“Framed by mountains, crowned by the Hohensalzburg Fortress and divided by the turquoise Salzach River, the Salzburg landscape is pure drama.” – Frommers
Salzburg is about the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to yet. Green grass, yellow flowers, green canals, and beautiful blue skies! — Mirabelle Morah
Dear you reading this right now, hello and welcome!
This right here is a painstakingly-well-written, exciting, and expansive (really detailed) account of my experiences as a Salzburg Global Seminar Intern. I’ve written extensively about my highlights, challenges, incredible opportunities, and application tips. And if you intend on pursuing one of the prestigious internship positions at Salzburg Global, this could be super helpful for you. And if you want to know more about the Salzburg Global experience, please read on! But before this, allow me to take you back to pre-Austria, pre-internship, and pre-Salzburg Global Seminar.
How did I discover Salzburg Global Seminar?
I don’t believe I knew much about Salzburg as a city, or Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS/Salzburg Global) as an organization prior to the day I was searching for internship opportunities on OpportunityDesk.org, mid-October 2018. That was when I first saw the call for internship applications. The deadline was already a few days away and I got really excited reading about the communications role for recent graduates. The responsibilities were exciting but then, I wondered if I would be a good fit, so I went online and looked up the profiles of previous interns including Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu (he’s awesome check him out!)
Boy! All the interns seemed really topnotch! Did I really stand a chance? But knowing myself very well, I’ve always been the person who would apply for stuff I’m interested in even though I’m not 100% qualified.
Do you want something? Then go for it. You went for it and didn’t get accepted? Well, research more, skill-up, and go for it again if that’s your desire. That’s my advice to you when applying for general opportunities and tackling life in general — if you really want what you want.
“Never let failure take control of you.” — Leonardo DiCaprio
My internship application process
I submitted my application perhaps a day or two before the deadline. I waited a while and close to the date when we were to get feedback — honestly I couldn’t wait any longer because it seemed like an eternity — I emailed Louise Hallman who happened to be the Strategic Communications Manager at the time, and I asked if everyone would get feedback on their applications. Whether they got in or whether they didn’t. Louise replied back, that we all would.
Finally, the day came when I would know my fate and Louise’s email popped right up in my inbox. I’d gotten the internship! Well not really. I’d only gotten past the first stage of the application process.
I applied for 2 internship roles: being a social media intern and a features intern (means I interview people and write feature stories about them.)
My timeline and processes went something like this:
- I submitted my application online and received a confirmation email.
- Weeks later I received another email on a successful application and was prompted to move on to the next task(s).
- I submitted my test tasks for the 2 internship roles. For the features role, I had to write a short article from select topics, and for the social media role, I had to create social media content in different forms.
- After successfully completing this and going through that stage, I was invited for an interview with Louise Hallman and Oscar Tollast (who was the Communications Associate as of the time). My interview was a pretty interesting one. Before this, (INTERVIEW PREP ALERT) I looked up Louise and Oscar to know a bit more about them. I read more about Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS). And during my interview, I was asked what I knew about Salzburg Global, asked questions in reference to the skills I highlighted in my cover letter and CV, asked what programs I would like to attend in Salzburg, etc. I would explain more on this later on but it was during this particular interview that I mentioned to Louise and Oscar that although I’d initially chosen April as my most preferred internship start date, I probably couldn’t do April any longer as Federal Universities in Nigeria were on strike and I could not get a certificate or transcript from school. Hence as I recall, July became my most preferred date.
- I guess my interview was considered successful at this point because many days after the interview, my references were contacted to write about my character and skills. (Grateful!)
- After all of these, I got the final email saying I’d been selected to intern at Salzburg Global Seminar, and I was asked to confirm if I accepted this or not. What?! Of course! I accepted it.
Getting the required documents, visa processing and departure preparations from Nigeria
I had gotten the internship right? I was supposed to be excited right? Yes I was! But then something else came up. After being selected, I was expected to send over some documents including my degree certificate or my transcripts from school, and I had none of these! The probability of getting them seemed very slim.
