An Interview with Nora Archambeau, Intern Placement Specialist

Blog posted on the BAIA official blog on September 2006.

Internship in the US is for many people a life-changing experience; usually a very positive one. When young European men and women return home after a few months spent working in an American company they are changed. It’s a difference many of them carry with them for the rest of their lives that makes them special and more valuable on the professional level as well as individuals. Some might find their own country too small to fit in as before, and feel a strong desire to explore more of the world. They are no longer Italian or French anymore, nor are they Americans. They have simply become citizens of the world — a special category of open-minded, free-spirited, multi-cultural people. On the other hand, US companies hosting interns from Europe get exposure to a pool of fresh, determined, brilliant young talents. They get new ideas, enthusiasm, and the opportunity to test-drive some of their best future employees. In order for the two halves of the internship to meet successfully, both sides may need some help. Nora Archambeau with Intern Abroad USA, is one of the few people able to make the magic happen. Here is her interview.

Nora, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional activities?

I’m a native San Franciscan, born into a big French-Irish Catholic family of four sisters and one brother (poor guy!).  Exposure to different cultures began early on living in the Mission District, where Mexican-Americans, Italian-Americans, and Irish-Americans all shared the same neighborhood.  The family eventually moved to the East Bay where I completed schooling, then attended Holy Names University.  It was here that my passion for internationals grew since there was a school for English as a Second Language (ESL) on campus.  Meeting people from Italy, France, Brazil, Venezuela, Germany, Japan, etc. made my “little world” so much bigger and exciting!  Having a B.A. in Psychology and a Minor in French, I decided my 1st real career would be in International Education.  I also wanted to fulfill a dream and experience living in France.  It’s been a blessing that I’ve lived in both Paris and Dijon, have spent time in South India, and have traveled to several Eastern and Western countries. I have an M.A. in East-West Psychology and think it’s fun to be called an Indophile and a Francophile.  In this highly changeable world, many of us are pushed to and often have a thirst to fulfill many gifts.  One of these gifts is using the combination of business, education, and internationalism to find clients interns from Europe, and hopefully, later the world, through Intern Abroad USA!

Internships can be a great opportunity not only for young students but also for companies.  What are your recommendations for small companies looking to hire a few interns?

Here are a few of my recommendations: (a) Clarify your reasons for hiring an intern; (b) What are the primary goals you’d like to see fulfilled in 4, 6, or 9 months? (c) Which country would you be interested in hosting an intern for your business? (d) How can you best support bringing out the talents and gifts of a young professional? (e) What is there to learn from hiring and working with an intern? (f) Which service company can you trust and could offer the smoothest hiring process?

In a few words, can you tell a young European student why s/he should leave the comfort and beauty of a European city for an internship in Florida or California?

For the sheer adventure of doing it! The word ad-ven-ture is defined as: (1) an exciting or extraordinary event or series of events; (2) the participation or willingness to participate in things that involve uncertainty and risk; (3) to dare to go somewhere new or engage in something dodgy!
Adventure, newness, and risking all provide the ingredients that shape and mold us into strong, more capable, and creative individuals. Opening up to new experiences, new cultures and people, and exposure to different beauties expand and stretch our thinking, beliefs, and approaches to problem-solving.  If I hadn’t adventured out at night on the streets of Venezia and trusted I’d find my way back, well, I’d probably still be wondering around, living in basilicas here and there, having never again found my pensione in Dorsodoro!

Many interns come from Europe mainly to improve their English.  Which other, less evident, benefits can they receive working in a foreign country and a unique environment such as the San Francisco Bay area?

Some of the benefits they can receive are: (a) Learn to trust more in themselves and in others; (b) Hone their intuitive and intellectual abilities; (c) Build on adaptive and flexibility skills; (d) Increase culture-to-culture communication proficiency; (e) Add new conduits in the brain; (f) Willingness to accept a larger variety of ethnicities! (g) Know that there are differences working in SF and Silicon Valley.  SF offers warmth, friendliness, cultural variety, intuitive thinking, city excitement with a hometown feeling; Silicon Valley presents self-sufficiency, methodical thinking, high energy environments, and a constant production of innovative ideas.

Based on your experience, what are the most common realistic and unrealistic assumptions interns have about the San Francisco Bay area?

Realistic
(a) working in America can sometimes lead to a permanent job; (b) having a U.S. company listed on one’s  resume or CV may open more doors once having returned home; (c) their English will most definitely improve; (d) most Americans are sincerely friendly and helpful whenever possible.
Unrealistic
(e) working in America guarantees permanent employment; (f) the opportunities to advance economically are unlimited; (g) Americans have ALL the answers!
Last, You just may fall in love… with the City, with technology, with Noah’s Bagels… or maybe even with the love of your life!

As Europeans, we look to Silicon Valley as a reference model for business and technology.  When looking at Europe at large, what do you see that could be successfully imported to help Americans perform even better in the SF Bay area?

(a) To take a longer time to work on the product before it is launched to the market so that less recalls occur; (b) To cultivate the social side of a business relationship more before launching into potential business deals; (c) Communicating more from a cross-cultural perspective can lessen conflicts and allow for smoother decisions to be made, e.g., the EU; (d) To encourage Americans to increase their attention span from nano-seconds to minutes!
Franco, thank you for inviting me to be interviewed!


I would like to thank the Nora Archambeau for taking the time for this interview and for the important work she does every day with Intern Abroad USA promoting and supporting Euro-American internships. If you have a question for Nora or for BAIA please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. Nora is also an active member of our online community BAIA Link where she can also be reached.