Nov 15, 2017

Challenges you’ll face in your first overseas internship

During your study you have the opportunity to do an internship in another country. Instead of going to school, you will work at a company for certain period of time. This will be one of the greatest experience of your life, but there are a few challenges that might come your way. In this article, I want to ensure you that it’s perfectly normal to stumble upon these difficulties, and I found some solutions to help international interns everywhere!

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A Dose of Healthy Homesickness

While everyone experiences homesickness to a different extent, it is often a reason why many of us put off doing an internship abroad. You’ll most likely move into a place that has little to no decoration, but you can come prepared by printing out some of your favorite pictures of friends and family and stick them on your wall.

When I moved to Munich I made sure to pack all my cameras ­­– film, polaroid, and digital – so that I was ready to document new experiences. I made it a challenge to capture everything that I was experiencing in Germany, from stunning Bavarian scenery to fun parties.

The most important thing is not to let your homesickness ruin your experience. You might only be abroad for a short amount of time: try to make the most out of it!

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“Can you repeat that please?” Facing the Language Barrier

When I moved to France in my third year of my studies, I definitely experienced some problems with the French language. Even though I had studied it for years at high school and at university, in the beginning of my semester in France I wasn’t expecting the locals to speak so quickly. The only way I could have avoided this slightly, was to come prepared. Make sure you have some daily phrases that you can use in conversations. For instance, it’s always a challenge to do your groceries in a country where you barely speak the language. What do they even say after they scan all the items in the supermarket? What’s the word for receipt again? Knowing these phrases beforehand will make your shopping experience a whole less stressful.

Another tip is to completely immerse yourself in the language. Start by watching your favorite TV shows on Netflix – but this time with the subtitles or audio of the respective language. You’ll notice you pick up little words and phrases that you hadn’t yet learned in school, but are going to be super helpful for your daily life abroad.

Finding Accommodation ­– Where Do I Start?

When I finally got the long-awaited email that confirmed my start date in Munich, my thoughts immediately drifted to the next big step: finding accommodation. I had heard that finding a place in Munich is even harder than in Berlin, so I braced myself for a long and time-consuming process. Wherever you go though, always be aware of scammers. Look out for people asking you to send them money before you’ve even seen the apartment, even if their offer could potentially be your dream place – don’t fall for it.

Luckily, a lot of cities have Facebook groups where people advertise rooms. I found those groups particular helpful, as you can just send the current tenant or landlord a quick message, instead of a formal email. I would recommend you to be patient and to take the time to find your dream place, rather than settling on the first offer that comes your way. If you don’t find something before you have to move, you can always opt for a few weeks in an Airbnb. Once you’re there, you’re more likely to find people who are maybe moving out or are looking for another roommate!

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Starting from Scratch: Building your Social Circle

When you’re going to move abroad to work 40+ hours a week, you might experience a slump in your social life. This doesn’t necessarily need to be the case! My company for instance, had a lot of interns that were in the same boat. They all moved abroad without knowing a single person in the city, and were all looking for new friends. It’s always fun to invite them for a drink or two (or three, or four) after work and take your mind off things. In my experience, other young people who work abroad are always up to do some fun after-work activities, or catch-up at the weekend. This is a great way to gradually build your social circle and make life abroad less daunting.

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Whether you’ll end up in a big city that never sleeps or a small provincial town, keep in mind that these challenges won’t have to ruin your “life abroad” experience. This is going to be a once in a lifetime experience, so enjoy every step of the way!

 Talk to a study advisor

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