Student Spotlight: Danielle Lee – Internship at Raindance

Danielle, one of our year long students, had the chance to do an awesome internship while abroad at QMUL! Read about her experience studying abroad in London, as well as what her internship’s been like. 

  1. Could you introduce yourself?danielle lee

My name is Danielle and I am a third year Film and Media Studies student from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since mid-September I have been living out a dream I’ve had since I was fifteen years old of studying abroad in London.

  1. What are some of the bigger differences between England and California, especially now that you’ve been here for a full year? Did you expect these differences before coming abroad?

As much as I have fallen in love with London and England in general, I miss Californian weather and Mexican food. Those were the two big things everyone warned me about before I left. But having grown up in San Francisco where it’s almost always kind of cold and foggy, I underestimated how cold London could be… but February was just as cold as everyone had warned me. However, I liked actually experiencing seasons in a way we don’t in California. I was the only person smiling on the streets the two times it kind of snowed in February. As a Californian a bit of rain was like the end of the world, but now I can’t even be bother to own an umbrella anymore. And as much as I love Sunday Roast and Pie and Mash, I do miss Mexican food – every Californian misses Mexican food.  Yet, the biggest thing that I found to be different and what I really missed was how laid back Californian college culture is in terms of clothing. I was so use to going to lecture in sweatpants, my UCSB jumper that I live out of and my Rainbows, but then I started to think about what I wore everyday because English students are very well dressed to lecture and even when they go to the library.

Even though I do miss the beaches of Santa Barbara, proper burritos and rolling out of bed five minutes before lecture, I knew things were going to be different. I knew it was going to be cold and rainy and that I’d miss corn tortillas. But I was and am only going to get this experience once so I wanted to make the most out of it and embrace English culture, because at the end of my year abroad the sun will still be shining warmly in Southern California and my favourite taco place in SB will still be there.

  1. Why did you choose Queen Mary? How do you like it now?

I’ve always wanted to study in London. I knew I wanted to spend my junior year of college abroad in London even before I knew or seriously considered where I’d go or want to go to college. I was more excited my freshman year about having the option to apply to study abroad than I was to start university. So Queen Mary was an obvious choice for me, as it is in London and it’s a twenty minute Tube ride into central. Queen Mary’s film department and the courses they offer here is what really drew me to it, it had a practical filmmaking course and the available modules covered a range of topics in film that I was interested in. I love being on small campus where I can walk from end to the other in ten minutes. I like the juxtaposition between the obvious university vibe one gets the second they step through the Queen Mary gates with the busy London streets on the other side of those gates. Queen Mary is nicely nestled within this big city in a quirky and charming part of London. I can also easily commute into central or anywhere else in London almost whenever I want. Mile End has definitely become home for the last eight months.

  1. How did you get involved with this internship? What made you want to do an internship while abroad?

The more I learned about EAP and what my program had to offer the more I knew I wanted something more out of my year abroad than just studying, exploring and travelling. Especially after my first term where I was onlytaking three courses, I felt like I had a lot of free time.

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Behind the scenes photo of a video another intern was filming for the Raindance YouTube channel 

Even though I did spend my free time exploring London, going to museums and just wandering, I felt like an internship was one of the best ways I could have gotten something a little more special out of my abroad experience.

I knew of Raindance right before I left because my academic advisor in Santa Barbara sent out an article of ‘The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.’ Although I didn’t end up attending the festival as it ran through my first official week at Queen Mary, when I was looking for internships I remembered Raindance and saw that they were looking for interns on their website. I applied just as everyone else. I sent in an application, my CV and a cover letter. After three weeks – during my final week of term – Raindance emailed me back, I was scheduled in for an interview the next day and by the end of the week I was offered one of four positions as a ‘Courses and Content Production Intern.’

  1. What do you do at your internship – what do your day to day activities include?

During my time at Raindance my main day to day tasks included helping with the management of the Raindance Twitter and occasionally the Facebook page. The days I worked, on social media  I’d promote upcoming filmmaking courses and events hosted by Raindance, share articles published on Raindance’s website that were written by interns and staff from the other Raindance offices around the world and circulate relevant film news, articles and interviews from external sources. When I wasn’t scheduling tweets or posts, I spent most of my time working on my own articles for the website. By the end of my three months, I had written a listicle that featured fifteen female editors, their work and accomplishments in honour of International Women’s Day. I, personally, am really interested in new media, the shift towards it and its impact on filmmakers, ‘traditional media’ and the filmmaking industry. Raindance offers their

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Poster from last year’s 24th Annual Raindance Film Festival

interns a lot of creative freedom in terms of the content we were to contribute to the blog portion of the website. I also ended up writing an article that highlighted five independent filmmakers on YouTube as a way to commentate on the importance of YouTube as an independent platform that can offer opportunities that extend far beyond a computer screen and feature channels/filmmakers that I like and that have inspired me. I was encouraged to talk and write about my favourite thing – about things I’m passionate about. I applied my education to a contemporary context and through critical analysis I created my own opinions and work. That’s something I could have never gotten in a traditional classroom setting.

