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Tips for Navigating a Summer Internship Away From Home

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Virginia Tech chapter.

The sun’s warm embrace, the gentle rustle of leaves and the promise of adventure often define the quintessential summer. For many students, it’s a time to kick back, relax and reconnect with friends and family. But what if your summer doesn’t involve lounging by the pool or hosting backyard barbecues? What if it calls for a three-hour journey away from the familiar comforts of home and the constant company of your closest friends?

That’s exactly the scenario I found myself in this past summer, as I embarked on an internship opportunity that required me to relocate to the expansive DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia). While it was a dream come true in terms of professional growth, it posed a unique set of challenges when it came to maintaining my social connections and mental well-being. Staying in touch with friends became a challenge, but I learned valuable lessons about how to make the most of my summer that I want to share with you all incase you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

prioritize communication

The key to maintaining strong friendships while far from home is communication. I needed to do this not only to keep my friendships strong, but also for my own emotional well-being. Some friends I called multiple times a week to talk, while others were less frequent and more just to update each other on new changes. It’s good to do both so you have someone to regularly talk to while still keeping in touch with everyone else you care about. If you can’t get your schedules aligned for a phone call or video chat, a sincere text goes a long way in letting someone know that you’re thinking about them.

pursue personal hobbies

Chances are you have a lot more free time then you’re used to since you can’t call up your friends to hangout when you’re bored on a random Wednesday night; however, this is a great opportunity to dive deeper into your personal hobbies and interests. I decided to spend some of my extra time this summer learning how to cook since that was something I hadn’t done much of before. Maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to try or something you used to love but haven’t done in a long time — whatever it is, immersing yourselves in these activities can help keep your spirits high and fill any free time you may have.

explore your new surroundings

Make the most of this time by exploring the area. Visit local cities, try new restaurants and go on adventures. I enjoyed frequenting Washington D.C., as well as exploring Alexandria, Reston, Leesburg, and Winchester. Exploring is a great way to keep yourself busy and create memorable experiences.

stay active

Regular physical activity not only benefits your physical health but also helps manage stress and keep your mind occupied. I joined a Planet Fitness down the road from my internship office and tried to go 2–3 times a week. If a gym membership isn’t in the cards for you or something that piques your interest, you could also try doing yoga at home or checking out local hiking trails. 

practice self-care

Being away from the comforts of home, friends and family can take a toll on you mentally, so it’s important to make regular self-care a priority. Take time for relaxation and mindfulness activities like meditation, cups of tea, journaling or long baths. This is one area I lacked in for most of the summer and definitely began to feel it near the end which made it harder to deal with the separation. A well-balanced and relaxed you will find it easier to cope with this new environment.

connect with locals

Whether it be through building relationships with coworkers, rekindling relationships with acquaintances or friends from school that live nearby or pushing yourself to meet new people, cultivating new friendships during your temporary stay can be a lifeline for filling the void left by being separated from your loved ones back home. I’m a very social person, so I connected with others through all three methods. While I never saw them outside of work, I frequently talked to my fellow interns and enjoyed having someone to bond with at my new workplace. Additionally, I reached out to friends from school who happened to reside in the DMV area, allowing us to occasionally make plans to meet up. Last but not least, I was able to make one friend online that lived nearby and met up with them a few times throughout the summer (be careful if you do this last one, I recommend videochatting with them at least once before agreeing to meet in-person and picking a public place for at least your first meet-up). Whatever method you choose, making the effort to connect with locals can go a long way in satisfying any needs you may have for social interaction.

set professional goals

It’s a good idea to set professional goals for yourself. These can be at your internship, or tasks you complete on your own. I worked hard at my internship to complete projects, grow my skills and network with colleagues, but I also spent some of my free time completing LinkedIn Learning lessons. Channeling your energy into excelling at work, learning new skills and networking with colleagues can be incredibly rewarding and will help set you up for a successful school year.

plan visits

Even a weekend trip can be a wonderful chance to reconnect with friends and family; so if possible, plan visits to your hometown. I made the effort to visit home about once a month, thoroughly enjoying the quality time spent with loved ones. This becomes particularly vital when, like me, you find yourself separated from home not only during the summer but also throughout the school year. If the idea of a lengthy drive home seems daunting, explore the possibility of inviting friends and family to visit you for a few days or suggest a meeting halfway. The memories you’ll create and the bonds you’ll strengthen will make the trip and planning more than worthwhile.

Remember that while it can be challenging to be away from home during the summer, it’s also an opportunity for personal growth, self-discovery and new experiences. By staying busy and engaged in various activities, you can make the most of your time away from home and return with a wealth of memories and skills to share with your friends and family.

Sarah Hevener

Virginia Tech '25

Sarah Hevener is a current junior at Virginia Tech pursuing dual degrees — one in Professional and Technical Writing and one in Public Relations. Last year she was an editor for HerCampus, but after doing that for a year she decided to branch out and write articles instead.