Meet Michelle: The first ICOM Agency Exchange Intern

Once upon a time there was an ambitious young lady named Michelle who wanted to gain extra international working experience in the United States before she started working—like, working for real, being an adult, and having all those grown-up duties.

“Oh girl, working in the US is not easy”, many people told her, but that made her even more willing and excited for her American dream. So, she worked hard, created opportunities (like picking an ICOM agency!), arranged things (a lot of things, actually), got her visa and now she is working in Chicago, at Cramer-Krasselt, on the brand planning team. She is the very first ICOM exchange intern and the hope is that many more ambitious, young professionals will follow in her footsteps. Here, she will share her story and experiences (so far).

I’m Michelle van den Berg, 23 years old and from the Netherlands. I will keep you updated about my American tale—ehm, experiences (it’s all about storytelling these days, right?)—at a US agency. This is all in an effort to provide an idea of how the ICOM Agency Exchange Platform could be an opportunity for other ICOM members to grow talent through unique work experiences within the network.

Hungry for more. And, for food.

Recently, I graduated from the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University) with a master’s degree in marketing management. My bachelor’s degree is in international business administration. Besides working, I have always enjoyed keeping myself challenged (and busy) with side jobs and committees. You can connect with me on LinkedIn to see an overview of all my activities, but there was always just one side job that really stood out for me.

For almost two years, I worked at Oxyma, ICOM’s only agency based in the Netherlands. Here, I was given a lot of freedom and responsibility to work on many interesting marketing-related projects, such as events, award entries, sponsoring, branding, content creation and organizing ICOM’s EMEA meeting last October 2016 in Rotterdam. That’s where my American dream started to turn from something very blurry into something that might really be possible in the near future.

Obtaining a visa for long-term work in the US can be time consuming. In order to obtain my J-1 visa, I completed a lot of paperwork, interviewed at the US consulate in Amsterdam and obtained a sponsor (CIEE). I paid all the very high visa-related costs myself, which includes insurance while in the US. It was a lot of effort, but I was so happy once I received my passport back with the visa in it.

In collaboration with C-K’s HR team, I defined my goals, roles and responsibilities during my internship. It was useful for me to clarify this, and it was a requirement for obtaining my visa, too. One of my main objectives at C-K is to gain more international experience by working in a completely different environment and with different clients. Moreover, I want to learn more about advertising and marketing in the US and hope I can take some of this knowledge with me back to the Netherlands.

Finally, I believe working in another country also helps you understand a different culture. By culture, I mean people’s mindsets and ways of working, but also the city/country itself, its habits and the food—one of my favorite ways to learn about a culture!

Let’s get this party started.

So far, so good. It was finally time to book my tickets to Chicago and find housing. This was my own responsibility, but C-K proposed some areas to live, which was very helpful. I had never been to Chicago before, but finding a room was very easy for me with help from Facebook. During the final weeks before I left, I successfully defended my master’s thesis, moved out of my beloved room in Rotterdam, arranged insurance and packed my suitcases (of course, my suitcases were way too heavy in the beginning. #thestruggleisreal). This was very hectic, but it all worked out!

Right now, I’m already in my fifth week of working at C-K. Time flies! I feel like I am really starting to understand the organization and I have been working on some interesting clients, including personal and research projects. But more about this, life at C-K and my new Chicago morning routine in my next updates. What a cliffhanger, right?

Don’t hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn or contact me by mail with all your burning questions, feedback, comments, ideas or (love) letters! I am more than happy to share my exchange experiences with you and help initiating future ICOM exchanges. #weshareatICOM

There I go! Minor detail: I’m wearing a matching legging for this occasion: “Just do it”.

Almost there, Chicago!

Found it! The entrance of the building.

Office views

More office views. Yes, that’s the Trump tower there in the back.

My first day at Cramer-Krasselt! The C-K “flag” is to notify other C-K’ers there’s a new employee at this desk.

C-K’s monthly overview with events, anniversaries and birthdays #cklife

My morning commute to the office.

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