Starting an internship is simultaneously incredibly exciting and incredibly nerve-wracking. Adding the fact that you are interning abroad amplifies those feelings. Interning abroad is a fantastic way to broaden horizons, meet a diverse group of people, and gain real world work experience. As I am currently doing a full-time internship in Prague, I would like to share the tips I have learned that will help you when you intern abroad.
1. Come with an open mind.
Don’t arrive to a new job totally unprepared, but make sure to stay open and accepting of different ways of doing things and new ideas. Come in wide-eyed and willing to embrace a new culture and new people. People do like to compare cultural differences, but complaining about how this isn’t like the United States will turn people off to you.
2. Do research of the country's workplace culture and your job.
Make sure to do your research about workplace etiquette of the culture you are working in. Do you shake hands when you first meet? How should you behave in a meeting? How will your employers give criticism? Basic things that you might not think about when working in the U.S. could be completely different in your host country.
3. Utilize your resources! Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The team at CEA is incredibly helpful and all want to make sure your experience working abroad is running smoothly. If there is anything you need help with, you can contact someone at CEA. But also don’t be hesitant to talk to your supervisor at your internship (they are way nicer than you might think!).
4. Embrace how uncomfortable you will feel.
You need to be out of your comfort zone if you really want to learn about a different culture. Step out of your comfort zone and be a "yes" man/woman. Don’t be that person who sits in their room night after night simply watching TV or Skyping your friends back home. Take advantage of everything that is around you! Your time abroad will go by faster than you think and when you move back home with your parents, regret will come and slap you right in the face.
5. Learn some of the language.
People really like when you show up in a different culture and country and you do not automatically assume they know English. It’s simply a sign of respect and cultural understanding that the locals will really appreciate.
6. Branch out!
It can be easier to become comfortable with the other students in your program, but you end up staying in a U.S. bubble and you are here to experience another culture. To gain the best education of the culture and to become more comfortable in this foreign work environment, make friends with your colleagues. Ask your desk mate if they would like to get a beer after work, gather a few of your coworkers and take your lunch break together, offer to do a tandem language exchange (you’ll get to strengthen your language skills while also getting to know a colleague!).
7. Keep in mind your goals and what you want to learn from your internship.
Write them down and write down specific tasks or projects done at your internship that helped you to meet your goal. By the end of your internship abroad, you'll have a list of memories and a hard copy of new skills and experiences you can share with employers.
8. Remember that YOU ARE THERE TO WORK
Studying or interning abroad may feel like a vacation. You are meeting new people and experiencing a whole new world; however, you are there to do a job. Put in your all, and even though you may not be paid, this is still a fantastic resume builder and you are still doing real work for a real company and getting credits for it. A lot of CEA interns abroad work at small businesses, NGOs or start-up companies so taking your job seriously will have a real impact.
9. But, most importantly, have fun!
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and while it's important to remember your responsibilities, it is just as important to have a good time. Go out and see all the sights and have the locals show you the best places to eat and grab a beer.
Caitlin Cain is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, during Summer 2019. She is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
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