My experience in the International School Sports Federation By Tea Franjić, International Business student
As an International Business senior student I chose Management for my major since I have had a passion towards project management, organization, creating strategies etc., for a long time. Even before RIT, I was never a type of a person that could just sit still in school. For as long as I can remember, I would surround myself with different projects, extracurricular activities, and hobbies. This "trend” didn’t end when I enrolled in college. Currently, at RIT, I am a member of Business Environment Exploration club, I work closely with the college’s Marketing department, and am a Peer mentor for Freshman students. I was also a tutor and was active in working on the college’s Yearbook. This interest in many different things is what basically brought me to where I am now. And where am I, you might ask? I’m in Antwerp, the second biggest city in Belgium, working in an industry that has been dear to me for so long - sports industry.
Love for the sports industry
I was always surrounded by sport, by practicing it and working on projects around it. In high school I volunteered for the Croatian School Sports Federation and worked on one of their projects as a young journalist, then next year as a photographer and a mini-mentor to younger journalists on the project. On one occasion at the CSSF event I met a representative of International School Sports Federation, and back then I could have never imagined that networking would help me in getting an internship at the ISF. It really shows how important it is to meet people wherever you go. International School Sports Federation (ISF) is an international organization that organizes World School Sports Championships, Summer and Winter Gymnasiades, and different youth-empowerment and educational projects. In addition, they promote education through sport and motivate the youth to gain experience. I knew that, after last year's internship in 404 Agency (Zagreb), I wanted to work somewhere outside of Croatia. I love Croatia, but I also love expanding my horizons and experiencing more. Studying business is amazing because you can find a business-related career in any industry. Business allows you to create a career out of any passion that you have. So this year I decided I wanted to try working in a sports industry. I remembered my meet-up with the ISF representative and asked him if he knows about any internship possibilities in ISF. He did and he connected me with his colleagues from ISF. Long story short - I got the internship and ended up here!!
Going abroad for a co-op: an amazing professional and personal experience
My first experience with ISF was in Morocco. They organized Gymnasiade there at the beginning of May and asked me to join them there before Antwerp. For me, it was a perfect opportunity to both have hands-on experience of their biggest event, but also to meet my future colleagues before the regular office internship. Gymnasiade is an international event with around 3,000 athletes (13-18 years old) from 58 countries competing in 18 sport disciplines. Even though my internship in Antwerp is mostly in the Sports Department, I was a part of the Communications team in Morocco. It was a good experience, but I love being in Sports since it requires more organization and management skills. Currently, we are working on creating the handbooks for the events where we need to have all general and sport-specific rules and requirements. The goal is to unify the requirements so that the local organizing committees know exactly what they need to arrange for each sport in order to ensure a high-quality event. I also did some tasks for other departments, like writing articles for the ISF magazine and analyzing the online registration system of the organization. In my opinion, everything I did was extremely interesting. Since it is a small organization (there are around 8 people in the office) the interns get to be very involved in the projects each employee manages. It is a great opportunity to get a grasp of everything that is happening in such a sports organization. Currently, there are two interns in the office - a girl from France and me. One of the best things about working here are definitely the people - they are all young, helpful, fun, interesting people. We are also quite a mixed group when it comes to nationalities. Another interesting thing is that the office is moving to Brussels at the beginning of July. Since I am leaving for Croatia at the end of July, I will experience living in both cities.
My working hours are pretty flexible. I can come anytime I want as long as I work around 8 hours in total. Of course, that includes that every assignment has to be done on time, but that never worries me. The flexibility of working hours makes me feel relaxed, as I know I will not have anybody keeping track of the minutes spent in the office. They trust their employees that they will do what is asked of them. I would say I don’t have a typical day at work in terms of assignments. The day always starts with a coffee, but from then on it all depends on what I was working on the day before, or if there is something new to do. The flexibility is also great for having this balance between being a tourist and an intern. If I want to travel on the weekends, I can leave early on Friday if I get everything done before. Antwerp is a cute little town where everything you need is easily accessible. I absolutely love living in a smaller city. Since my hometown is really small as well, I feel great about being able to get everything done fast. In the evening I hang out with my friends or simply take time to relax by myself. I spent my weekends wandering around Antwerp. Since I love traveling, while I am here I plan to visit Paris, Bruges, Ghent, and Liege. I am traveling to Paris with a friend this weekend and the rest weekends are booked for exploring the beauty of Belgium.
However, I do miss the warmth of Croatian people when it comes to the whole of Antwerp and the people I see on the street. Most of my friends here are from all over Europe since I met them over the Erasmus FB page. They are all interns in different companies so they were all in the same situation as me when I came here - in an environment without a lot of students and with a wish to meet new people. I didn’t have any problems with moving away from everything I know. Of course I miss my friends, but we talk often and I know I will see them soon, so it doesn’t trouble me. I love new experiences, and that could be the reason I didn’t have any problems with leaving my life in Croatia and trying out something different. My biggest drive is the love towards the sports industry, and maybe if I was working in a branch that does not interest me that much I would miss home more. I am happy to be learning more about this industry and about myself. I think every person should take such an opportunity. Being alone and far from everything you know makes you get to know yourself even more.
What I feel right now is just a huge motivation to learn as much as I can about the industry and how it functions. Also, to meet many interesting people and stay in contact with them. In the end, everybody you meet in your life will affect you. I would say that RIT really prepares you well in understanding the importance of networking.
Find something you love and try shaping your career in that direction
Finally, I want to say to everybody - Don’t ever be afraid to ask people anything. You never know where it might get you. If I wasn’t brave (or you can say spontaneous) enough to send a Facebook message to a person I met 3 years ago asking for open positions, I now wouldn’t be writing about one of my greatest experiences. Go find something you love and try shaping your career in that direction. Life is so beautiful and interesting when you work surrounded by what you have love and when you spend 8 hours daily doing something that brings you value and meaning. Finding your passion will connect you with like-minded people that will motivate you to be better. I know this is a cliché, but you really don’t have to spend 8 hours daily in a job you don’t like just so you can have money to do something you are passionate about outside of the office. No matter what your passion is, I bet you can find a business career there. And don’t worry if you didn’t find your passion yet - it just means you didn’t find it yet! One more reason to go and try out everything life has to offer you, right? That is the only way to find your passion and see "the beauty of this funny place called life” (Sarah Kay, in "If I should have a daughter”).
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