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Interning a Different Country, What to Expect!

In the summer of 2015, I made my first journey outside the United States to Prague, Czech Republic. Not only was I studying abroad but I had the opportunity to work with a Czech company. Not only did I have to adjust to the culture shock of being in a different country, nobody talks about the difficulty of working in an entirely different business culture.

As my on-site position, I had the opportunity to photograph the Summer ’16 interns at their companies.

Tips for prospective interns:

  1. Be proactive.
    1. Think about your position in the company. You are an American working in a Czech company and you don’t speak their language. You are immediately at a disposition and your colleagues may not know what to do with you or what tasks you can succeed at if you can’t communicate with them. You are susceptible of being given tasks that seem easy and almost mediocre, like anyone can do them. Think about it, it’s easier for them to ask their Czech colleague to do a task and to do more because it is easier to communicate with them and they have already been in the company and understand how things works.
    2. My advice is don’t just be an intern.
    3. Be proactive and constantly ask your colleagues what you can do to help. Explain your skillset and what you would like to get out of the internship. Overall, you need to prove that you are here to work and you can be reliable to handle larger tasks.
  2. Don’t be the typical “American”
    1. I know that for some, this may be your first time abroad and even if it isn’t, you are in a different place. From my own internship experience and this summer, many students care most about travelling. Ideally, they want to work Monday through Wednesday and complete their hours as fast as possible. They want Thursday and Friday to be free so they have some time to travel.
    2. Employers who work with American students see this all the time and are under the impression that interns do not take their job seriously. Like I mentioned before, you are already at a disposition.
    3. As a student abroad, you represent our American culture, don’t fall in the typical American stereotype that Europeans see us like. Europeans tend to think American students are partiers, drinkers, and only care to travel. When you are at your internship, take it seriously! You are working abroad and you will be expected at times to work on Thursdays or Fridays and even weekends. What matters most is the experience.
  3. You are working ABROAD!
    1. Think about that for a second, you are a young student getting the opportunity to work for a Czech company and in an international context. You will be learning how to work in the Czech business culture and interact with your colleagues who all aren’t American. It may be difficult but not many students get the opportunity to work outside the country. You will learn cross-cultural communication and how to work effectively in a different environment outside what you are used to.
    2. Insert something about why this is valuable to American employers?
  4. Get rid of your expectations and open your mind!
    1. It seems to be an American cultural nuance to expect certain things and that remains true for internships as well. Students have an expectation that they will be given clear tasks everyday and that their employers will have a specific internship track for them full of projects and you’ll complete specific objectivies, etc.
    2. However, that type of expectation makes sense in an American workplace. But it is important to remember that you are working in a different country and everything you thought you’d be doing may not be how it works. Like I said previously, some employers may be reluctant to give you work that requires your skillset because they are still unsure of your seriousness and what you can do.
    3. You may find yourself inputting data when you thought you were supposed to participate in photographing things for social media! Not everything you do will be exciting but you make it what it is. Remember, do everything you can to help out and put yourself where your colleagues can trust you. Think outside of the box, do more than what it expected of you.
    4. Your internship experience is entirely dependent on what you put into it – It is not about your actual job.

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