Ask the intern: How to boost your confidence abroad
“Hi Laetitia! I’m leaving for Hong Kong soon, but I’m quite shy normally so I’m especially nervous about being in a new environment. I read your post about settling into a new country, but I find it hard to just go up to people and start a conversation – let alone in a completely new culture! Do you have any helpful tips for people like me on how to be more confident when adjusting to a new country? – Beatrice”
Hello Beatrice! Thanks for reaching out. I know a lot of people who feel the same way you do. I was very nervous myself about adapting to a new environment the first time I went abroad, but the good thing is that The Intern Group provide a great support system and network of friends who are in the same situation as you. Despite this, it can still be daunting to meet so many new faces and be in a completely new environment. This week, I’ve segmented the blog into the aspects that I personally was most worried about before starting my two international internships, or the things that I found most intimidating when I arrived. Here are my top tips on how to be more confident in these tricky situations abroad. They’ve really worked for me so I hope you find them useful!
1. Meeting people
This is easily one of the things that scared me the most. Was I going to make friends, ever? Or was I going to spend my year abroad alone? The great advantage of The Intern Group is that the other participants will all be in the same situation as you – win! Start by approaching those in your accommodation or befriending people at the welcome drinks. Asking a few questions to someone standing near you and introducing yourself shows that you are interested and willing to make friends. Start by saying “Hi! How’s it going? Did you arrive today too?” You will probably have a lot in common with the other interns since you are all here to do an international internship. Find common ground by bonding over the application process and the flights etc. Be sure to get their number or details so that you can arrange to meet up and explore the rest of the city together!
I always find it quite unrealistic to strike up a conversation with some random people when out and about, but you may be surprised. At events that you go to or any activities that you do, go towards people and ask them questions related to what you’re doing. For example, any question to clarify something is a good excuse to get a conversation going, and follow up by asking about them and where they’re from. You will also be likely to have some common ground since you’re both at the same event, so use this to add to the conversation and expand your network of friends. It’s normal to feel shy if you don’t know anyone, but once you start making the first move, you will realize that the rest will fall into place very easily.
2. The language / culture barrier
Probably the notable obstacle that you will have to face when going abroad is the different language or culture. It obviously helps if you can already speak the language but equally there will always be things to get used to. A language app on your phone can help if you want to learn the language and communicate with the locals. I would also suggest doing some research on the country before leaving so that you know what to expect. Just reading up on the lifestyle, food and culture will help to make the transition easier when adapting to a new environment.
Remember to keep an open mind at all times. Accept that things will be different, and that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Speak to your experience coordinator if you need some reassurance, and they can take you round the city or give you recommendations of places to visit if you feel lost.
The best way to get to grips with a new city is to start with things that you like. For example find a gym close to you, or look up dance classes, and practice your hobbies abroad. This way you’ll be gradually introduced to life in a different country. And use this opportunity to make friends too!
3. The internship
The first day at your internship can be a bit daunting when you’re not sure what to expect. When you find out your position and company, do some research into the team and the company in general to get a feel for it. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, go up to your colleagues and try to bond with them by asking for help or suggest going for lunch together. If you see a group of your colleagues getting up at around lunchtime, ask them for restaurant recommendations and they will most probably invite you to come out with them. Use these opportunities to ask them questions about themselves to get to know them better.
I always find it helpful to keep a notebook of motivational quotes on my desk to help boost my self-esteem. If you ever feel down, remember the reason you are abroad. You are here for the experience, and the unforgettable memories. It can be easy to forget this when things become overwhelming, so always remind yourself of this once in a while. If you want to call home for a friendly voice, then this can also help boost your confidence and morale when you feel down.
4. Traveling to your favorite places
The Intern Group offers great trips and cultural events that you can get involved in, but you may also want to explore some places alone. While you’ll meet the most incredibly interesting people, your travel plans may differ, so don’t be afraid to go at it solo! Don’t compromise your dream plans for someone else’s. I’ve learned that the greatest way to boost your confidence abroad is to go traveling alone. Whether it’s a day trip just outside the city or a week long break after your internship, spending some time with yourself will help you become more independent and thus more resilient and confident. While it can be scary, once you launch yourself, you will realize that it’s great fun. You set your own schedule and you’re thrown into new situations, which will do wonders for your self-confidence.
As with many things, the best advice I can give you on how to be more confident is to take the plunge and dive straight in. What’s the worst that can happen? You won’t want to regret not taking an opportunity, and the rest is all part of the experience.
Keep sending me your questions! I really like hearing from you. You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!
Now that you know how to be more confident abroad, apply today for an international internship!
Photo 1. by The Intern Group.
Photo 2. by The Intern Group.