Ask the intern: I’ve never been out of the country. Should I intern abroad?

Hi Fiona, I’m thinking about doing an international internship in Colombia, but I’m a bit nervous. It will be my first time abroad. I’ve never been out of the country and all my family members live less than a two-hour drive from me. I’ve always kind of felt like I want to live abroad at some stage, so I thought ‘why not now?’. The only thing is, I’m not sure if I’m ready to live and intern abroad, if I can handle such a big cultural change or if I’ll be able to make friends. Also, I’ve never really had to sort out any practical things for myself, like getting a visa or finding housing, and I don’t know where I would start. I realize this isn’t one specific question, but I was hoping you had some advice for me.” – Ethan

Hi Ethan, thanks for getting in touch! Everything you’ve said definitely ran through my head a few times before I decided to do an international internship. It can be a scary thought to just dive straight in. I think the best way for me to answer your question is to break it down into a few different parts. I’ll try and answer each part as best as I can and hopefully help with a few of your worries.

1. Living abroad

I thought I would start with this one because it’s always the scariest and is all-encompassing. Living abroad may seem like a daunting thought, but the best advice that I can give you is to channel your nerves into excitement. Get online and start doing some research about the city. What are the best lunch spots? What great things are there to do on the weekend? You will soon feel the nerves drain away.

The reason that The Intern Group chooses each city to be a program destination is because it is a fantastic place to intern and live. Each city has its own character and charm. The Intern Group makes sure that each city is safe and easy to navigate so that you will never find yourself stuck in a scary place. Living abroad is one of the most exciting experiences that anyone can have. You will find yourself learning as much about yourself as the city. The experience will shape your outlook, future career and will be the adventure of a lifetime.

2. Interning abroad

I think the first thing that I would like to say about interning abroad, is that it is so much easier than you think it will be. Before I started my international internship, I was worried about all sorts of things. Everything from my colleagues not liking me, to not being able to complete my work. I can tell you that it has all been great. Interning abroad is just like interning at home, a learning curve, and you will quickly grasp how your office functions.

The difference is when you’re interning abroad you have an entirely new culture to enjoy. You’re surrounded by ambitious and internationally minded people and you have an incredible new country to explore. It’s essentially taking an incredible professional development opportunity and pairing it with the greatest vacation of your life.

first time abroad

3. Culture shock

I think the best way to think about immersing yourself in a different culture is to see it as an exciting new experience and a chance to grow. Living and interning in a new city will allow you to throw yourself into its culture and life. You will be able to experience new food, music and festivals – everything that makes the city unique. You will be right in the middle of it all. People talk about culture shock as a sort of disorientation to the unfamiliar, but it’s the unfamiliar which holds the most exciting new experiences.

It may be unfamiliar to go to the festival of flowers in Medellin, but that is exactly what makes it so incredible. To top things off, you will be living with a group of other interns, young professionals and students who are all in exactly the same position as you. They will also be trying to navigate the life and culture of this new city, and so you can help each other along.

4. Creating a community

Making friends and creating a community abroad was one of my biggest worries. I was convinced that I would end up spending every evening sat at home watching Netflix on my own. I can assure you that that is definitely not the case. There are so many opportunities to meet people abroad.

One of the great things about The Intern Group program is that you will be living with a group of other interns, young professionals and students, which can be the beginning of your international community. To add to this you have people that you meet at your office, maybe at a sports club, evening class or through other friends. The possibilities are endless. Although sometimes an evening in with a film and some popcorn is very necessary, you will find yourself with invitations for fun things to do almost every day after work.

first time abroad

5. Practical Issues

I felt like this was also an important thing to talk about. When thinking about moving abroad, there seems to be an endless amount of practical things to deal with – organizing a visa, finding insurance, organizing accommodation, etc. Luckily for you, you don’t need to worry about any of that.

The Intern Group has an extensive team who sort out the logistics of your internship. They will help you with your visa application, your accommodation, show you where to find insurance and be on hand to answer any queries or questions that you might have. All you have to do is pack your bags and go!

An international internship is a big decision, and I hope I’ve helped you with a few of your concerns. I can tell you from first-hand experience that living abroad is the best thing I have ever done. I absolutely love experiencing a new country, and I’m excited to carry on doing it in the future. I’m sure you will also feel the same.

I love hearing from you! Send any questions or queries that you have to me at fiona.johnson@theinterngroup.com

Your first time abroad will be an incredible experience. Don’t let nerves stop you! Apply today to intern abroad and have the adventure of a lifetime.

Photo 1. based on Airplane wing, by thejaan, CC BY 2.0

Photo 2. based on Museo el Castillo Medellin, by
Luz Adriana Villa, by CC BY 2.0

Photo 3. by The Intern Group

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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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