Published on March 12, 2015

The 8 stages of interning abroad (individual results may vary)

Why do an internship abroad?

Because you get to experience things you've never felt before!

1. Denial

When you decide you want to intern abroad, it doesn't quite register that you're actually going to live in a whole new country until much later. As much as you make plans and goals and read travel books, it doesn't exactly sink in. Then you make it “official” and pay for the trip. Still hasn't quite registered. Even after packing, taking the plane. Nope. Still hasn’t hit you. All you're doing is eating peanuts in the air and listening to podcasts. Then you've arrived. You're walking through customs. And then, somewhere in between leaving the airport and arriving at your accommodations, you realize... this is your new life.


why do an internship


2. Honeymoon

All the smells and sights are different and new! Nothing you see is recognizable. The overflow of new sensory experiences overwhelms you. You are simultaneously exhausted and filled with energy. You are eager to chitchat with strangers, eat authentic local dishes and start exploring the city. Your Facebook status probably is some comment on something strange or interesting that just happened to you in this new country. You are living the life. Venturing out into the unknown and loving every bit of it.


3. ?!?!?!?

After the exciting honeymoon phase, you start to become a little less enamored with this new country and city you find yourself in. And you realize that moving to a new city is actually pretty hard. You have some rough moments. Maybe it’s your second week at your internship abroad and you get cocky and take an alternate route to work and get completely lost and have a meltdown on a city street. Or maybe you just hit a wall with the local language and feel so discouraged and stupid, you don’t even want to leave the apartment out of fear of not understanding what people are saying. Though you’re really trying your best to appreciate the new culture, you can’t help but feel a desire to be home, with the people you know, traveling the streets you are familiar with, speaking the language you know how to speak.


why do an internship


4. I got this

This phase is all about getting the hang of things. You start to slowly understand the new country, new internship, and new friends thing. If you’re speaking a new language, you’re starting to gain some confidence. You understand where you are and how the public transport works. Maybe you’ve even made some acquaintances who are local. Finally, you are no longer a tourist walking around like a chicken with its head cut off. Most importantly, you know what and how to order at the closest takeout restaurant to your apartment and remember all the names of your coworkers.


5. Homesick

The newness has definitely worn off and you’re starting to really long for the comforts of home (often edible) that you can’t find in this new country. You miss your pets/car/barista. Oh and your friends and family too. Even though you’re enjoying this new country, you can’t help but wish you could spend a weekend at home. Seeing pictures of your friends back home hanging out on Instagram doesn’t help. You know you’re enjoying your time abroad, but it doesn’t mean the pangs of homesickness aren’t real.


why do an internship


6. Killin’ it

You are having the time of your life. You are finally feeling fully adjusted and proud of your work at your internship. You see legitimate improvements in your mastery of the local language or slang. You really feel like you belong and understand why you’re there. You even consider coming back one day. You have some local friends and a few nuanced opinions about the country's politics, culture, food and language. You know multiple ways to get to work and get back home. You have no problem venturing out into the city, getting lost and pushing your boundaries. When you Skype with your family and friends you miss them but you can't help but gush about how great things are going. You’ve even started checking out how you could maybe work abroad in your future.


7. Denial (that you’re home again)

You try to incorporate the traditions and language from your intern abroad country into your daily life, much to the annoyance of your friends and family. You insist you’ll be back within the year. You haven’t unpacked your clothes yet, except for the stuff you bought while abroad, which you wear every day. You continue to WhatsApp your intern abroad friends as if you were still living together. How did it go by so fast?


why do an internship


8. Enlightenment

You’ve accepted it. It’s all over, but it changed your life. It’s time to let your experience abroad shape your life in your home country and apply those professional and personal lessons to upcoming challenges. You enjoy being back home, but keep in mind that there’s a whole world out there full of people with diverse traditions, lifestyles, beliefs and values. You let the intern abroad experience propel you into new cultural groups and professional circles in your home city and keep the multicultural adventure going however you can.


Apply now and boost your career!


Photo 1. based on travel shadow by Mario Mancuso, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on [愛是唯一] AMEI x LOVE # IN PROUD & LOVE by Sony A7R by Luke Ma, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on Jumping for Awesome by The Mighty Tim Inconnu, CC-by-2.0

Photo 4. based on travel luggage by anaa yoo, CC-by-2.0

The author
Elizabeth Trovall
After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her third year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *