7 important lessons you’ll learn while working in an international office

Doing an internship abroad gives you the chance to experience a foreign office, learn about a completely different kind of work culture and reap all of the other benefits of working abroad. The lessons you learn while surrounded by such an eclectic mix of people in an international office will teach you to be a more open-minded, accepting and adaptable person. Check it out:


1. Fake it ’til you make it

There is no better piece of advice for surviving an international office experience than “fake it ’til you make it”. Adjusting to a new office, new people and a new culture all at the same time is impossible to do without making it up a little as you go along. Going with the flow and just saying “yes” and “no problem”, when on the inside you’re kind of freaking out, is part of becoming a mature professional. After “faking it” for a while, of course you have to learn what you need to do to succeed and do it.


2. Communication is key

Communication is already an important element to keeping an office a well-oiled machine. When you add different cultural backgrounds and a foreign language to the mix, it can lead to all sorts of crossed wires and miscommunication. You really have to learn how to communicate clearly and directly when in an international office, because there are even more ways that things can be misinterpreted.


3. People who have lived around the world have the best stories

One of the benefits of working in an international office is the chance to meet interesting people from all over and hearing their different stories and experiences. You may not have the chance to go to those different places yourself, but their stories and experiences will allow you to learn from their travels.


4. Being “on time” can mean different things to different people

Every culture defines punctuality differently. If a meeting starts at 10:00am, in some offices everyone will be seated, prepared and ready to listen at 10:00. In other offices at 10:00, people will be walking in and chatting so that the meeting can start around 10:10. There are some places where the meeting may actually start at 10:30 – or it may not even happen at all. It’s a good idea to be early first, then gauge how things go and adjust from there. Err on the side of early.


benefits of working abroad


5. Your smile is your best asset

Charm your colleagues, be nice to them and they will be nice to you. It will make work so much easier and if you’re a nice person, cultural differences won’t matter so much. This doesn’t mean go over and start conversations all the time with everyone, but a smile and positive attitude is a killer way to start.


6. Never assume that everyone’s on the same page

Everyone experiences an event at the office with a different set of eyes. When you have lots of varied perspectives coming together, it’s the perfect place for misunderstanding. Everyone will have a different approach to solving problems, different communication styles, etc. That’s why it’s important to be adaptable, keep an open mind and be a clear communicator.


benefits of working abroad


7. International friends are harder to make, but are worth the extra effort

Making friends with people from different cultural backgrounds can often take more effort, unsurprisingly. You share fewer cultural similarities, so finding common ground can be a struggle at times. But once you accept the challenge, establishing multicultural, multifaceted friendships will force you out of your comfort zone – and it’s so worth it.


To reap the benefits of working abroad, apply now!



Photo 1. based on Teamwork and team spirit, by 드림포유, CC-by-ND 2.0

Photo 2. by Brentano

Photo 3. by The Intern Group


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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