With Mediterranean internship, new 'Malta mom,' senior Abigail Minor finds success in Auburn International Mentoring Program

Published: November 14, 2022

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Like many students approaching graduation, Abigail Minor, a senior at Auburn University, packed her bags last summer for an internship to gain practical work experience and make connections to further her future career. But not every student gets the opportunity to intern on a famed Mediterranean archipelago dotted with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and prized for its breathtaking landscapes. For Minor, the journey to Malta started with the Auburn International Mentoring Program offered by the Office of International Programs.

The AIM program pairs select, motivated students with successful alumni living and working abroad for a mutually beneficial mentorship experience designed to allow the student to discover the realities of living and working abroad. Minor was paired with international alumna Kirsten (McConnell) Grenside ’87 (daughter of Cherry Gale [Little] McConnell ‘61), who has lived in Europe since 1994 and had a successful career in cable television and media for more than 25 years.

The two first connected in fall 2021 and built a “family-like” bond over the course of the year-long AIM program, meeting remotely to get to know one another by sharing past experiences and future aspirations. After hearing about her career goals and witnessing her enthusiasm and ambition, Grenside connected Minor with a contact at the Finesse Group, a public relations firm in Malta, where she ultimately earned a summer internship.

“Whilst many internships can be criticized for only engaging individuals on menial tasks, this was not the case for Abigail,” said Grenside. “She was thrown in at the deep end from day one and applied herself professionally and with humility, unafraid to seek guidance as her responsibilities and activities expanded.”

While interning, Minor worked on a variety of public relations tasks and gained a unique perspective on working abroad. She was entrusted with copywriting for an international rideshare company and completing internal work for the firm. Additionally, she wrote blog posts, and news releases and created media databases. Impressed with her professionalism and proficiency, the Finesse Group offered Minor the opportunity to continue working remotely here in the States as she finishes her senior year.

“The AIM Program has given me indispensable international connections, a forever family in the Mediterranean and ignited my career abroad,” said Minor. “What began as an exploratory internship coordinated through my mentor (now ‘Malta mom’) led to a public relations executive position at the Finesse Group in Malta. AIM has exceeded every expectation and 100 percent altered the trajectory of my life in the most magical way."

While hosting Minor in Malta, Grenside welcomed her into her home and helped her adjust to living in an unfamiliar country. Minor faced new challenges and opportunities for growth that were only intensified by the change in her environment. Despite the confidence and enthusiasm of her new employer and her mentor, Minor fell under the grip of imposter syndrome. As an intern in a foreign country, she was afraid she was not qualified for her new responsibilities. Feeling like a fraud, she questioned her skills and whether she would succeed. However, with Grenside’s encouragement and mentorship, Minor gained confidence in her personal and professional capabilities. Grenside encouraged Minor to make as many connections as possible and was always there to give advice, whether it be career-related or personal.

“One of the biggest learnings I shared in mentoring Abigail is the importance of asking questions to gain clarity,” said Grenside. “No one in this world is expected to know everything and certainly not from day one. And being in a foreign country with different work ethics and practices is a completely new experience. It was great to witness someone with limited knowledge of Europe and its varied customs participate with respect and an appetite to learn.”

While Minor did spend a great deal of time working at her internship, she also found the time to take personal trips, some with Grenside. Throughout her travels, Minor gained a new perspective on what living and working abroad would truly be like. She immersed herself in several different cultures, languages and traditions, exploring places such as France, Budapest, Croatia and Rome, among others. And along the way, she connected with Grenside’s friends who kindly hosted her and furthered her quest for travel and life experiences.

“The Auburn family transcends and is universal,” said Minor. “I could not be more grateful for the AIM program and for this opportunity.”

After graduation Minor plans to move abroad and pursue a full-time public relations career. With the opportunities the AIM program provided her, there is no doubt that she will already be accustomed to life abroad and prepared to succeed.

Considering a career abroad can be intimidating and overwhelming. The AIM program helps students explore the possibilities of working and living abroad with expert guidance from Auburn alumni. The mentorship program equips students with the tools and the connections to succeed in an ever-evolving international climate. In a post-pandemic landscape, the Office of International Programs believes Auburn can create a better worldwide future through international engagement. That’s why OIP is building innovative programs like AIM to ensure Auburn’s students are ready to shape the world of tomorrow.

“I would 100 percent recommend this mentoring program to fellow alumni and students alike, especially those looking to expand their horizons and work abroad,” said Grenside.

Learn more about the AIM program and other Office of International Programs initiatives at auburn.edu/international

Submitted by: Shilah Conn

Abigail Minor and Kirsten Grenside.

Abigail Minor, left, and her "Malta mom," Auburn alumna Kirsten (McConnell) Grenside.