Well, the ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strike of 2018/2019 saw the closure of Federal Universities in Nigeria, hence delaying a lot of things including convocation ceremonies, getting transcripts or degree certificates, and I wasn’t keen on having this strike affect my chances of getting on with such a wonderful and highly sought-after internship. Honestly, I was very worried and it wasn’t funny. Thankfully I spoke to my Head of Department at the University early enough, asking for advice on what I could do, and I remember Segun T Samuel offering great pieces of advice to me then (God bless them). Fast forward to a few months later; after the strike was called off and after many follow-ups, I was finally able to get one of the required documents and I sent it off to Salzburg Global.
Michaela Goldman (SGS’ Internship Manager) did her official magic with the documents I sent to her and weeks later, I received my supporting documents from Michaela. Then I headed over to Abuja to process my Schengen visa at VFS. Wadi Ben-Hirki and her family were very supportive during these times. And Eric Okyerefo, who was a Ghanaian Intern at Salzburg then, was super helpful to me with information. I remember calling Eric and asking questions about the visa process and everything else seeing that Ghana & Nigeria share similar visa procedures for Schengen Visas. Thank you Eric! Nonetheless, I cannot give information on visa procedures. It was a bit straight forward for me and the best source of information is from the Austrian Embassy or VFS Global because procedures could change, especially with the advent of COVID-19.
The description of my time in Salzburg Global sounds fun — of course it was great — but trust me, there’s a ton of work to be done.
Getting ready to spend an amazing summer working at Salzburg Global Seminar!
One thing incoming interns need to know is that… in my opinion, there are a lot of factors that come to play when deciding the best time to intern in Salzburg.
*Please note that this opinion is mine.
- You can choose to intern at any quarter of the year. There are usually 4 internship start dates/timeframes/quarters per year (depending on the particular internship role): January, April, July, and October. For me, I didn’t want to intern during winter, and by the way, with COVID-19 now, these time frames might be changed or maybe they’ll remain the same, I don’t know.
- Before selecting your preferred quarter, go through Salzburg Global’s Calendar of events and check out all the programs you would love to attend. Note the dates, and fit your internship timeframe into it. For example, during my quarter/internship we had so many media-related programs going on, especially the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change which brought over 70 students (undergrads and postgrads) from all over the world for 3 weeks. I loved it! And I was thankful my internship fell into that program date and I worked on that program.
- In as much as you make your preferences, the final decision really lies with Salzburg Global Seminar. They make the final decision on which quarter you might finally get to intern in.
But back to my pre-Salzburg preparations
Mhm… things seem fuzzy. I do remember that before we finally got to Salzburg, we had a kind of onboarding Zoom meeting between myself, Michaela Goldman, and the 3 other amazing ladies I was going to be interning with. I checked the weather for Salzburg’s summer period (I interned during the summer) and everything seemed a bit warm and sometimes chilly. So I prepared my clothes for that. The official dress code was also semi-formal so I prepared for that as well. And I made sure to read all the documents Michaela sent my way.
I flew from Lagos (Nigeria) to Frankfurt (Germany). On getting to Frankfurt, I had another connecting flight to Salzburg (Austria). Michaela had already briefed us on what to do on arrival in Salzburg and how much a taxi fare would probably cost. So by the time I got off the flight in Salzburg, I went straight to pick my luggage (no there weren’t any border-security-checkpoints for me in Salzburg. I already went through the security in Germany and I was searched a bit longer.)
After picking my luggage I headed out to get a taxi from the airport. The ride was short and beautiful; Salzburg was breathtaking and by the time we arrived at the Schloss Leopoldskron, the gates opened up like woaaahh! Welcome to this royal castle, home of Salzburg Global Seminar. Just magnificent! I was a bit lost and awed when I arrived — like a ‘Johnny Just Come’ as we say in Nigeria — but I strongly felt my taxi driver short-changed me. My change was given to me in coins but I didn’t really understand European coins (we don’t use coins in Nigeria), so I didn’t count them at first, neither did I remember to ask for a receipt even though I’d seen the fare total on the taximeter. It was on getting into my room at the Meierhof (this is where interns stay), that I did a bit of the maths and things didn’t seem to add up.
