1. Know what you need to do before you go
There aren’t that many things you need to do to prepare for how to choose an internship, beyond the really obvious stuff. A good thing to do first off is to get in contact with your mentor. Internships vary in their expectations, workload, dress code and hours, so it’s good to know what you’re getting in to before you arrive.
Budgeting is important too. A lot of people who have come here on my program have overspent so far, including me; Melbourne in particular is quite an expensive city. The Intern Group sorts out all your travel for your commute, and all the events they organize are included, but most other things you need to plan yourself. A lot of people choose to take a weekend trip or two to Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney or Adelaide while they’re here, and these are cheaper the earlier you book so look in to it before you come. (But remember to plan around The Intern Group events, which you don’t want to miss, and they’re usually at weekends as well. Take a look at the pictures below.)
Having outlined those few things though, I would say don’t plan everything. When you arrive here you should let your interest take you wherever you want in your free time. Melbourne is a great city with amazing stuff hidden in small streets. There’s great coffee and street art everywhere, and there are a lot of museums and obvious landmarks like the MCG you can go to if that’s your thing.
2. Know why you’re going
The work environment has been fairly easy to adjust to. It’s good to get international experience in a work environment anywhere, but Australia has had a few advantages. There were small things like the lack of a language barrier, but the main reason I chose Melbourne was that I had never been anywhere near to this part of the world before; I’ve only been to the Southern Hemisphere once, last year. I’m also using the opportunity of this very long trip to do a university course in Christchurch (New Zealand) for a few weeks after my internship. (Even though I’m half-Kiwi, I’ve never visited my ‘home’ country.)
Melbourne as a city is also a very exciting place and has a lot of attractions on its own, and I’ve got a couple of friends here that I haven’t seen in a while. My old history tutor from university is a Melburnian and has moved back here. He even invited me to participate in some postgraduate seminars at LaTrobe University when he heard I was coming, and so I’m attending those each week that I’m available. If you’ve got any contacts in the area, use your international internship as a chance to get in touch, and maybe to do something on the side of your work with The Intern Group if you have the opportunity.
3. Know what you want to accomplish
I just graduated from a Masters degree in History before I arrived here. I’m taking a year out to explore my options before going in to a phD or full-time work, so I wanted to experiment with something new. I’ve chosen to work at a data analysis company in Richmond, called Northraine, having had no prior training in data analysis at all. My aim is not to learn how to become a data analyst in six weeks, but to understand the ways in which it can contribute to other areas of research, political and commercial use, and my mentor has given me free rein to think of my own direction for a project in achieving this. I’ve decided to focus on an argument currently becoming more and more common in political discourse in the UK: cutting the foreign aid budget in order to plug the funding gap in the National Health Service.
My mentor, Martin Kemka, has helped me along the way in teaching me about modelling techniques he has used in the past for his own projects, as well as the possible ways an analyst might go about a project like mine. I’ve learned a lot from him already, and I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot more before I leave. I’m also hoping to develop my professional skills more broadly, and The Intern Group helps a lot with this. They provide a number of events to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, and how to improve your LinkedIn/CV presentation and content, which was crucial in my decision of how to choose an internship and program that would benefit me. Even if it seems like a tedious task, they’re good at it, and it helps boost your chances of getting in to what you want to do, so it’s worth it.
Content and photos by Daniel Coleman.