Published on October 31, 2013
Adapting to a new world is much easier said than done, during my last blog I was full of excitement and optimism with what my future in Chile had to offer. Whether it was my over confidence (one of my many personality flaws) or lack of understanding of what it would take to live permanently in a new culture, it was much harder to adapt to my new life as an intern in South America!
Firstly, I have been thrust into a position where every aspect of my life has changed; I am living in a truly awe-inspiring part of the world with an incredible backdrop of the Andes mountains but there is a distinct difference between travelling the world and experiencing new cultures and having to live and engage in a culture on a daily basis. Having had to make the adjustment my best advice to anyone going on an internship abroad is to not only engage in the language and culture as much as possible but also to stop comparing to how things are where they are to how it would be at home. For instance, I have only just stopped thinking of prices in terms of the Pound equivalent. I now think of everything as Chilean Pesos. Furthermore, instead of expecting the same level of customer service (especially in restaurants) as I would do in the UK, I am now prepared to allow an extra ten minutes for every task I undertake (Chilean customer service is truly horrific!). Also, try to import your interests from home into your new life, just because you're living in a new culture doesn't mean to say that you should exclude everything from your life at home. Don't ask me how, but in the middle of Chile I have managed to find a weekly cricket match, and of course I came equipped with enough English teabags to sink a ship! These little pieces of home go a long way to helping me adjust to my new life.
Secondly, for any student looking to do an internship abroad you will get a taste of how things are in the real world. And guess what? It's hard! I'm no longer able to build my life around my social calendar, the days of going to lectures if I'm out of bed are well and truly over, I have responsibilities to both myself and The Intern Group to make sure that I am fulfilling the job I am employed to do. I am fortunate that I have an internship where I genuinely look forward to coming to work everyday, but even still it has been very difficult to let go of my past frivolities, it is definitely a case of you don't know how good life is a student until it isn't there anymore! Unfortunately, I cannot offer any great insight of knowledge or advice as to how to adapt in this way beyond buying an alarm clock and having the determination and passion to create a path for yourself which will lead to a successful career.
Finally, the style in which I am expected to work in the outside world is much different to what I have become accustomed. Time management is a skill which cannot be taught, and no matter how much you develop the skill at university you will learn far more in your first month of interning or employment than you will in three years at university! People have greater expectations to deliver quality work in shorter periods of time, no more three month deadlines for something that can genuinely be written in a day! Three days is a long time in the business world and you will be expected to have finished the assigned project whilst continuing to work on other tasks for other assigned deadlines!
If you can master these tasks then you will advance as both a professional and an individual. I am fortunate that once my yearlong internship concludes that I can go back to my life of long lie-ins and drinking in the afternoon but my greatest fear is that I have left that world behind, having made the adjustments needed to make my international internship a complete success I am afraid that this work ethic and completeness I have found as a person here will rub off on me when I complete my final year at university! Admittedly worrying that I am growing into a more complete person isn't really a worry and despite the transition period to adapting for my internship, I cannot emphasise strongly enough just how beneficial conducting an international internship can be for both your career and your identity.