Ask the intern: How should I prepare for my summer internship?
Hi Sugar, I am an Engineering student at Ohio University in the US. I have been accepted into the Latin America program for an 8 week Mechanical Engineering placement. I’m really excited to intern abroad but my departure date is coming up so soon and I feel very unprepared. I feel like I should be doing something in preparation for my time in Colombia but I’m not sure where to start! As you are currently interning in Latin America, I thought you’d be able to give me some advice about how to prepare for a new job and life abroad.
Hi Peter, Thanks for getting in touch with such a great question. I can definitely relate to how you’re feeling. I couldn’t wait to move to Latin America and start my internship at The Intern Group office, but I was clueless when it came to preparing. I wish I had had some insider tips about preparing for a new life in Latin America before I came. It would have made the transition much easier. Below I have compiled my tips and tricks about preparing for your international internship.
1. Create a packing list
This may seem like an obvious place to start, but a rigorous packing list is the ultimate way to be prepared. By thinking about what to pack in advance, you avoid any chance of forgetting essential items. You don’t want to be half way to Medellín and realize that you forgot your laptop charger and sneakers! Make sure that you have a range of clothes that will take you from office to weekend activities. Also remember any medication that you’ll need for the duration of your stay, toiletries and stationery.
2. Learn the lingo
Although it is not always necessary to know Spanish for our Latin American placements, knowing the basics will make your day-to-day life much easier. By memorizing a couple of handy phrases, you can avoid some disasters. It’ll also make socializing a lot easier. Colombian Spanish is known to be quite neutral, luckily!
Learning a language doesn’t have to be boring. Even listening to Spanish music or dipping in and out of a phrasebook can be really helpful. You’ll be a pro before you know it! Not only will you have an international internship under your belt, but also a new language.
3. Do your homework on the company
This is really a tip for when you first interview with a company. But if you didn’t do it then you should definitely do it now! Even if you brushed up on your knowledge for the interview, refreshing yourself is always advisable. Having a solid, basic knowledge of the company you’re interning for demonstrates that you’re dedicated to your role. It also shows that you’re interested in how the company functions on a large scale. This is key to making a good impression!
4. Immerse yourself in Colombian culture
This is on the list both because it’s fun but also because it can really help to prevent culture shock on arrival. Despite its outdated reputation, Colombia is home to some of the world’s friendliest people, so getting used to life there isn’t a chore. However, it is obviously very different to the U.S. By researching the Colombian way of life, you will be able to settle in quicker and greet cultural differences with open arms rather than panic. By also looking into potential travel plans, you can make the most of your time there from the get-go.
5. Get excited!
Aside from all of the practical advice I have to give, I also want to take the time to remind you to be excited! It can be so easy to get yourself wrapped up in worrying about moving away and entering the professional world. Don’t forget to also take a step back and realize what an incredible opportunity you have in front of you. It will definitely be one of the best experiences of your life, so get excited!
Now you know how to prepare for a new job and life abroad, apply today to test drive your career with an international internship.