Dear Danielle, I’ve just been accepted to intern in Colombia and I am beyond excited! I have traveled a little bit with family and friends, but this will be my first time truly living abroad on my own. Do you have any advice about how to plan for my internship and how to intern abroad successfully? – Sam from The Intern Group Colombia
Hi Sam! I’m so excited for all of your future experiences at your internship in Colombia! As an international intern myself, I remember feeling the exact same way before I came abroad. Here are some of my personal tips for preparing yourself for your international internship, based on my own experiences:
1. Pack only what you need
When packing your suitcase to intern abroad, only pack things that will mix and match, and layer well. Why pay an extra luggage fee when you could spend that money elsewhere, on a fun adventure once you’re actually in Colombia for your internship? If you’re thinking that you’ll only wear something once, don’t pack it. For a year abroad I packed two pairs of formal pants, plain colored sweaters and shirts, and dresses that I could layer with a cardigan and leggings in the winter. You only really need a pair of sneakers, sandals, and one pair of dress shoes or boots.
As far as packing home-goods goes, please be aware that all of your accommodation will come fully furnished with linens, and your kitchen will be stocked as well. Towels usually take up a lot of space in a suitcase, so I suggest only bringing a travel sized one, or buying one when you actually get overseas. When it comes to hygienic things, your favorite brands may not be available abroad. In this case, you can either pack those things, or be brave and try local products.
2. Practice your language skills ahead of time
Though you are only required to speak English at your internship, knowing the native tongue of the country won’t hurt. You want to explore outside of your office building, don’t you? To practice Spanish, I downloaded an amazingly helpful app called Duolingo which also offers different language practice options. First it will instruct you to take a language placement quiz, so that you can start its curriculum practice at your level. I enabled daily email reminders and notifications so that I spent at least 20 minutes a day working on my Spanish. You can also Google helpful phrases, that are country specific.
3. Read as much as you can about the host organization you’ll be interning with
A good way to make a great impression your first day is to show up prepared. To do so, read through your company’s website and familiarize yourself with their work, their staff and office culture, and also their future goals. I also really recommend Googling the company’s name to see any press releases and other publicly shared marketing info on social media.
4. Be informed about cultural differences
From how to order things at restaurants, to what to wear to your office or out for a night, there are bound to be many cultural differences between the country you’re going to be interning in, and the country you’re from. Luckily, many people have written blog posts about this to prepare people like you for your experiences abroad! In fact, some of our very own interns have written about cultural differences between home and abroad. You can read about their experiences here.
5. Create a bucket list that’s a mix of work goals and travel dreams
My absolute favorite part about my international internship is that I’m working on my professional development, while getting to travel! Before coming abroad, I wrote down five professional goals for myself, and five wanderlust related goals of places I want to see and things I want to do. I really recommend doing the same, and setting deadlines for yourself.
Now you know how to intern abroad successfully, learn more about all of the program options The Intern Group offers.
- by Danielle Ortiz-Geis
- by Danielle Ortiz-Geis