Anyway, on arriving at the Schloss I went to the reception area in the Meierhof, got checked into my room (the Schloss Leopoldskron doubles as a hotel and as Salzburg Global’s office) and Youngji, the Program Intern from South Korea picked me up and showed me to my room. Honestly, everything seemed confusing at first, from the taxi to the way up to my room.
Settling down in Salzburg
If I wrote about everything I experienced in Salzburg; about all my experiences, it would be a lot.
So I would only summarize this. Everyone at Salzburg Global was very nice to me. I didn’t just feel like another intern, I felt very much like part of the staff team. Part of the family. I very much enjoyed Nanda’s funny comments and warm reception towards me (Nanda was the Fellowship intern from Brazil). I remember all the lunchtimes when I would sit on my own and the staff would ask me to come sit with them. Thank you everyone who asked me to sit with them … even the times I said no thank you (lol). I spent my lunchtime thinking, and napping afterward.
Oscar Tollast, the Communications Associate was pretty much my awesome supervisor. So were Louise, Thomas Biebl, and Jan (though I didn’t really do any fellowship tasks for Jan). But the communications team was so supportive, so were the IT guys — funny people. Oscar and Louise would edit the articles I wrote, Oscar would answer all my questions, show me how to do a lot of things, would ask about my weekends and what I wanted to achieve during my internship.
What I wanted to achieve during my internship
I think this was a very good question Oscar put out to me and I’m very thankful he did. I feel like, not only did this question make me feel like my inputs were valid, but it gave me a chance to speak to my supervisors about my goals, in what ways I wanted to professionally grow while contributing to the team, and in what ways they could help me accomplish these goals as well.
What was my answer to Oscar’s question?
If I recall right, I believe my answers were in the line of me wanting to work on my video editing and visual storytelling skills. And did that happen? Yass! It did. Oscar and Louise gave me access to all comms equipment. Of course, I had to be super careful with all of them.
I recall the days when I would stay back in the office just trying to figure out how to make the lapel mic work. Then Meg (the Library Intern from the US) would have to explain to me how to properly set up the tripod stand. Suu and Youngji (Program Interns from South Korea) would also let me use them for my photography and video making experiments. I love those 3! Salzburg taught me how to take pictures with the camera and helped me work on my filming and video editing skills.
I learned a whole lot more about interacting with people, interviewing people, writing feature stories, etc. There were times I had to interview someone ASAP and I had little to no idea about the person, or even general knowledge about the person’s specific line of work. I always had to find a way to save myself. This really stretched me in a positive way.
The work I had to do and the things I accomplished as a communications intern
The mission of Salzburg Global Seminar is to challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world. As both features and social media intern with the marketing/communications team, my responsibilities included:
- Producing content for social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) for Salzburg Global Seminar and Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron.
- Scheduling all content, plus that created by other members of the Communications Team on social media.
- Working on Salzburg Global press releases such as that for the Salzburg Global Media Academy.
- Engaging with Fellows on social media to increase engagement.
- Analyzing social media data, drawing actionable insights and devising new social media strategies.
- Producing written and multimedia content (photographs and videos) for the SGS’ web, social and/or print publications.
- Interviewing Fellows and Participants during Salzburg Global Programs, such as Elisabeth Bumiller, New Times Washington Bureau Chief.
I worked on 4 major programs (Media Forum, Media Academy, Health Forum, SSASA) and a number of events during my internship:
“The Media Forum examines how leaders from media, technology, publishing, literature and civil society can best support informed public debate, the creation of democratic knowledge, and effectively navigate between free speech and the responsibility to verify and authenticate information in an era of growing distrust in news and information.” — Salzburg Global
My very first session was the Media Forum and I remember either Louise Hallman and/or Clare Shine (Salzburg Global’s Vice President) informing that I had to be at the session and briefly introduce myself as well as the work I do with BlankPaperz Media in Nigeria. The session was also the first time I had to use the camera and take photos of a Salzburg Program — basically the first program I worked on. I was quiet during the first many discussions, and I recall Clare walking up to me during lunch or tea break and encouraging me to also share some of my thoughts during the discussions. The Media Forum was also the first time I had to briefly interview people for our short social media feature known as #FacesOfLeadership. I was a bit nervous; if I was interviewing the “right way” because, you know, these were professional journalists and media experts whom I was interviewing. But guess what? Everyone was pleasant and the fellows encouraged me to keep up the work, giving great tips and pieces of advice here and there.
