Alexander Branch is a Computer Engineering Major at UCLA who discovered the possibility of participating in an internship during his time studying abroad at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in the Fall semester of 2023. In this interview, he talked about what his experience was like as a UCEAP Madrid student who took advantage of this internship opportunity. 

  • Hi, Alex. Could you tell me where you are from and what you are studying while here at UC3M?  

    "So I'm from San Diego, but I study at UCLA. I study Computer Engineering. I'm taking GE classes (general education classes) here (in Madrid), so it's very easy. My course study here is pretty easy. I'm taking Art History, a Cultural Studies class, a Spanish Language class and then I'm taking one Computer Science class, but it's something that I'm already very familiar with, so it's no problem. So outside of my class times, I don't have much work to do, which gives me a lot of free time". 

  • How did you find your internship opportunity and how did you get it approved by UC3M?  

    "My mom came to visit my first week here, and I was at a bar with her one night, and we started talking to this guy at the bar who used to be a professor at Yale in the US. Then he taught out here in Spain for a little bit and worked in the industry, so we had some connections, and we were just talking. Somehow it got brought up that I was studying Computer Engineering. He's like, "Oh, that's kind of what I do. I have some friends in there. Do you want an internship?" And I was like, ¨I don't know. I want to be able to have a good study abroad experience. I have to focus on classes because I didn't know how hard my classes would be at the time.¨ But he said, ¨Well, if anything changes, just send me a resume, and I'll see what I can do.¨ So, I figured out classes would be easy, and I was like, you know, maybe it'll be good just to get some international work experience. I decided I'll send him in the resume.  
    He talked to some friends and found a company that'd be interested in taking me based off my skill set and resume. So I set up a couple of calls with them, talking about what I had experience in, what they were working on. And it sounded like it'd be a cool company to work for and a good fit. This company wanted to go through the school and worked really hard to do it. They found the Internship & Employment Office at Carlos III and they set something up with them to get it to work. I don't know the exact terms of it, but part of it is I can't get paid because it's like an academic internship, so I can't get paid. The company wants to pay me, but there's no way to do that legally"

  • Is your internship in English? 

    "Yeah, it's mostly English. They all speak Spanish, so I'll try and speak Spanish with them, but my Spanish is not great. And then especially at, like, a technical level, it's a little bit harder talking about computer science and all that". 

  • What do you do in your internship and what is your time commitment?

    "So it's a medical device company. They're making this eye tracker to help with early detections of neurological disorders like Parkinson's. So what I'm doing for them is kind of like modifying their approach to tracking the eyes. I'm writing a computer vision model that from the camera, you can track the eye using machine learning. I probably do 5 to 10 hours a week, depending on how much school I have. I try and go into the office once a week, but since this is like a computer science job, I can do it from home". 

  • Does your internship offer a flexible schedule?  

    "Yeah, so maybe my situation is unique, but it's very lenient. I can kind of do whatever I want. It's perfect. I have the person who's overseeing me. So we'll text every other day and check in on my progress and what we're working on. And he's a graduate student, but he works for the company, so he's also busy and understands that I'm busy. So it's pretty easy to say, hey, I have a lot of work this week". 

  • How is it balancing your academic obligations as a UCEAP study abroad student at UC3M and your internship commitment? Do you feel overwhelmed? 

    "It depends. For example, this week I had an essay due on Friday. I have a presentation tomorrow, and then I have another computer science project due on Monday. So I have a lot of work piling up right now, and I should have been better about time management in the weeks before I was getting everything done, but I wasn't. So it's definitely like a balancing act. I wish I was better at time management and had prepared myself for this week better. While I do sometimes stress, like, I'm not doing enough work for the job, they're always very understanding, and it's not a problem. It's in cycles, right? When I have a lot of schoolwork, I can't do as much at my internship. When I don't have a lot of schoolwork, I can do more at my internship. So this company, they do like having interns, and obviously I'm leaving at the end of December, so maybe I can put another Carlos III student in touch with them". 

Interview made by:
Lucía Martín Lagunas
UCEAP Madrid Intern