How not to be basic during your internship abroad

“How can I not be basic during my internship abroad?” It’s a tough question. Obviously nobody wants to be the typical basic tourist. So don’t be. Get down with the local culture, style and lingo. We’ve got you covered. Just follow our 8 easy steps.



1. Opt for local restaurants and cafes

It’s OK to have a craving for a Big Mac or Starbucks Frappuccino, but recognize that these products, though delicious, are available everywhere in the world. If you have limited time somewhere like Madrid or Melbourne, why not try a local coffee shop or burger joint. You can eat the same things but do it in a way that supports local business and culture. Try to save your regular Starbucks and McDonalds trips for when you get home.


my internship abroad


2. Don’t expect things to be the same as they are at home

It’s difficult to do, but try to understand that things operate differently all around the world. In some countries, for example, the service industry moves a bit slower. People dedicate entire evenings to dining out with friends or family, rather than just penning in an hour and a half slot, so it’s not a big deal to wait for the waiter. As the visitor, it’s your job to adjust to the local way – not demand that others treat you the exact same way as you’ve been treated back home.


“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” -Clifton Fadiman


3. Check the volume of your voice

I’m just going to take this opportunity to speak directly to my fellow North Americans (from one loudmouth to another): Hey. If you hadn’t already realized, we are loud and we are known around the world for being loud. We are used to being loud, we have lots of space in our country, and that’s totally OK. However, when we’re abroad we continue to be loud and that actually bothers other people and can give us a bad name. Lower the decibel level and try to replicate the volume level of the non-North Americans around you. It’s not our fault that we’re a loud culture, but we can try to be respectful of others when we travel abroad. (I’m still trying to master this myself, years after my internship abroad.)


4. Be respectful with camera use

Who doesn’t love having a bomb Instagram feed? And traveling abroad is the best time to get some great snaps. The important thing is to make sure that you are being respectful with how and when you’re taking photos. At dinner with a big group of people really isn’t the most opportune time to snap selfies with your new best friend – do that afterwards. Also, be aware of restrictions on camera use in museums, and if you’re taking photos of other people, be sure they are cool with it.


5. Be gracious

Genuinely thank people who help you along your journey – they are not obligated to help you and are taking time and energy out of their day to make your experience run more smoothly. Recognize how amazing that is and let it teach you a lesson about how to treat visitors to your home country.


6. Enjoy parks and public spaces

Don’t be so caught up in going somewhere and spending money. Parks and plazas can be oftentimes the best place to observe a foreign culture and even meet new friends. Bring a picnic and a buddy (or a good book) and enjoy.


my internship abroad


7. When things get difficult, recognize your privilege

There’s no denying that being abroad has its low points. The comforts of home are just so… comfortable. Extended periods of time away from that can be legitimately stressful and emotionally challenging. That being said, take a moment to realize the privilege you have to go abroad, meet people from all over the world, travel and gain international work experience . Be positive and work through the rough moments, because things really aren’t as bad as they seem.


8. Uggs are for winter only.

Need we say more?


Follow these 8 easy steps and you’ll have nothing to worry about during your internship abroad. If you haven’t found your internship abroad yet, apply now!



Photo 1. based on Basic, by Erich Ferdinand, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on Starbucks, by Noel Reinhold, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on Ana II, by Harold Navarro, CC-by-ND 2.0


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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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth 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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