From Belgium to Atmosphere

By Pauline Vastenaekels, a visiting intern from Brussels, Belgium

I am about to finish my degree in communication in my home town, Brussels, and had the opportunity to complete a three-month internship anywhere I wanted. So I decided to come to South Africa and spend some time at award-winning agency Atmosphere Communications. My internship was divided between spending a few weeks in Johannesburg and a few in Cape Town – allowing me to experience both these great cities and the Atmosphere teams.

By Pauline Vastenaekels, a visiting intern from Brussels, Belgium
By Pauline Vastenaekels, a visiting intern from Brussels, Belgium

What an amazing country – but also an unforgettable experience so far! After completing my six weeks in the Jo’burg office, here are some of the reasons why I believe this experience has added value to my education:

  • A world of difference between my studies and agency work: I am working on my master’s degree in Public Relations, but I have to say that I only now understand what PR is truly about and how it elevates brand value. At university, we were trained on developing integrated campaigns but I think we left the main purpose of PR out. Helping with work for actual clients and simply observing what the rest of the Atmosphere team was doing, was definitely the best way to learn about PR.
  • New market, new media: Since South Africa is completely new to me, I had to deal with new target audiences. What started out as a big challenge, got easier over time as I began to better understand the South African media landscape. The target audiences here are much wider than what I am used to. Campaign reach is also much bigger here than in my country, which is quite exciting. This includes both traditional and social media.
  • Ideal team size: From an intern’s point of view, Atmosphere is the perfect balance in terms of team size. On the one hand, the team is big enough to have an agency structure and share responsibilities. On the other hand, it is convenient to work in a relaxed and friendly environment. Everyone works independently, but mutual dialogue and teamwork are important. All in all, I see it as a rewarding experience to have been able to work with experienced people (well, women) from different ages and cultures that I can look up to and learn from every day.
  • Training opportunities: Atmosphere has a strong culture of training and upskilling employees. The few workshops and training sessions I attended during the six weeks are worth more than an entire semester of university courses. I feel for the first time that what I am learning will be helpful in my career going forward. I have already taken on board many tips from my time at Atmosphere. I still have two months to go in the Cape Town office, and am looking forward to many more learning opportunities.

What will I remember most? The insights I’ve learnt, I will definitely take back to Belgium with me. I’ve learnt that PR is above all about maintaining ongoing relations with media, influencers and clients. I was most impressed that each Atmospherian works for several clients at the same time, while still providing each client with great quality work. Everything just seems to flow naturally with a great team spirit!