Internships. They’re a roller-coaster ride in themselves. But internships abroad? That’s a whole other story. It’s all the fun that comes with preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime. Then, the added dynamic of being miles away from home and, more often than not, learning another language.
All that being said, it can be quite difficult to stay, well… sane during when living and working abroad. It’s a huge adjustment and there are several thing you need to keep in mind before taking the plunge. It’s okay though. Many have cracked the abroad life before you and many will crack it after. All you need to do to make sure everything goes swimmingly is remember these golden rules.
Keep on top of the admin
The thing about internships abroad is they often require a ton of paperwork. Some you’ll do at home where it’s easy. Some you’ll do in a strange place where you don’t speak the language and has different cultures. There’s nothing like getting a French council building with the intent to hand some forms in, only to find they still have two hours of lunch break. Best to be organised. Know which forms you’ll need before you go.Then once you’re there, figure out exactly who needs to sign them and what the deadlines are.
Seems silly to have to say, but it’s not. Upon moving to a foreign country for the first time, you will have the honeymoon period. And it doesn’t matter how much work you do, you will feel like you’re on holiday for about a month. Don’t you believe your sick lies. You’ve come out to whatever country you’re in because you’ve got a job to do. While you should have fun and make the most of being in a new place, remember that fact and don’t let it interfere with your work.
Take the initiative
How about that? Turns out internships abroad are just like internships at home in some ways. Particularly in that employers love people who take the initiative. Ordinarily, people who create their own space in the workplace and stay busy/productive are desirable. That’s universal. But doing so in a place where you’re not at home? Even better, it shows that you understand the culture and you’re attuned enough to the country as to feel comfortable in the company. And speaking of…
Nail the target language
Just do it, guys. Take it from me, you can get by in a foreign country with a tenuous grasp on the language. But to truly unlock all the potential for working and social relationships, you have to actively try and improve your language skills. Hell, if you’re interning somewhere as part of a Modern Languages Year Abroad or Erasmus exchange, that’s literally the whole reason you’re there. So say yes to native-speaking buddies and extra classes if you need them.
Explore all the time
Yeah, you’re there to work. But this is an opportunity like no other; one that you may not get again. Be sure to take time and explore the country you’re in as much as you can when you’re not working. Take a train somewhere on the weekend, try out a restaurant you’ve never seen before. It’s easy to settle into a routine but harder to get out of one. Before you know it, your internship abroad is over and you haven’t done anything you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Don’t make that mistake.
Keep in touch
The worst, the absolute WORST thing you can do on internships abroad is not keep in touch with the people you met. Keeping the people who showed you the way in mind after you leave shows compassion and might lead to a future opportunity abroad. But never mind making contacts. These colleagues might be some of the best people you ever meet. And that will enrich your life in a way that’s way more important than any graduate internship.