Lucas Gurgel, originally from Brazil, is a student of Innovation Economics and Management at the University of Porto. He came to Slovakia in December 2016 to start his internship in one consulting firm. Even though his internship period ended in May, he decided to stay in Bratislava until August to enjoy summer here and finish his thesis. We met on our terrace one sunny afternoon and spent about an hour talking about his experience. You can read what we learnt in the following article. Have a nice read!
Can you tell us something about the company where you were doing your internship?
I was working in a consulting firm that helps companies to get funding from Brussels and to make some strategic planning. This company works with small and medium enterprises here in Slovakia and in the center of Europe with the aim to achieve some funds from Brussels. My responsibilities were to help with some proposals from this company to achieve funds. Basically, my usual work tasks in the company included finding some partners that could join this proposals, join companies so they can get more value on their proposals and more chances to receive grants from Brussels.
That seems interesting, did you like the job?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I Liked it a lot.
What was the most interesting part of your work?
I think the negotiation skills that I could develope with some companies. I had a chance to work with many different proposals and projects of some companies from the center of Europe, and thanks to this I could see how it works to get grants from Brussels.
Did this internship position satisfied your expectations?
It was a nice job because we worked under deadlines. There were days not very busy with tasks, but then when the deadline was approaching, there were a lot of tasks. I just think the workload could have been more split. But in general, it was a great experience to know the people and how the process of getting funds works. Overall it was an interesting and worthy experience, but as for myself, I would like the work even more intense with varied tasks.
Did you work in a team?
No. I was working individually. I occasionally had some meetings with my boss, but they were not occuring that often.
And did you like being independent when it comes to work?
I think for this job, position and the tasks I had, I would prefer working in a team, because there is always something to learn and to know more about the process. But even working independently did not compromise the final results. My boss was a nice and good person, and he showed me the best ways to perform the tasks.
What do you find as the most beneficial for your future career?
I can think of a lot of beneficial aspects. I can write in my CV that I have experiences with business development activities. The fact that I worked in a consulting firm, within one important program here in Europe, I am sure that I will carry all that I learned with me.
That is great and I am happy to hear that. What about working skills you improved?
Negotiation for sure, organization, systematization and communication are skills that I improved the most.
Would you recommend our program to other young professionals?
Sure, I am already doing it. I received all the support that was necessary since the beginning, very helpful and available people to answer any question that I had. It is a very professional program and contributes a lot to the economy of Slovakia, because when you are able to grow this kind of network of students from different fields of studies and you can bring them here, I think that has a great value for the country.
What do you think about Bratislava?
It is a small city but quite big in a certain way. There are many beautiful places to see, a lot of coffees in the city center. I also had the possibility to go to some concerts. It was very nice. The geographic location is a great plus as you have amazing opportunity to travel too. People are nice and friendly, maybe it is because I am exotic, from Brazil and they became very curious about that.
What did you find as the most difficult when you came here?
I think the fact that I had to travel to Pezinok every day and spending 20km on the train and bus which takes around 1 hour to commute. The language, I understand nothing from Slovak, only the basic words. Within the public sector, from experiences I had, they did not know English enough to have a conversation, like at bus station, train station for example. Also, the winter was very hard. It was my first real winter.
If you were to choose between accommodation in Bratislava, or living near to your work in Pezinok, what would you choose?
I would definitely choose to stay here in Bratislava.
What about the cultural aspect?
It is much different from Brazil, but I get used to it, because I went to Portugal in 2015 and there are differences as well compared to my home country. They are Europeans too, I think it is quite similar to here, but maybe more friendly and open to foreigners.
How did you find the food? Did you like Slovak food?
Well, I miss seafood a lot, I didn’t buy it here because it is expensive. However, I am easy with food, I am not exigent with that. I like Halusky, it is heavy and nice food. I also like the fact that here you always have soup before the lunch.
Did you cook at home?
No, I didn’t. Actually, I know how and I love to cook, but I was more practical to eat somewhere rather than carry my own food every day. But right now I am cooking at home, because I am just writing my thesis and I have plenty of time.
Did you have a bucket list before coming here? Like what you wanted to do, or to experience, where you wanted to go?
Yeah, yeah. I wanted to go to Prague, Budapest, Austria, Croatia, to ski and snowboard, and I did all of that. In a certain way, I wanted to experience the winter here, the sensation of feeling the snow, but only for 2 weeks not for 2 months.
And here in Slovakia, did you visit some places? Which one did you like the most?
Yeah, I visited some cities and places here in Slovakia. I think Jasna is the one I liked the most. I also did rafting here on the Danube river, it was amazing, with beautiful landscapes.
Do you consider staying here in Slovakia?
Yeah, for the next 2 or 3 months. I am putting this as deadline, because I am searching for some jobs.
Do you want to work here in Slovakia?
Not anymore, I am searching for job opportunities abroad. I think my period in Slovakia is already done. It is a nice city, nice place but I need new challenges, explore new places. I want to stay here in Europe, but I don’t know yet if I am going back to Portugal or to another country, I am still searching. I’d like to go to a bigger place, bigger city.
Do you have any advice for those who are thinking of coming here?
Leave your comfort zone behind, risk a little. Now is time to invest in yourself, in your career, to improve your work and life experience, this is the most important thing to do. You just live once, so don’t miss any opportunity.
Any last words for our readers?
I truly recommend to choose Slovakia as a place to study or do an internship. There are lots of opportunities here to improve your knowledge, your skills, to find jobs in big companies. It is a country that will grow up a lot in the next years.