Ask the intern: I’m really nervous about going abroad

Hi Fiona, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I was hoping that you might be able to give me some advice. I live in London, in the UK, and it’s always been my dream to work in the US. Yesterday, I was accepted to the New York program to do a PR & Marketing internship. This is honestly a dream come true for me. The only problem is, I’ve started to get nervous. All of a sudden New York seems like a very long way away. I know that you are abroad on an international internship. I was hoping you might be able to help me with how to calm your nerves before moving abroad.” – Sophia

Hi Sophia, thanks for getting in touch. This is something that almost everyone who decides to do an international internship will feel at some point. If I was at all a sporty person I guess I could compare it to pre-game nerves. It’s a mix of excitement but also the feeling of “what am I doing?!”. The day that I left for my internship I was a bag of nerves. I had all of these concerns flying around in my brain, as I’m sure you do right now. To help you ease some of these worries, I will share some of the things I was nervous about, and then the realities that I experienced.

1. “I won’t make any friends”

I think that this is always at the forefront of your mind when taking yourself out of your comfort zone. When I was leaving for Latin America, I was convinced that I would end up sat at home alone every evening. I asked every friend I knew who’d moved abroad how they made friends, and they kept telling me “don’t worry about it, you’ll meet so many people”. I just kept thinking “how?!”. Turns out, they were right.

The reality is, you fall into friendships without even trying. The first and easiest port of call is through your housemates. You will also meet people who are in the exact same position as you; they are interns on the program! They are young, globally-minded people who also, to put it bluntly, don’t have friends. Everyone is trying to make friendships and connections. You’ll find yourself inundated with exciting plans from day one. These people will be just like you, excited to get out there and explore the city. You will be sure to make friends for life.

Outside of your housemates, there are your work colleagues, friends of friends, members of any club that you may join. There are so many opportunities out there to meet people. Although it seems like a scary thought, you will quickly create a support network to help you through your time abroad.

2. “I’ll be rubbish at my job”

This was my other huge concern before I left the UK. I am also doing a Marketing internship, and in the weeks before I left I began to question myself. I started thinking that I knew nothing about Marketing. I began to question how I could do a full-time professional internship. Of course, once again, I was worrying for no reason.

Everyone at my office was incredibly welcoming and supportive. They understood that I had never worked in a professional marketing environment and were there to help me at all times. It is very likely that your new colleagues will be the same. They understand that this is a new experience for you. So they won’t throw you into the deep end until you’re ready. My supervisor guided me through all of my tasks and then when I was able to do these, allowed me to take on new, more difficult jobs. The best advice I can give you is to be friendly, and most of all, enthusiastic. If you are willing to learn, they will be willing to teach you.

How to calm your nerves

3. “My work colleagues won’t like me”

This one really tied in with my other concern about being rubbish at my job. I was worried that I wouldn’t understand my tasks, and therefore my colleagues would be frustrated with me. I created this scary flow chart of nerves in my head. Once again, as with all my concerns, I was worrying for no reason. Everyone at my work was incredibly nice, and happy to welcome me to the team. The same thing happened to all my friends, and will happen for you too.

If you want to make absolutely sure that they like you, then there are a few things that you can do. Be proactive and enthusiastic with your work. Be friendly and interested in what people have to say around the office. Finally, if you are feeling especially brave, ask someone if they want to grab lunch or a coffee. I can almost guarantee that they will be happy to spend time with you outside of work.

4. “I’ll stick out”

This will probably be less of a concern for you, but I know it was something that I was worried about. I was concerned that I would stick out and not be able to truly immerse myself in the culture. As is becoming a trend, I was wrong. Although sometimes we can stick out with our accents or because we didn’t understand something, it’s all part of the experience. I will have people ask me all about what it is like in England, and they will in return tell me about their culture. This has turned out to be one of my favorite things about living abroad.

How to calm your nerves

5. “I’ll get really homesick and want to go home”

Homesickness is unfortunately something that everyone experiences. Although for 95% of the time you will be out and about having amazing experiences, there’s always that 5% when you miss home. The best thing to do when you are feeling a bit sad is to get out there and make plans. Make a plan with a friend to try out a new restaurant. Maybe go out and explore a new area of the city. Just make sure that you get out there and have fun. The homesick feeling will just slip away. Also, always remember, your family and friends are only a Skype call away. With all of the technology we have now, the world is a pretty small place.

Hopefully this will help you with how to calm your nerves. Apply today for an international internship and the adventure of a lifetime.

I love hearing from you. If you have any questions or queries, send me an email at fiona.johnson@theinterngroup.com

Photo 1. based on Nervous, by i.gunawan, CC BY 2.0

Image 2. based on My office desk, by Channy Yun, CC BY 2.0

Photo 3. based on Where’s Wally World Record (where you there?), by William Murphy, CC BY -SA 2.0

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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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