Aside from managing social media and working on articles, I also helped in creating and organising databases, I created booklets for the courses, helped set up for Raindance courses and events and I even designed the subscription newsletter for Raindance’s Social Media eBook.

I did commute into an office just off Trafalgar Square three times a week, for twenty hours a week, for three months – so my day to day also consisted of typical office tasks. I went out around SoHo to run errands and drop off mail, answered domestic and international phone calls that came in every day, answered the door and greeted guests that were coming in for meetings or auditions that were occurring in the Raindance studios.

  1. How has study abroad and this internship impacted you so far?

Before I left every returnee had told me that IV would be just as it was when I left it and that I’d easily fall back into my routine with my friends. The biggest difference I had to anticipate in coming home was that I was the one that will have changed. Over the last eight to nine months, I have definitely grown into myself a lot more. I’ve grown in a way that I couldn’t and wouldn’t have without going abroad. I had my comforts, routines and friends back home, but moving to a different country on your own really forces you to step outside your comfort zone. I’m a lot more confident now in approaching things I want and meeting new people. I’ve ticked off so many places I only imagined of seeing someday and I’ve made friends and memories that will last me a lifetime.

My internship played an integral role in nurturing that growth. In the beginning it felt as if I lost a grasp on my life and freedom that I had my first term. It felt like if I wasn’t in the Raindance office I was in lecture and by the time I got home I either was catching up on readings and assignments or I just didn’t want to do anything for the rest of the night. But my internship forced me to find a balance between work, school and my friends. I was busy everyday between ten and six sitting either in the office or in a lecture hall, I made more of a point to see my friends when I got home or out go with them on the weekends. Even though I had more free time my first term, I spent a lot of it alone or allowing days where I didn’t do much because of the time I had. During my internship I had the most balance in my life and I also had the most fun during those three months. Professionally, I’ve also grown into and towards the professional I would like to be because I was lucky enough to work in an environment with people that encouraged growth and creativity. I definitely noticed a change in myself and my work for the better once I was comfortable in the office. I don’t think I’ve changed as everyone warned me about or in the way everyone says they’ve changed when they go abroad. Instead, as a result of my year abroad and my internship at Raindance, I’ve grown up. I’ve grown up into who am I and into my own skin. Because of my experiences, it’s a growth of comfort with myself and the courage embrace the confidence I always had deep within myself that I’ll take with me and hope to further nurture for the rest of my life.

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Our last official day as interns and that night a course on how to make low-budget special visual effects was being held in the Raindance Centre. They were teaching them how to make effects for horror films so we, the interns, thought it would be funny to stage our own murder scene with what was set up earlier in the day for the course 

  1. Do you have any advice for students who are studying abroad and want to get involved with an internship?

Start early and know what you want. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing when I was applying for internships. I was writing cover letters for the first time and stressing about converting my résumé to a CV. I didn’t even really know what I wanted to do; all I knew was that I wanted more experience in my field. It would have saved me a lot of stress if I had a CV ready and surveyed the opportunities that were out there for me to apply to earlier.

Utilise the opportunities you’ve had and will have. I always look at my past work experience as a stepping stone for the next opportunity. Even though I would love to work in film production some day, I knew with my past experience that it seemed as if I wanted to go into marketing and social media. Raindance was looking for an intern that could mainly help with social media and marketing. Although that’s mainly what I did, I did in a place where I was able to learn more about filmmaking and the ‘industry.’ I’ve met and worked with people that I share common interests with. I learned through their experiences and advice and more about what I want for myself and my future through just getting to know people. Raindance offered me opportunities to learn more and sharpen my filmmaking skills, not only through their company itself but also through the people I’ve met and the work I’ve done.

Have fun and enjoy it. I had a lot of fun during my three months at Raindance. I left Raindance with more professional skills, but I’m not going to look back on my time there and think about the tweets I scheduled or how many likes and retweets my articles got or the number of times I’ve said ‘Raindance, how can I help?’ over the phone. I’ll take with me the lunch breaks I spent wandering around the National Gallery and exploring central London before grabbing takeaway just at the end of my hour to take back to my desk. I’ll look back and laugh at the inside jokes I had with my fellow interns. I’ll miss the friendships I’ve made. I’ll miss contributing to the conversations with staff about the latest episode of a TV show we all watch or about the web series I introduced to them to as I was writing my article. Your time abroad is going to be the best couple of months of your life, enjoy it.