Would you consider yourself a digital nomad? "Well I guess so," Ester laughed. "I’ve never thought about that before, but now I'm looking forward to having a remote job, to live remotely from one country to another, doing what I like to do. So I would say, yes."
Ester Pinheiro recently finished her fall internship as a Public Relations Intern at Avvinue. To conclude her time with us, we discussed her role during the internship, her experience working abroad remotely, and travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digital Nomad Intern
Originally from Brazil, Ester chose to apply for the communications role, as an opportunity to produce her own content in a foreign language. She has a journalism degree and experience working abroad, once in the US and twice for FIFA. "It was an opportunity to improve my skills and challenge myself to do this." During her 8 weeks, Ester has written her first press releases, scheduled social media posts and reached out to journalists. She found this final aspect interesting to experience the opposite side of content production than she normally would as a journalist, "I'm usually not contacting journalists, I'm the one being contacted!"
Avvinue’s young, dynamic environment appealed to Ester as an exciting place to work. "The environment is always moving," she described of the work pace, "All the time Nicole has something new to show us." Team meetings on Fridays, for example, certainly maintained the team’s high enthusiasm and belief in the startup. It was really exciting when Founder & CEO Nicole Caba would give a sneak preview of the moving abroad checklist app.
"I'm in the process of growing, so it’s really exciting to be in a startup that's also growing."
Ester found Avvinue’s energy and flexibility to really encourage her own development at the start of her career. For example, she named launching the newsletter, Atlas, as a project through which she learnt with the startup, by workshopping design ideas with the editorial team and Nicole herself. "I feel motivated to grow with the startup, that’s the feeling that I got through Avvinue, the feeling that I"m actually able to contribute."
"For a one year-old startup I think Avvinue has achieved a lot," Ester discussed the successes so far. She admires Nicole’s momentum as the startup’s founder, not only because of the competition to receive endorsements and participate in accelerator programs, but also because Nicole was a foreigner, having moved from the US to France.
Ester’s friends in France really emphasised to her how impressive it was that Avvinue received a development grant from BPIFrance. On this acknowledgement in particular Ester highlighted, "It’s really a French startup, a French program, whereas the startup is not even in the French language, and not exclusively providing services for the French market, but for a global audience. So that was pretty impressive for me when I saw this, it means the startup has really an innovative solution and even the French government realised that.”
In addition to these nationally recognised French awards, Ester has personally seen the demand of Avvinue’s relocation services. When promoting the early access for the moving abroad checklist app, Ester found real excitement among her friends and other travellers who described the app as a great idea, "They"re seriously asking me when the app is going to launch, when they can download it, because it’s free and because they"re planning to move abroad.”
"I think it's really what people need, Avvinue is providing something people need."
Relocating Abroad Impact
Ester gave the example of her brother who is planning a trip to Mexico and came to her for help. She believed the app will be a lifesaver for first-time travellers and relocators like him, "Everything, all the information is going to be there for you, so you will have the questions and the answers in one service, that’s actually contributing to people resolving their issues they might not even know are issues."
"Of course you can google things and you can find information, but if you don"t know the questions to ask, how are you going to search them?"
On the subject of the app, Ester concluded, "It's just going to make things easier and facilitate the process for people who are willing to move or travel abroad." Ester herself has multiple experiences of moving abroad for months at a time in order to work, and she in fact completed her Avvinue internship remotely while living in Paris. Discussing her decision to move to the French capital for the duration of the internship, Ester detailed, "I have worked in Paris before doing the FIFA World Cup 2018, and I love the city, I love the place, as I lived here for one month with friends.”
Although the internship was 100% remote, Ester considered the time difference between Brazil and Lyon, not a big problem, but a significant reason to relocate, "I wanted to go along with the startup hours, so since everyone was in the same two time zones, I wanted to come here." Ester’s choice to move abroad during the pandemic, however, was not an easy decision, "Since the beginning actually I was really afraid of travelling, so I thought a lot about going or not going.”
The internship at Avvinue was enough to validate Ester’s entry into France as proof of her purpose in the country, however she was nervous of the tough border restrictions. "I was afraid that maybe the documents weren't going to be enough to travel," she recounted her paranoia during the journey at the possibility of being turned around on arrival, "You think about these things, since you"ve invested a lot of time, your money, your energy, and your feelings as well. I was nervous.”
