Often it may seem like just landing an international internship is the hardest part of the job done. From there, surely it will be smooth sailing into a fulfilling internship that meets all of your expectations… right?Well, odds are it won’t exactly be that smooth. But that’s okay, some bumps along the way are natural and only to be expected, especially if this is your first internship!
Here are some common challenges of an internship abroad, and some tips on how to overcome them:
Not having enough to do
One of the most common challenges of an internship is feeling like there is no work to do. This can lead to hours whiled away in boredom and feeling completely purposeless in the company.
Maybe you’ve been given some menial tasks that took no time at all to complete, and maybe you’ve already asked what else you could do three times and don’t want to ask yet another time. Maybe your co-workers are so busy with their own jobs they’ve completely overlooked what to do with you.
Solution: take initiative! This internship is only what you make it out to be. You can sit and wait to be told what to do and be at risk of sinking into the background completely forgotten. Or you can take a step forward and do things without being asked. Read some articles on the subject your company deals with, maybe even write some articles, observe the workings of the company and make some notes of how it all works.
Internships are not a one-size-fits-all type of job; they are tailored to your needs and skills. So, see where your specific skills and strengths are needed. For example, if you are a strong editor, offer to edit any documents that the company may publish. Or if you find their social media presence is lacking, offer to manage one of their pages. Or even just ask if you can sit in on important meetings. Remember to not be shy in your internship! Be confident, and make the most of your time there.
You didn’t manage your expectations
Managing expectations is a good habit to have in almost anything you do, not only when it comes to internships. Not managing expectations can lead to disappointment that could have been avoided.
That’s not to say that your internship will be a terrible experience, but going into an internship expecting it to be amazing will surely leave you feeling a little let down once you start working.
Internships are great opportunities for you to experience the working environment of a company, organization, or government. But like any other job, there will be good days and bad days. There will be busy days and slow days. Keeping in mind that maybe not everyday will be an amazing, enriching experience will save you a lot of disappointment down the road. Progress takes time and work, so don’t expect instant returns.
For more advice on how to manage expectations before interning abroad, read this blog post!
Lack of communication
There can be times, especially on very busy days, when your boss might forget to communicate with you on your jobs and responsibilities. Or maybe you’re a little unclear on something you’ve been asked to do. If your co-workers speak English as a second or third language, maybe there are some things that have been lost in translation, leaving you a bit confused.
For whatever the reason, a lack of clear communication between you and others in the work environment can be problematic to your internship. But it’s your responsibility to make sure things are clear. That means going up to your co-workers or boss and asking questions! It’s understandable you will be afraid of asking too many questions, but remember that is one of your main jobs as an intern. You are there to learn, and you need to ask questions to learn!
Once you take that first step of approaching your boss and co-workers with questions, it will become easier to establish clear communication and soon even become second nature! This is a good habit to form and will benefit you greatly in your career onwards.
Juggling a new job and living in a new country
Moving to a new country that is drastically different to where you’re from can be a little daunting. Adding working a brand new job into the mix and things can feel a little overwhelming!
Perhaps there’s some culture shock, maybe you’re still getting used to the time difference, maybe you’re even a little homesick. These factors can definitely make getting settled into a new internship more challenging.
Getting settled into the country, learning more about their culture, and immersing yourself into it will make you feel more at home and less like an outsider. Establishing friendly relationships with your coworkers will also make your internship more enjoyable. Going out together and eating local cuisine on your lunch breaks is a great way to do both of these at once!
An internship abroad can be a daunting prospect, and there are no guarantees that every day will be the best of your life. But managing expectations, taking initiative, asking questions, and keeping good relations in the workspace will most definitely make your intern experience the best it can be!