There is a big difference between doing an internship at home and in another country. The most obvious contrast is that you will be away from your friends and family, and the culture to which you are accustomed. For someone like me, this is an exciting challenge, while for others it is a truly frightening prospect.
GOING ABROAD IS PRETTY GREAT ALREADY
Certainly for me taking an internship abroad is pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. But it also means that I am proving my ability to work under pressure and to rise to a challenge. If you choose to do an internship abroad, you will quickly find that it exceeds all your expectations, although it will take some time in order to adjust. But once you get used to the new environment around you and accept the culture, you will experience most amazing time of your life to learn and grow as a person. Actually, the diversity of cultures that you experience as you meet people from different countries as part of your internship can be the most inspirational aspect.
What is so special about an internship taken abroad? Well, if you consider the fact that it will give you a unique perspective, illustrating how things operate in different cultures and allowing you to learn from this, is this not reason enough to consider one? This new perspective can only be developed through an international internship, and could benefit you massively in your later career path.
However, an international internship is not just about working. By living in a new country you will have the opportunity to develop language skills in the best environment available – a place where people actually speak the language with native skill, and where you will be forced to speak it yourself. There is simply no better way to learn a language than during the time spent in another country by working and living with local people.
DO NEW THINGS
An internship is also a great opportunity to consciously plan new experiences, whether they are developing new skills, discovering new destination, or learning another language. It provides a platform to invest in yourself to broaden your horizons, meet people from all over the world, challenge yourself, and never stop exploring both new places and your own limits. Don’t underestimate the opportunity that an internship provides to undergo a process of self-development that will leave you a better and more open-minded person. Even as a temporary member of the local community, a worker and a friend, you will see your chosen destination through new local eyes.
Moving away from the comfort of university books and theories to a company, where you will put skills into practice and face real challenges, is more important than memorising facts, but can also be quite frightening. Be prepared for long hours, hard work and responsibility. If you are not ready for that, stay at home. However, an internship is a great opportunity to gain experience in your chosen field and to see professionals in action. I can say from personal experience that it is eye-opening and worthwhile for people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
In addition to the other advantages of an internship, the process will also teach you a huge amount of independence. You learn how to take care of yourself, how to cook, how to use a washing machine, and you finally start to understand how to plan your budget...and also that fridge doesn’t fill up by itself! The only person you can count on is yourself. You are taking responsibilities for all of your actions and inactions.
At the same time, the situation a morphine-dose of freedom of choice, which begins with what to eat for breakfast and ending with where to go at the weekend. You learn how to get out of difficult situations without the help of friends and family. You will learn how to be comfortable with yourself, how to take care of your thoughts when you are alone, and your words when you are in public. In short, you grow as a person.
For me, happiness comes from a truly productive day, and it doesn’t end with the tasks you were assigned at work. The key is to do something for yourself every day, or otherwise have autonomy in your schedule, whether you do half an hour workout, an hour book reading, watch a movie or go for a walk along a path you haven't traversed before. As it is my fifth summer abroad I find this time great for thinking about 'big picture' career and life questions. I think of new skills I’m getting and how I could use newly gained knowledge, and return home with ideas how to implement it. It is always important for me to finish everything I have started and therefore recently I have changed Nike’s broadly used ‘’Just Do it’’ to ‘Just Did It’. The feeling garnered from completed tasks are much more preferable.
PAID OR UNPAID INTERNSHIP
I say - unpaid. Now you can disagree with me. It is not because your value is zero purely because you haven’t done anything similar before. But to truly enjoy what you are doing, to have fun, to learn by doing, and to make mistakes is a must, because it is the only way to learn and grow from it. Wake up next day and move on. To be passionate about the things you are working on, and to share it with your friends and family.
There are opportunities for students to get scholarships and grants for making internship like Erasmus+, so you cover your basic needs and then it always comes down to priorities and financial management. And for me it is always about the motivation and purpose you sign up with yourself, before you tap into the project...whether it is real work or temporary internship. What is your main goal? How it is influencing you if you look at the bigger picture? Find the answer inside yourself and choose the experience that will benefit your soul.
One of the major benefits of an internship is that you will stand out to future employers. This is especially true if you are able to convey what a meaningful experience your international internship was, both personally and professionally. A good internship offers opportunities to build skills and character. It allows you to experience a professional environment, which can affect your future career decisions. If an internship does not offer these things, it’s not worth it. I’m lucky to have had a fruitful one.
During your time off you will be able to explore the local culture and see the world for yourself – an experience that you are sure to remember for the rest of your life. To make sure you remember your internship as a positive thing, tell people your funny and enjoyable stories. Show the pictures and be proud to say ‘’I had the best internship ever.’’
But once you start to live for even a short period of time (3-4 months) somewhere else, you have to be aware that, considering the intensity of your first experience, you will never be completely at home again. Part of your heart will always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.
In all my experiences of traveling, I come back thankful to be home where everything is familiar and comfortable, but I come back changed in ways I couldn’t imagine, with so much gained, yet so much left behind. I come back with a new view of the world and unforgettable experiences, but I leave behind a part of me that will only exist in that place with those people. I think it’s a beautiful thing to have friends in many places, not just so you can travel to them, but so you can see just how friendship can stretch thousands of miles and over years, without seeing each other, yet still remain the same.
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