“Since 1947, more than 36,000 Fellows from more than 170 countries have come together, meeting new people, launching new projects and seeding new thinking.”
Salzburg Global Day was actually Salzburg Global’s Anniversary. I made a video with other interns wishing Salzburg Global a Happy Anniversary! Nanda worked heavily on this program! I assisted her in designing some “happy anniversary” placards and on the D-day, there was a nice evening event with tons of Icecream — I remember the ice cream most because that’s partially what I came for. I took videos and pictures of the evening while handling live updates on Salzburg Global’s Instagram page.
Look, the Media Academy is simply incredible! It’s “a unique three-week action research and critical making program that brings young media makers together from around the world to critique and create civic media for social change.”
Students from all over the world connected with each other during the Media Academy. There’s a ton of learning that goes on and much fun too. During the Academy, students were taken on a tour of Salzburg to experience local history and to also get to know the city a bit better. There was another awesome tour to Gosau. For me, that’s about one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to yet (see video). And there was also another tour to Mauthausen, a Nazi concentration camp on a hill above the market town of Mauthausen, which was quite an eye-opening experience for me, and sobering too.
I must’ve interviewed 30+ people in a space of 2 weeks+ during this program; whether they were 10–20 minutes interviews for feature stories, 2–5 mins interviews for Faces of Leadership, or 1–2-minute interviews for the press release. My rough records looked something like this:
5 interviews for faculty and guest scholars.
13 interviews for #FacesOfLeadership
16 interviews for press releases.
The students, guest scholars, everyone I spoke to was absolutely incredible! People were down to earth, willing to listen to you and to also tell you their stories. When I interviewed Shahidul Alam, a human rights activist and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2018, it was most inspiring listening to his story and observing how humble and down to earth he is, yet so focused and determined. And when I interviewed the BBC’s Digital Director, Naja Nielsen, Naja was most encouraging, giving great pieces of advice and a book recommendation to go check out.
Faye Hobson (the Program Manager) and Youngji majorly worked on this. My major duty was to take pictures of the Symposium. In between taking these pictures, honestly, I spent the majority of the time behind closed doors (still at the Max Reinhardt Library) eating those super tasty sandwiches on the table, drinking tons of orange juice, and working on my laptop. I really liked the job! And I delivered excellently well on it too. There really shouldn’t be any compromise in delivering excellence whether enjoying the moment or not.
Let’s be honest, I had very little knowledge of patient safety. This particular program was the most challenging for me. Why? It was a bit difficult getting people to agree to do short interviews with me for the Newsletter Oscar and I needed to produce, and there was very short turnaround time. So I was a bit worked up when I couldn’t get as many interviews as I hoped to — by the way check out the newsletters Oscar and I prepared here. But this taught me different ways to approach people to request for an interview, people also have a right to decline your interviews. Sometimes they say no directly, other times they just reschedule and reschedule — pick the cue! Other times they’ll prefer to write down the answers for you or require much time to prepare for the interview. And other times they’ll be happy to jump right into an interview with you that very second! You just have to “read people” and respect their varying preferences.
Oscar helped a ton by suggesting many interview questions to me, and when I got worked up one evening, he was very understanding and reassured that we could simply make do with the interviews I’d already collected and I needn’t get any more for the day.
But did I say that the program was my most challenging? Well I must tell you that it was one of the most rewarding sessions I ever attended! I met a lot of wonderful health professionals here. From Patricia McGaffigan who every day would enquire about my interviews and recommend people I could interview. To Donald Berwick whom on hearing that I was going to be speaking at the 2019 Social Enterprise World Forum in Ethiopia, was kind enough to suggest that I visit the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Addis Ababa. And Ernest Asiedu whom when I visited Ghana a few months after my internship, showed me the utmost hospitality. Ernest and his wife took me on a tour around Accra on my first day in the city. We bought ice-cream and some roadside plantains and fish. Who knew? From Salzburg Health Forum to Ghana!
