By Kelsey Wen
As an international student, having the opportunity to complete an internship with a local organisation was a special experience for me. On top of that, being an arts student pursuing leadership and project management, interning at Melbourne Writers Festival was a stepping stone for my future career.
Being an Office Lady
I had watched in films and imagined many times what an office job entailed. Getting into the office with a coffee in the morning, greeting everyone, sitting in front of your desk, opening your notebook, checking your tasks for the day, then beginning to work. After a long day, I imagined I would tick all the boxes, turn off the desktop, say goodbye to everyone, get out of the office, head home for dinner. Unfortunately, the real world is not that easy for an international student who grew up in a reserved culture and has an introverted personality.
In my first few days at the office, I hesitated to approach anyone while they were working. I sat quietly, hearing the music in the background and the sound of typing. The sound that frightened me most was the ringing of my desk telephone. I spoke of my anxiety to Andy, who was the office administrator. He assured me that everyone was very friendly and would not be bothered about being disrupted. Email was most convenient if someone was busy. He also taught me how to answer the phone calls that came in. In the following weeks, I sent many emails, went to team parties, and felt much more comfortable asking questions and talking to others. Once I settled down and became more comfortable, I found working in the office environment enjoyable – especially when surrounded with the people I grew to admire.
My Work at Melbourne Writers Festival
I worked mainly with general manager Shona Barrett to conduct an international student research project, and together with development executive Tamsien West, I programmed a storytelling competition called ‘My Place in Melbourne’. Not only did I get to work on the storytelling project, I also participated in the competition. The writing process took me back to the time I first arrived in Melbourne and reading the stories of other students allowed me to share in their lives. I strongly recommend this event to fellow international students because it is always wonderful to share with others your overseas experience.
During the Festival, I spent most of my time attending sessions with international students as part of my research project. We exchanged ideas, discussed cultural differences, grabbed coffee and bought new books. I was glad to hear how they engaged with the talks, how the topic related to their experiences and their valuable feedback on the Festival. The diversity of events gave us a chance to discuss broader topics such as books, arts, workplace, environment, profession, politics and technology – which was different from daily arbitrary conversations. Going to the Festival was like surfing in an idea ocean with colourful waves, and one must use their intelligence to dance with these beautiful waves.
I was privileged to be empowered and backed by the MWF team and even though I was inexperienced, they were always willing to listen to my ideas.
I couldn’t have done it without the team’s support, good teamwork, and effective communication. I’ve been most fortunate to work with the MWF team – where people are creative, supportive, helpful, easy to talk to, and last but not least … love books!
Kelsey Wen is an international student from China, studying an executive master of arts at The University of Melbourne. She was an intern with Melbourne Writers Festival from May to September 2017. She loves books and writing. When she isn’t studying, she can be found jogging, doing yoga and visiting exhibitions. She’s looking forward to starting her career in project management with her passion for planning and organisation.