Published on April 3, 2015

7 professional skills you’ll develop during an internship abroad

When first embarking on your career, those initial real-world work experiences are crucial to your development as a professional. An internship abroad is a unique and impactful way to be introduced to the working world. The following are just a few of the many skills that will mature and flourish during your international internship.


why intern abroad

Why intern abroad?


1. Adaptability

Employers like to hire professionals who are able to quickly adjust to workplace changes and new challenges. Simply knowing that you once uprooted your life and took an internship abroad shows you're someone who knows how to adapt to big changes - inside and outside the office. During an internship abroad you'll have to adapt to a new country, new culture, new city and new office, which requires a high level of adaptability and flexibility. Once you've mastered that first shock and adjustment period during your internship abroad, you'll be prepared for whatever professional or life changes that come your way in the future.


2. Respect

Understanding how to show respect to your employer and coworkers is a vital professional skill and can be especially challenging while navigating a new culture. During your internship abroad you will quickly realize each culture and employer have their own standards on how to be respectful. As a young professional it’s important to be able to pick up on these cues quickly, to show your employer you are an employee of value who also values their colleagues. You'll have to be acutely aware of the ways respect is shown in an international internship because it will be different from what you're used to. Learning how to quickly read those cues and adapt is a professional skill you can take to workplaces at home or abroad.


3. Cross-Cultural Interpersonal Abilities

Connecting with people outside your native culture can be a challenge, particularly if there’s a language barrier. However, cross-cultural bridges are crossed every day, many times by those with experience living in a foreign culture. While interning abroad, young professionals will have the opportunity to learn how to befriend and share with people from all over the world. Knowing what topics and conversations are appropriate in an international community is a unique and important skill that will boost your ability to network and build strong professional connections around the world.


why intern abroad


4. Communication Skills

Learning how to get your point across in a foreign culture, particularly in a foreign language, is a huge boost to an intern’s overall communication skills. Knowing how to express yourself precisely and clearly is difficult to master in any culture or language. Clearing that hurdle while in a foreign country will attune a young professional to the importance of language and communication on another level. Being abroad also gives you the chance to improve observation and listening skills, which are important elements of being a strong communicator. Being able to understand how to effectively communicate in an international office will open up opportunities as the world becomes increasingly globalized.


5. Multicultural Awareness

With international integration on the rise, understanding and respecting varied world views, customs and cultures is an increasingly important attribute. An internship abroad will help you open up your perspective on the world, making you more sensitive and attune to global issues. It's important to learn that your country isn’t the center of the world and that each country has a way of doing things that is simply different, not necessarily better or worse. It's hard to get to that place without having international experience.


why intern abroad


6. Problem-Solving

The ability to find creative solutions to problems is a crucial skill for a young professional in any career. Experience abroad, not just at an internship, will give a young person the chance to enhance their reasoning and problem-solving abilities. Living abroad lands an intern constantly in unchartered territory, making simple day-to-day tasks a bit of a challenge. Whether lost during a hunt for peanut butter in Medellín or confused by directions given to you in Spanish by your internship supervisor, an intern abroad will have plenty opportunities to solve problems and tackle new challenges.


7. Strength Through Adversity

Ask anyone who has lived abroad. Moving to a new country can, at times, be brutal. When there's so much new information coming at you, especially in a foreign language, it can be a vulnerable, nerve-wracking experience. Figuring out how to get around a new city, do well at your internship, speak a new language and make international friends can feel like an impossible challenge. But the struggle is what will make the successes all the richer. As an intern abroad, your tenacity will be put to the test and grow stronger over time. Then you'll reap the rewards at your internship and beyond.


Apply now and boost your career!

The author
Elizabeth Trovall
After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her third 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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