Things to Know Before Interning Abroad
One of the smartest decisions I have made in college was interning abroad. When I first heard about the opportunity from my study abroad advisor I was very reluctant to go to a different country and work. Couldn’t I do that in the United States? And did I really want to work while I studied in another country? Well, I eventually decided yes. Now, I was not the bravest, I went to a country that spoke my same language but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a challenge.
I studied abroad in London, England at an amazing company where I edited a coffee guide (in the place where tea is so well known, the irony wasn’t lost on me). I worked three days a week from 9am-6pm and it was a wonderful experience. My co-workers were awesome and I loved my boss.
Below I have listed a few things you should know before interning abroad because it would have been nice to know these tips before I got on my Virgin flight.
1. Every office is different.
When I got to the University I was studying abroad at, they gave us a “what to expect in the workplace” lecture. They said we would drink a lot of tea (we even had a tea making competition), hours would be relaxed, and dress would be relaxed. Well, my company was completely different. We were expected to dress smart, we drank tons of coffee, and we had strict hours of 9-6, even on summer Fridays. So don’t expect anything before you get there, each office culture is different.
2. Go out!
I cannot suggest this enough. Go out to lunch/dinner (even breakfast) with your colleagues. I met an amazing friend at my internship & now we follow each other’s journeys on social media. Also, if you go out for drinks at the local watering hole after work you’ll get to mingle with people from other departments who might get you a job one day. It is great networking. Plus, who likes eating lunch by themselves?
3. Get to know your boss.
Your boss is a great source of ideas as well as the perfect letter of recommendation at the end of your internship. Make sure to befriend them & ask them all the questions you want. I am still friends with my two bosses and they have both offered to write me letters of recommendation. Plus, being friends with your boss gets you lots of LinkedIn connections.
4. Do everything promptly (and well).
Your boss will adore you if you can turn in something they gave you in the morning that afternoon. Always be prompt with your assignments, it is essential. Also, in order to do something well, ask questions. If you turn in something that isn’t done properly your boss won’t appreciate it. So ask for help if you need it.
5. Suggest things.
Never be afraid to give your boss an idea. I did this so much in my internship and they ended up using almost all of them. You are fresh eyes to old problems or old things so sometimes you have new ideas they would have never thought of. Give them your ideas and see what happens.
6. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion.
Everyone is different and has different experiences. And every country is different. At my internship I was the only American for at least a month and my life experiences/opinions were so far from theirs. They loved hearing how I thought about things because I don’t think the way they do. So don’t be afraid to share something you think is important.
7. Learn the area around your office.
I cannot tell you how important it is to just walk around the neighborhood your office is in. You’ll discover where the closest post office is, the nearest sushi place, and where to grab a croissant before heading in. Then if you are tasked with running an errand for someone at work, you’ll know where you’re going! It will make your day run a lot more smoothly and your bosses will be impressed with you if you know where you are going and can get back in an efficient time frame.