Ask the intern: What if something goes wrong on my international internship?
Hi Sugar, I’m a student from East Germany. I have just been accepted onto the Latin America program for an internship in Engineering. While I’m so excited at the prospect of working in Colombia for 8 weeks, I can’t help but feel really nervous about traveling.
I have never worked in an office environment before so I’m worried about encountering problems as I’m inexperienced. More importantly, I’m worried that I’m not ready for such a huge step, especially as I don’t speak Spanish. Colombia is so far from home for me and I’m not used to living in a big city, especially with no one I know close to me. I know I probably have nothing to worry about, but I’m scared that something could go wrong. And if it does, I’m worried I won’t have anyone to help me. What happens if something goes wrong on my international internship? -Kirsten.
Hi Kirsten, thanks for getting in touch! I often receive emails like this, so you’re definitely not alone in having these concerns! Although moving away for an internship is a huge step in your personal and professional life, your initial apprehensions will fade. In the end, it will be a very fulfilling experience. Take my word for it!
One thing I’ve learned from my international internship in Latin America is that you are a lot more independent and capable than you think. You will be able to confront any tricky situation that arises with more ease than you’d expect. Nevertheless, our fantastic team in Colombia (Adriana, Erika, Johanna and Monica) is there to make everything a lot easier. Below I have compiled some solutions to your proposed problems to ease your nerves:
1. I have never worked in an office!
I completely empathize with this worry. When I started my internship in the Latin American office of The Intern Group, I’d never worked in an office environment either! This is very normal for college students and recent graduates, so I wouldn’t waste too much time worrying about this. Your colleagues will all have been interns themselves at some point, so they should be understanding. We also provide professional development sessions which could help get you up to speed on office etiquette. You’ll find that your intuition will help you transition from student to colleague very quickly!
2. What if I get homesick?
Missing home is a normal part of an international experience, especially when long distances and cultural differences are involved. If you keep busy, it’s a lot easier to keep these feelings of loneliness away. Between the working week and a calendar full of cultural and social events, you probably won’t have the chance to dwell on what’s happening back home. By throwing yourself into your international experience, you’ll create a home away from home. If it becomes difficult and you really miss home, the Colombia team will be happy to lend a listening ear.
3. Is Medellín dangerous?
Medellin has moved so far past its difficult history and it’s time for its reputation to move with it. Colombians are some of the friendliest and happiest people on the face of the earth, an opinion anyone who has visited the beautiful country will share. Colombia’s second biggest city, Medellín has a thriving economy which adds to its atmosphere of security.
Also, our accommodation is exclusively located in the El Poblado neighborhood, the safest area of Medellín. Like with any major city, if you are cautious and use common sense, you can avoid dangerous situations.
4. What if I get ill or injure myself?
If an emergency situation arises which affects your wellbeing, contact The Intern Group Latin America team immediately. You can find the number on the bottom of the Welcome Pack you receive on arrival. The Colombian emergency services number, should you need it, is 123 – very easy to remember. While it’s very unlikely illness or injury will occur, it should calm your nerves to know that you are prepared and that a member of our team is there 24/7 in case of emergencies.
5. I don’t speak any Spanish!
In terms of the workplace, your internship role will be in English so you don’t need to worry about having working proficiency before you go! However, it can be daunting being in a country that doesn’t share your first language. While some Colombians have excellent English, it’s nice to be able to communicate on a basic level in Spanish. This avoids awkwardness and is important to get by day to day. The Intern Group can organize Spanish lessons for you that will kickstart your learning. Fortunately, Colombians speak a very neutral and clear Spanish so it is an ideal place to learn.
Now you’re hopefully less nervous about traveling abroad, learn more about how to launch your career with an international internship.