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Senior Strategic Communications major Courtney Gatto interns in Australia

Courtney GattoAll internships come with their own set of challenges, experiences and rewards; they teach us lessons and give us knowledge about our field of study. I try to do as many internships as possible to get a glimpse of what might lie ahead in my professional future. This summer, I was lucky enough to secure an amazing internship during the month of July. I figured this internship might be similar to work I have done, but there was one major difference- it was almost 10,000 miles away from home.

From July 1-23, I was a strategic communications intern at the Schizophrenia Fellowship of New South Wales (SFNSW) in Sydney, Australia. From day one, I was faced with countless hurdles. From applying for a working visa, to navigating the airports, to understanding the Australian lingo- it was all a learning experience.

When I first arrived, everything seemed backwards. The cars were driving in the left lane, the steering wheels were on the right side of the car and the water flowed counter-clockwise down the drain. For a brief second, as I was standing outside the baggage claim, I thought I was insane for traveling around the world alone. Thankfully, I never turned back (partially because airline tickets were so expensive). Traveling and interning in Australia not only gave me valuable work experience, it taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined.

Courtney Gatto's photo

On my first day of work, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had never done health-related communications work, but on that day, I had to be ready to jump right in.

The Schizophrenia Fellowship, located at the Old Gladesville Hospital, is a not for profit organization that works to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and their caregivers.SFNSW has several services for people in the community and often runs campaigns to help change the perceptions held by the public. 

I walked through the doors of the fellowship at a particularly exciting time. SFNSW was preparing to create and launch a two-year national campaign called Do What You Can Do. In addition, they are also planning an annual event, called the Wellness Walk. I worked closely with the Communications Director and the Marketing/Event Planning Director to help generate ideas and work on these two projects.

During the three weeks that I was an intern, I was able to sit in on campaign meetings, drafted stories for the company website and planned 4 months’ worth of social media posts. It was amazing to utilize my current strategic communications knowledge, while also learning new techniques along the way.

Courtney Gatto

However, my trip to Australia wasn’t all work, there was also a lot of time for play. I loved exploring Sydney. I spent time at the Opera House, I set foot on some breath-taking beaches and I was even able to fulfill my lifelong dream of cuddling a koala.

In the end, this entire experience was a dream and I wouldn’t change a thing. Traveling alone to an entirely different place can be scary, but every step of my journey was a learning experience and is now a cherished memory. I discovered that I am able to thrive and make it by myself, I feel prepared for my career and the secret to faking a good Australian accent, is to just say: “There’s a Shahk in the Wortah.”