Traveling during the Pandemic
After thorough consideration and deciding to travel, Ester described the experience of the actual journey, "When I got to the airport, it was almost empty; no one was there. It was really weird because it was an international airport in Brazil, which is usually crowded with huge lines, but I could literally count people." Ester decided she would take a direct flight in order to spend less time waiting around, vulnerable to the virus. All the passengers wore masks for the duration of the 10-hour flight, and Ester took every precaution. "I got 15 disposable masks and kept going to the bathroom and washing my hands. I had my hand-sanitizer gel, with just 100ml, because it cannot be more than that!"
"It was a little bit tiring. It was a different travel experience."
Ester was also tested before travelling and arrived without complication in Paris, only to find out in the following couple of weeks that there was to be another national lockdown. We discussed the new remote world of work and her experience of completing an internship fully online. "Actually, it’s funny because I always had this critical view of remote things," Ester describes her university experience when she started journalism in 2016, "I really looked forward to having an on-campus course, on-campus activities, seeing professors, sitting at a table, and going to work at an office. I"m still really traditional, or old-fashioned, as we’d say now."
Culture & Diversity in the Workplace
Ester discussed the different cultural attitudes to online work, "In Brazil, it’s quite difficult because we don"t have a traditional culture of remote jobs, so you can only find remote positions for specific jobs." For example, during the start of the pandemic, journalists in Brazil were considered essential, going into the street and to the office, though completing some interviews remotely over ZOOM. When asked to give advice for those seeking remote work abroad, Ester replied, "Actually, I'm one of those people now too, because I’m a recent graduate and a person who’s always willing to and looking to travel."
We spoke of adapting to the remote world of work and facilitating a global career from this. Ester herself outlined the necessity of an open-mind, especially in countries such as Brazil where it’s tricky to acquire a remote job that will allow you also to travel. "Be willing to work for another country other than your own country." She also stated the possibility of adapting to slightly different roles, giving the example of her own willingness to adapt to digital journalism, rather than TV, which is her first choice of career.
"So research, research again, and be willing to change your plans a bit, because it isn"t always 100% of the time that you"re going to find what you"re really looking for."
Has the internship at Avvinue changed Ester’s perspective on moving abroad at all? She hesitated in answering this question, "It highlighted the fact that I really have a passion for travelling abroad, so I don"t think it changed, it just highlighted this." Ester describes how her mother assumed she would be working in technology when hearing the internship was for a startup, "It's what comes to mind when you say startup, but when I said it was about travelling she said "Ah, now that makes sense.""
"Travelling is something that’s about my personality, my goals in life, and my career, as I aim to be an international journalist. So it’s everywhere in my personal and working life."
When reviewing the moving abroad checklist app, however, Ester did realise how much organisation she had underestimated for her future travels. For example, she had never considered the need to translate her Journalism degree certificate into English for a Masters program in the UK, and the full process of arranging her visa. Ester describes her own organisational--as well as financial--investment when travelling. "Usually when I travel, I don"t see myself as a tourist, I always want to have a cultural immersion. I want to see how people live; I want to talk to locals; I want to visit that shop that no tourist goes to but that every local goes to."
"I want to live life like a local and that requires me to stay at least two months."
Where to Next
Ester’s next bucket list destination is India. Ester''s goals are to train as an international correspondent specialising in sports. She imagines a global life after her Masters degree, "Where? I don't know I'm open to whatever opportunity is going to come." She laughs, "I could go to Australia, to Canada, I have no idea, I just know that I'm not going to be in one place. I don’t see myself settling down in one place at least for some years. I see myself travelling."
"These kinds of experiences are incredible, they are lifetime experiences. Imagine being able to live like this, moving and working and doing what you want, working in the area that you like, getting to know people, seeing different things, and eating different things. It’s exciting, so I think that’s the future."
Surprised to hear at this point that Ester had never considered herself a digital nomad, it’s exactly her opportunistic work ethic and wanderlust that defines the mission of Avvinue’s team, and the global citizens we help every day. Ester’s valuable contributions to Avvinue will be sorely missed, and we wish her the best of luck in her future career as an international journalist, and as an accidental digital nomad.