition, do your research on the proper way to sign an email. When my friend — also an intern — was sending an email for her company, she signed it “Best” but was told to change it to “Kind regards.” Everyone here signs their emails this way and it stands out if you do not. I should probably apologize to whomever I inadvertently confused with my emails on my first day of work.

One more piece of advice: whatever you do and however strangely difficult small tasks like these may seem, remember that you are making a difference. I may not be deciding the layout of a magazine, but I am making someone’s day a little bit easier — one poorly placed address label at a time. And even though my pride may take a few hits along the way, the realization that I am helping in any way I can makes it all worth it.

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