So you've decided to have an adventure, gain a broader experience and see the world while doing your internship program all at the same time and now need to get ready for it all.
To get started, here's the overall tips for making the most of an abroad internship:
- Do your homework - prepare for going abroad.
- Make the most of the experience while you're abroad.
- Follow up once you return home so you can ensure the best results from your experience.
Preparing for Your Abroad Internship
Here are 7 top tips for preparing for your student internship:
1. Talk to other students and staff who have been to the country and city where you want to do your internship to get their advice and suggestions.
2. As part of your internship search, find out which internship programs are available and what's required.
3. Learn details about the country you're going to such as: the national capital, size of the country and population, main languages, key sources of income, cultural values, any standard dress codes - the basics. If you don't know the basics you can easily cause insult and make a very poor impression. Wikipedia now gives a good introduction for most countries and is a good place to start. Keeping an eye on the local newspapers online before going will also give you a great introduction to where you're going.
4. Start a notebook for your international internship adventure. Include a list of alumni living in the city and country you'll be visiting so you can make contact with them as they'll be great for learning more about as well as other ideas and suggestions gathered from your research.
5. Read as many work abroad books about the country you want to go to and make notes of ideas and tips. Be sure to read the back issues of Transitions Abroad and participate in online intern forums for suggestions and ideas to make the most of your experience.
6. Give yourself some time to explore the country and city you're going to stay in. Flying in the day before you start work and leaving the day after you leave means you'll miss out on a lot of exploring and learning - two key reasons for traveling in the first place. So give yourself time to play as well as work.
7. Once you find out where you'll be working visit their website to learn more about them so you go in ready. You can also research what's on in the city, top tourist places to visit and day trips to take on weekends.
Making the Most of Your International Internship Program
Here are 10 helpful tips for making the most of your international intern opportunity:
1. Keep your diary notebook of your experience fresh with captured ideas, contacts (names, phone, email, website etc), suggestions, tips, diary entries from each day, write down local sayings and what they mean, paste in tickets and postcards etc. It'll end up being a great treasure from your time away as well as being full of valuable professional contacts. How rich a resource you make this is up to you.
2. If you're staying in homestay be sure to spend time with the family and get to know their friends for a richer local experience. Given the chance people can be very generous with sharing the warmth of their families, friends and country so don't miss out by not being around.
3. Follow up with meeting with alumni either socially or professionally, ask for their advice and let them know your hopes and dreams for work - especially if it is to be abroad.
4. Make sure you get out socially and professionally and meet locals. Avoid spending too much time with people from your own country and missing out on the local experience. Go for balance so that you spend a good amount of time with other interns and alumni from home as well as a good amount of time with locals.
5. Read the local papers and magazines to get an idea of the culture, cost of living, what's happening and employment opportunities. This can give you an idea of how much you need to be earning to be living there in the future.
6. Check out the local universities to learn about educational possibilities - whether they be undergraduate or post graduate.
7. Explore the city you're living in - take the public transport, go walking, visit weekend markets, get talking to others. Remember always to be sensible about your safety, find out what locals avoid and what they take as being normal and enjoy the city.
8. If there's an opportunity for teaching English find out which schools are in the areas you would want to work in and what are the qualifications of their teachers.
9. Have a friend back home keeping an eye out for summer work opportunities and internship possibilities so it's ready for you once you get back home. Be sure to stay in contact with friends and family while you're away.
10. When finishing your internship remember it's important to show good grace and manners by saying Thank You to the managers, co-workers, program organisiers, and homestay family. A simple way to say thanks is to take in a cake, flowers or other small gift to work and a thank you note to the placement organisation. If you're staying with a homestay family a small gift is also acceptable such as flowers or something you think kindly reflects their interests. None of these thank you gifts need to be over the top, it is the thought behind the gift that matters and creates the positive impression. Do expect to have the internship company to be asked about you by future employers, even if your internship is done internationally.
Follow Up After Your Internship
If you're serious about getting more international work experience and want to go overseas:
1. Find out what is offered by the Career Center for finding work internationally and attend the relevant workshops for job hunting.
2. What educational requirements are needed to get you working overseas - post graduate, short-medium term courses (possibly in how to teach English) or additional classes?
3. Identify which firms you'd like to work for internationally and see if they recruit on campus. Some firms require staff to work first in their US offices before sending them overseas so be ready for that.
4. Update your intern resume with your international work experience with details about what you did and learnt. Include any language competencies and key skills.
5. Figure out what money is required to live overseas and do a realistic review of your financial situation. How long would it take to save to get overseas and how long long could you afford to live there. Would a year backpacking and picking up work as you go be an option?
6. Sharing the experience of traveling and job hunting with a friend can bring great results with the benefits of two heads looking for work and sharing traveling costs such as accommodation.
7. Keep in contact with the work colleagues and friends made while you were abroad, participate in forums and consider starting your own blog about your field of interest and the countries you're passionate about. Opportunities come through networking and exploring.
Living the Life
Travel, education, experience all in one package - what more could you ask for? Put your summer internship plans in place and you'll have a wonderful time exploring the world.