5 Tips for an Internship Abroad
Get more out of your experience abroad by taking an internship and learn how to do it the right way.
Even after reading all those self-prep pamphlets and hearing every cross cultural tip ten times there are still a couple things about interning abroad you won’t learn until you do it. So here are five inside tips on how to have a successful internship abroad.
1. Research, Research, Research
The application process for my internship in London took a little longer than it would if I had interned at home. That being said, my first tip is to start your research and planning about six months before you are scheduled to leave. Research potential companies you would like to intern for. Make a list of pros and cons. Read up on their mission statements and any press that may give you a better perspective on the company and its culture. The earlier you apply, the less stressful the process will be. This leaves ample time for applications, interviews, visas, passport renewals, and buying new business attire.
2. Apps Are Your Friends Too!
I always recommend learning your commute in advance. Compare different public transportation sources and find the one that seems to work best with your schedule. I even took my commute to the office two days before my internship started so I could familiarize myself with the area and avoid the nerves of getting lost or being late on my first day. There is an app available for free called CityMapper that really helped me find my way around. I love that the app gives me different routes, with different transportation options. It also tells you how long each route would take and how much it would cost. An added bonus was that it notifies you if a bus is delayed or if a train is not running that day. CityMapper really helped me stay punctual.
3. Be Observant
From your very first day make sure you are paying attention to detail. Do all the employees take lunch on their own time? Is it more beneficial to bring your own? Is the dress code professional or business casual? Trust me you don’t want to be the one wearing your nicest slacks on casual fridays. Take into consideration the type of language being used at work as well as body language. The first week will be a bit of a game of “simon says” mixed with “monkey see monkey do,” but by the second or third week you should have a grip on how the office runs and how to behave and interact. Observing your surroundings will help ease the transition process but make sure you stay true to yourself and let your personality shine. Additionally, learning from the locals provides an intimate view into the true beauty of the culture and customs as well as the controversies and issues that surround the region you’re living in.
4. It’s Okay if it’s not what you had hoped for
Not everyone is fortunate enough to land their dream internship right away. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable take aways from every experience. Maybe you applied for a position you thought would be perfect for you, but after holding that position for x amount of time you realized that it wasn’t what you had expected. Or maybe you ended up interning with a company that didn’t initially spark your interest, but developed a love for the work you did. Either way you learn something about yourself earlier than most people do. The key is to find the positive in every negative. An internship can give you more than just experience on a resume, it can teach you about yourself and your work habits.
5. Keep In Touch
Building your career and expanding your credentials also means building and maintaining a network of people. These connections can lend advice, future support, and provide further connections within your industry. Interning abroad gives you an upper hand when it comes to the size of your network. You will have developed a network on a global scale, meaning you can collaborate with colleagues on jobs with international corporations. Another perk with global networking is that it provides increased potential to move to a given country for work. The key is to not say goodbye, there is a way to keep a door open with every relationship and connect your built. My go to rule is to e-mail all my connects three times a year. It’s the perfect way to stay in touch and show interest without feeling like an annoyance or cluttering someone’s inbox.
Gaining work experience is a must for today’s college student.You can intern somewhere close to home or near your campus, but why not be more adventurous and spend a semesters, or summer interning in London, Barcelona, or Budapest? The best part about having an internship abroad was that I didn’t feel as if I was just studying abroad. I truly felt like I was living abroad. Interning in a forge in country is an invaluable investment in your future!