I believe this was the last Salzburg Global Program I worked on before leaving. It’s a small world indeed and it was during this Program I met Azza Cohen, and I knew her sister, Daniella Cohen from the Just Peace Summit in New York. I was also to interview Elisabeth Bumiller, NYTimes’ Washington Chief Bureau here. I was quite nervous about this, interviewing an expert journalist who reports on Trump and the White House. But Meg Monroe, the Library intern totally allayed my fears, and so did Louise Hallman.
Highlights of my Internship
My highlights include everything above, and also the staff outing we had! It was awesome! But before getting to the part of the staff outing, I must say that all the interns I worked with were absolutely amazing! You can check out the video interview I made on all of us.
I loved the movie nights we all had together including the ones with Nanda, and the big farewell dinner we had for Nanda and Martin (the Communications intern from Uruguay). I loved that we could be there for each other, to support each other, and teach each other things. And I loved eating Su and Younji’s meals.
I remember a certain weekend we couldn’t get food from the Schloss Kitchen. I ordered Pizzas which I shared with Su, but before that, something so sweet happened. I walked into the townhouse then I met Su. Or wait — did I meet her or not? I’m not sure but one thing led to another. I think she must’ve told me to open the fridge, so I did and the most thoughtful thing was waiting for me in the fridge. With my name on it, Su got me a jar of dark chocolate! I loved it! Thank you Su!
We had the staff outing where almost all the hotel staff from the Schloss, as well as from Salzburg Global got together. It was incredibly nice as it gave me a chance to get to know more people and speak to people I never really had a chance to speak to. I almost didn’t join the staff outing but Meg convinced me to. We went Stand-up-paddling at Chiemsee, then went to the Holzknecht Museum (Ruhpolding) which is like a wood-workshop-museum. Finally, we had dinner at Dax Lueg, far above a hilly place where we watched the sunset. It truly was beautiful.
Really, every day was a highlight for me. I enjoyed the comfort and warmth of my room whenever it was super cold outside. I loved that I could just Netflix and Chill on my off-days. I loved the work I had to do, enjoyed Simon from the IT department’s jokes, I loved Louise’s cake during the Thursday treats. I’m not a coffee person but I loved how there was free coffee almost everywhere. And I loved working on sessions, why? Because there was always free breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Great Hall haha! Oh, the Kitchen staff were always so nice.
And I loved how we sometimes had access/tickets to some events either inside the Schloss or outside the Schloss. Such as the tickets we had to attend an Opera rehearsal somewhere in town, the Sonophilia and Shakespear events I attended in the Schloss, as well as a football match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and another team. The football ticket was courtesy of Su.
The people I met were incredible, including meeting the Nigerian Ambassador to Austria — thanks to a very kind friend.
Challenges I faced
Asides not being able to get many interviews during the Health Forum, I cannot think of any challenges I faced. The food was always good, I had clean sheets and towels all the time — thank you Schloss colleagues! The tasks I was assigned were all great! And I always had either Oscar, Louise or Thomas to ask questions.
After Salzburg things got quite busy. I headed back to Nigeria and then a few weeks later to Addis Ababa to speak at the 2019 Social Enterprise World Forum on a plenary session alongside Audrey Tang (Digital Minister of Taiwan), Michal Luptak (Co-founder of Dlala Nje) and Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin (CEO of BlueMoon) on Innovation in Youth Engagement. Then I was off to Accra for a CFC workshop with Chatham House. And just right after that, I and a colleague co-hosted the ChangemakerXchange CoCreation Summit in Lagos, where we hosted some of the best social entrepreneurs in West Africa. Not long after that, COVID-19 happened. But I still stay in touch with the interns and some SGS staff.
