Ask the intern: What should I expect from my international internship?

Hi I’m Sugar and I am going to be replacing Fiona as an intern at The Intern Group. As we are both in the office for a training period, we thought it would be a good idea to use this week’s Ask The Intern to talk to Fiona about her international internship. This way, she can share her final reflections with us as her time in Latin America comes to a close.

Have you had much time to travel?

In short, yes. I have been incredibly lucky and been able to travel to various different countries in Latin America. As there are a few budget airlines here I was able to really make the most of my holiday days, and the fact that I am in a completely new continent. I took weekend trips to the mountains, to the beach and visited some incredible surrounding areas. Living abroad I have really been bitten by the travel bug. This is one of the key things I will take home with me.

It has made me realize how easy it is to get out there and do things. When I get back to England I’ve promised myself I will explore it. How crazy is it that I’ve lived in the UK for 21 years and I’ve never visited Dublin, or Liverpool, or Glasgow? No more Saturdays binge-watching cooking programs for me. 2017 will be my year of new experiences and making the most of every opportunity.

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What has been the hardest part?

For me, I think the hardest part was adjusting to the Spanish language. Although I am a language student and I love to speak Spanish, it took me a while at the beginning to get into the swing of it. Simple things like heading to the supermarket were scary to begin with. Thankfully, this was quite short-lived. The rate that you begin to learn and adapt is incredible.

When you throw yourself in at the deep end with a language your brain seems to soak up new vocabulary twice as fast as at home. I can now happily say that I feel much more confident. Although I still have the occasional ‘lost in translation’ moment, I can deal with most everyday situations with ease. The occasions where I accidentally order myself a huge bucket of mussels instead of a soup are definitely becoming more infrequent (thankfully!).

What will you miss most?

I know this sounds very vague, but it’s my life here. For the past six months, I have loved being able to carve out a new life abroad. I have met new people, started a new job, tried new foods and explored new places. I will miss everyone here who has made my time abroad so much fun, everyone who has helped me and supported me if I’ve had any problems.

I’ll miss living and working independently and feeling like I’m really an integral part of my team. I have had an incredible six months here in Latin America and I wouldn’t change a single part of it. Also, if I get back to England and it’s chucking it down with rain, I will definitely miss the Latin American weather.

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Was it easy to make friends?

So much easier than I ever imagined. Before I started my international internship my biggest fear was that I would be sat at home with no friends every night. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. I met so many great people. I made friends at work, in my accommodation and through other friends. If this is something that you are worrying about, I can tell you now, it will all be fine. The people who you meet abroad completely understand the position you are in. They are happy to share their knowledge of the city. They want to learn about where you’re from. I can guarantee that you will make friends for life.

Did you miss home? How did you cope with homesickness?

I think everyone who has been abroad for a long period of time will say that there are definitely points where yes, they missed home. I am no different. Although an internship abroad is the experience of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t change a second of it, some days can be tricky. Wherever you are in the world there are some days when you aren’t feeling 100%. These days I found it would have been easy to sit at home feeling sorry for myself. But, the best advice I can give you, is do not give in to this feeling. Every time I felt like this I tried to get out there and do something. Distracting yourself is the key. Talking to people, walking around, seeing new parts of the cities, these things all help to lift your mood. When you’re out and about with your new friends, the homesick feeling will just drift away.

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Would you do it again?

In an instant. I have learned so much during my time abroad. Although I feel ready to head home and see all of my family and friends, I am also very sad to be leaving. If I have the opportunity I would love to do this whole experience over again. Maybe not in the same place, as there is a huge world out there, with so many countries to explore. But for me, the combination of getting real life work experience and exploring a new country is the perfect way to start your career. It is the adventure of a lifetime and I can guarantee you will have an incredible time.

All photos by Fiona Johnson.

Now that you know Fiona’s top internship tips, apply now for your own international internship!

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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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Fiona Johnson

Fiona studies Spanish and Italian and is currently on her year abroad in Latin America. She is working with the marketing team for The Intern Group in Santiago until January, when she hopes to travel South America before starting work in Italy. She is hoping to explore everything Chile has to offer and experience the vibrant culture, food and nightlife of Santiago.
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