Scholarship Series: Tyler’s tips for interns living in South America
1. Be Open
If you are thinking about going on an international internship to experience living in South America, you need to be prepared for the cultural differences, and to a large extent that requires you to be open. For example, I am from Nairobi, Kenya, and if someone had suggested that I spend the entire night walking around town, I would most definitely decline, without giving it much thought. This is because it just isn’t appropriate or safe to do this. However, during my internship in Colombia, I took a trip to the coffee region, where we spent the night in a town that was celebrating its 131st anniversary of being named the coffee region. Because of this, all the shops in the town square remained open and people were partying in the streets until dawn. Had I brought my Nairobi based mentality, I probably wouldn’t have gone along, but I was open to the idea and it was one of the best nights I had in Colombia.
Do your research on the culture in the country you are going to, and spend the first couple of weeks observing how people act in order to ensure you are making the most out of your international internship, and are maximizing every opportunity presented to you.
2. Take Notes
An international internship is a great opportunity and will serve you well in your future career, but you know what’s even better? If you could remember it all.
You will inevitably learn many invaluable skills each day doing the simplest of things, because you are in a new environment; and although you will leave your internship having gained all of these skills, you will most likely forget, or worse, some of these skills may go unnoticed to you. During my 6-week period living in South America for my internship in Colombia, I wrote down what I did at work everyday. I made a note of doing this, to make sure if I ever needed to cite some of the skills I gained, for example in an interview or in my CV, I would have an accurate log to refer back to. Write it down, or blog/vlog it!
3. Take Language Classes
I cannot stress this enough. Take as many classes or online courses as you can, and make an effort to continue doing so when you arrive (you can speak to The Intern Group team about this once you arrive.) I guarantee your experience in Colombia will be greatly enhanced, and you will enjoy your international internship much more if you are more conversant in Spanish.
Furthermore, let’s not forget that you would be learning a new language that you can add to your resume/CV experience from living in South America !
4. Take Trips
Try your best to get to know the rest of the country, whether it is with your co-workers or fellow interns. Make it your mission to explore Colombia as a whole, as well as greater Medellin when you have the time, in order to get a good grasp of what Colombia is really like. During my internship, one of my colleagues took me to a local school during one of our lunch hours, that was built from the ground up by a dedicated Colombian couple. I got the chance to see how many people in Colombia live, and spent the afternoon with the lovely children, teaching them a bit of English and Kiswahili. It was an amazing opportunity, and I not only got the chance to visit that beautiful school, I was able to network with even more people outside of my internship.
5. Be Grateful
Remember that you are only there for a short time, so be grateful! I had a 6-week internship working in Bancolombia and when the time came for me to leave, it felt as though I had only been there for 2 weeks. Try your best not to get complacent, even when you become comfortable and enjoy every day on your international internship, because time will fly! Continue to go out of your way to make new friends, and take new adventures and opportunities.
Photos and content by Tyler Hawi Ayah.