My advice/tips to incoming Interns
“Inspiration is one thing and you can’t control it, but hard work is what keeps the ship moving. Good luck means, work hard. Keep up the good work.” — Kevin Eubanks
Interning in Salzburg Global Seminar can be very enriching if you arrive with the right mindset and have the right goals, career-wise and personally. Gaining a spot can also be very competitive, so my advice is that when and if you get in, use your time wisely. Add the best value to the team, bring ideas and solutions and also be ready to take feedback. The description of my time in Salzburg Global sounds fun — of course it was great — but trust me, there’s a ton of work to be done.
When applying I would say:
- Properly understand the requirements for each internship position you are applying for. The internship page is very self-explanatory with tons of information but if you feel like you still need to clarify something, then reach out to the contact email you may find on the FAQ or open application page. Please make sure that your experiences and skills match the role(s) you are applying for.
- Research more about Salzburg Global Seminar and see that the vision and mission align with yours and yours with it too. Also understand that this is an unpaid internship (as at the time of writing this). However, your boarding, feeding and flight tickets are covered. Again, check the open application page to confirm if these conditions still remain valid as of the time of your own application.
- I’m unsure if the requirements have changed but if you fit into two different roles, you may apply for both of them. However, check the open application page to see if this option still applies.
- When writing your application, give it your best shot. QA your CV, Cover Letter and whatever else you might be asked to submit. Make sure there are no typos, loopholes, and lies. Don’t lie. Stop lying in your applications. Selling yourself in your CV is not the same as lying. If you’ve organized 20 events at your university and have had 95% success rates for all those events then please, write about those wins. Highlight them! But if you haven’t then don’t lie. Talk about your small wins too, those are very valid and valued wins too.
- In your resume or cover letter, try to add figures and numbers to buttress your impact rate or previous successes. Don’t just tell. Show.
- Use the KISS rule: Keep It Short & Simple! Honestly, there are a ton of applications to go through. You want to keep things straightforward yet show that you pretty much know your stuff, are bringing value to the Salzburg team and also need the internship to grow. If possible, add a link to your online portfolio or LinkedIn page, so anyone reviewing your application can easily find more expansive information about you from your LinkedIn page. If you’ve added a link to your online portfolio and LinkedIn page, then try to list the most relevant and important things on your CV and Cover Letter as more can be discovered via your LinkedIn profile (including unrelated past experiences).
- On behalf of the reviewing committee and everyone else whom you think might be reviewing your application: AVOID CONTACTING staff on social media to ask any seriously irrelevant questions — except absolutely, absolutely necessary. You might contact previous interns of course to ask for guiding tips and advice. But you must never “force” anyone to go through your application and review it before submission — especially if you were never acquainted prior to that. They have the right to decline your request(s) and no one has an obligation to answer all your questions. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to have someone close to you look through your application and pinpoint errors. And it’s good to ask the right questions too.
Also, remember that
You’re going to meet a lot of amazing people from all over the world. There’ll be many opportunities for you to grow as an individual and to contribute to the team you’re working with. Staff are friendly, the people you’ll meet are open-minded too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be shy to have conversations with new people.
By the way shoutout to Michaela Goldman who is the Internship Manager. Michaela is gold. Pure. Gold. She’s extremely caring and makes the internship process run seamlessly.
Please note that all of these are my thoughts and opinion(s) as a former communications intern. These words are documented solely to give an account of my time in Salzburg, while also giving you a few tips if you intend to be a Salzburg Global Intern. My internship experience may vary in vast proportions to what others may have experienced. But this was how I chose to be “present,” to live “in the moment” throughout my internship. So, there you have it! Good luck if you intend to apply for an internship with Salzburg Global Seminar. It’s a unique experience trust me, and many interns always yearn to come back either as fellows, staff, or visitors. Whatever be the case, Salzburg Global Seminar and the Schloss Leopoldskron will always be home to many. And it’s one of the best places to get an internship experience with great work culture, incredible scenery as well as kind, intelligent and thoughtful people.
I’m on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, BlankPaperz Media, and www.mirabellemorah.com. This piece has also been republished on BlankPaperz.com & Mirabellemorah.com and also don’t forget to give your claps and share your thoughts in the comment section. Danke!