7 common misconceptions about your internship abroad
Inflated expectations can blind you from growth opportunities abroad. Focusing on how the experience isn’t what you thought it would be is a great way to miss out on all of the fantastic opportunities available to you when you’re doing an internship abroad. International experiences vary greatly from person to person. Half of interning abroad is what you bring to the experience. You have to make the most of being in a foreign country, so try to be realistic about what you will actually able to accomplish and experience within a limited time period.
Misconceptions about doing an internship abroad
1. “I’ll be able to speak the local language fluently after my internship is over”
Picking up a foreign language is a long-term process. Just like learning your first language, learning a second or third will also take years and require lots of practice. A few months in a foreign country won’t make you fluent so don’t arrive with the expectations that you’ll be able to sound like a local right away. Instead, celebrate small accomplishments like learning new verbs or understanding your entire conversation with a stranger at the supermarket. The only way to become fluent is to take language learning one step at a time.
2. “I’ll have the chance to see and do everything I want to”
I’m different. I’m going to do it all you say to yourself. And wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? But time and energy are limited resources. You just can’t do and see everything while you’re abroad. You have to pick and choose and be proud of small accomplishments like learning how the bus system works and picking up some local slang. That’s why it’s important to prioritize certain places for sightseeing so that you can get the really important stuff crossed off your list.
3. “I’m going to have non-stop fun”
There is no doubt that you will have many moments of laughter, glee and triumphant self-satisfied smiles during your time abroad. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll never struggle. Doing an internship abroad is so rewarding because it’s challenging and it really does test your ability to learn and adapt quickly. There will be moments of frustration and fear. It’s important to embrace these low moments – just like when you’re feeling on top of the world. After you get through them you’ll feel so proud of yourself for sticking with it.
4. “All of the projects that I start will be finished during my time abroad”
Work expectations will vary depending on your office and every country operates on its own schedule. Some office cultures are much more fast-paced than others so it’s important to accept that a project you thought would take you 2 weeks may end up taking 4. Readjust your expectations according to the office norms and focus on becoming part of the local professional community. If that means that everything you want to get done during your internship may not happen, that’s OK.
5. “My accommodation will be just like home”
Moving to an apartment in an international city will likely mean scaling down your personal space. The accommodation is clean and located in a safe, pleasant area of the city. However, it is bound to differ from what you’re used to. For example, the accommodation is much smaller in densely populated cities like Hong Kong. It’s also important to understand that housing isn’t exclusive to the Intern Group Program and that interns are placed in accommodation that also houses young professionals and international students from other programs. Given that interns are placed in different companies and organizations around the city, some interns are naturally going to experience a longer commute to work than others. Just like for a real job, it may take 45 minutes to get to work.
6. “I’ll settle in right away”
Getting to know the city can take time. You have to learn how to orient yourself. You’ll need to get the know the main streets that you’ll be using so that you can get around your neighborhood comfortably without having to look up directions beforehand. This can be overwhelming, especially when you’re abroad. Once you get adjusted to the city and find your favorite spots for coffee, a run or a picnic, you’ll really start to feel like home.
7. It won’t be as exotic as it you may think
When you’ve never been outside your home country, it’s easy to think that going abroad and doing an internship abroad is going to be a mind-blowing experience – and it will be. However, global cities are global cities – they have subways, buses, skyscrapers, supermarkets, cars and McDonald’s. The results of development and globalization – to a certain degree – are universal. So don’t expect to be riding elephants to work or walking through parades. Big cities share certain qualities around the world – which is another important lesson you learn when you are abroad.
Photo 1. by The Intern Group
Photo 3. by The Intern Group