Published on September 5, 2013

Live, Travel, Intern

One year ago, I was at the beach with a friend talking about our lives and the directions we planned on going. We had just rolled onto shore after surfing at Trestles all day, and all we could think about were Pedro's World Famous Tacos in San Clemente, California.

What Makes An International Internship Valuable
Pedro's Tacos in San Clemente, California

Having recently graduated from university, we were both worried about the path that lay ahead. After all of these years of studying for finals and working odd jobs, such as:

  • Selling cable door-to-door
  • Driving a shipping van for a hummus distributor
  • Lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons

It dawned on me. Despite my line of studies, I had no idea what the future had in store. It is often frightening to think about uncertainty, and where we will go in our lives.

Looking back, the world appeared to be wide open and I had no idea where I would end up in a year from that day. Writing this post, I am currently in our office in Santiago, Chile, and have lived here for the past 7 months. When I arrived, I quickly learned how challenging it is to navigate a new culture and language whilst gaining valuable experience.

What if I don't get my dream job?

That question used to haunt me as graduation approached. When I finally did graduate from school, I remember feeling relieved, yet exhausted from the burden that I had placed on myself. The expectations of pursuing a career in finance, climbing a corporate latter in which I could eventually assume managerial responsibilities, dissipated when I turned down a full-time offer at an accounting firm in California. After all of my hard work and going through endless rounds of interviews, networking sessions, and accounting classes, how could I pass up on what had always been the plan?

What if I don't know what my dream job is?

The beauty of being human is that nothing is set in stone. Physiological responses lead to how we feel about things, or in other words the emotions that we experience. These emotions affect our mood, ultimately, rationality and logic. The cerebral cortex receives signals from more primitive, less evolved areas of the brain in which it must analyze situations. Hence the concept of gut feeling. Essentially, if your current situation doesn't feel right, then that may not be the most logical route to take. You are allowed to change your mind, and adapt your reality to your values. Internships provide a short-term, defined period in which you can experience first-hand the daily realities of a job. It gives you that experience so when you walk into an interview, you can recall memories of your professional experience to relate to the available position.

What makes an internship experience more valuable if it is international?

Going abroad will accelerate your personal growth exponentially. Imagine being able to see a new culture and country, while being able to record it on your resume. That is the beauty of an international internship. The opportunity that you have to soak in different perspectives and building your skill set sets the platform for you to exemplify your adaptability and growth capacity to future employers. Internships are an audition while a career is a marathon. The difference between good and great is the ability to endure during times of adversity. International internships give you a snapshot of where you are, and an idea of the trajectory in line with your personal values and experience. This is what makes an international internship valuable. When reality meets perception, that merge is where growth occurs. Life is a lot like surfing. There are days when you can go out there and catch every wave, and you feel on top of the world. Other times, it can feel like your world has been flipped upside down as you get smacked by a set wave. You can learn a lot by watching a group of surfers during a rough day.

Get back on that board, ride out the storm and define who you want to be.

The author
David Lloyd

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