As Helmi was going into her senior year at University of Alabama this past summer, she wanted to expand her worldview and hone her professional skill set and she believes that her internship abroad in London did more than just that. Her story highlights the power time in London, which she notes is “a multicultural city with a rich history,” and that’s a big part why people from around the world are naturally drawn to the city of iconic telephone booths and bright red double decker buses. We’re going to explore Helmi’s life-changing experience with some highlights of her journey and the effect that it’s had on her life.
Why I Decided to Intern Abroad
She credits her family for instilling a love for travel and helping others while looking to return to the UK, where she grew up for some time as a child. After exploring more than eighty countries and visiting all seven continents, her curiosity lead her to do an internship abroad. She wanted a unique opportunity to live and work in a new environment. As Helmi puts it, “I knew it was my best chance at immersing myself in my desired field while also immersing myself in a new culture,” but she knew that it would come with some uncertainty.
She didn’t know what to expect from the internship and she wasn’t sure how she was going to make friends or get used to a big city but as time went on, as she puts it, “those worries [were] dissuaded and my expectations have been surpassed.” She found her rhythm and footing after some exploration. From finding new restaurants to good snacks, she got more comfortable moving about the city. Helmi was able to say NO to FOMO!!
Helmi could have had a non-profit internship in almost any of our global cities (see our Top NGO Cities here!), so what made London stick out for her? The history and the deep tradition is what made her decide on the location, but she really enjoyed some musical theatre on the West End in London. See photo above!
Supportive Friends and Family
Her family was fully supportive of her decision to go intern and live abroad in a new culture and city. The uniqueness of this opportunity got her family and friends excited for her to learn doing something that she had never previously done. Read more on talking to your parents about interning abroad!
Helmi's Non-Profit Internship
Helmi interned for a Non-Profit organization that supports women and children fleeing domestic violence. They offer dedicated legal advice, counseling, parenting services and domestic violence workshops. Also offered is safe housing for their refugees accross London, as well as community based support for women living in their own homes.
For the first two weeks, she shadowed co-workers until she got more relaxed with her responsibilities. As she got more acquainted with her work, she asked for more responsibilities but never felt that the work overwhelmed her since she had the full support of her team. Along with increased roles, she felt more and more prepared to help with a wide range of tasks. Go Helmi!
Clarified Career Path
She had aspirations to work specifically in the field of mental health and a part of her wishes she got to do more in that respect, but she was able to explore the Non-Profit career field by advocating and working with a wide range of organizations. Her confidence increased as she went forward in the program, and most importantly, she felt a sense of fulfillment due to the her high level of involvement within advocacy.
Professional Skills Learned
Her internship experience widened her view and perspective of the entire process of working in an office environment. From organizing files and sending emails to processing paperwork and talking to clients, she says, “I enjoy[ed] assisting them with cases at all levels of the risk spectrum and at various points of progress.” At the time same, she gained an invaluable, hands-on experience that gave her a firsthand understanding alongside people from another culture.
Getting Along with Co-Workers
Helmi felt at home during her internship and she got along great with coworkers. She said, “The team dynamic is like a family and they welcomed me into their family with arms wide open.” She always kept the lines of communication with them, whether it was a professional or personal problem. Everyone in her office was open to lending a hand and she felt supported throughout her stay in London. It's always great to know that you have a family in your home away from home as you're interning abroad!
Culture in London
Becoming a Londoner
The local phrases and embracing the accent in any location is a big challenge, and takes even native speakers of the same language on a wild ride. As Helmi puts it, this shared linguistic adventure allowed her to, “...learn something new about their country and my own.” Helmi needed some time to adjust and get accustomed to the English accent as well as reading the time. She had to get used to read the 24hr clock, or military time as we tend to refer to it here in the United States, and it certainly takes patience to embrace these types of differences.
She notes that she felt a sense of duty to bridge the gap between cultural contrasts. She felt that, “it is valuable to hear about how other people view my country and culture and it reminds me of the importance of being the best ‘ambassador’ possible…” The idea of breaking down stereotypes and really connecting with the local culture allowed Helmi to connect with English culture and that helped her come away with a personal understanding of English people.
Takeaways from her Experience
Helmi saw the importance of how even our smallest efforts and interactions can have a big effect on people. As she puts it, “...every single effort to help someone, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, has an enormous impact…” Part of the experience of going abroad is taking in the surroundings and appreciating even the most subtle differences. Whether you’re in or out of the office, you’ll be surrounded with options to explore a new culture.
Advice to Future Interns
The impact that Helmi felt during her time abroad made her realize the importance of appreciating the moment and looking ahead to what’s next. Her two biggest pieces of advice are, “think of this as an investment in your future,” and “your family and friends will be there when you return”. The idea of embracing your independence as an adult are key points to getting the most out of your internship experience and Helmi understood the balance of both the present moment and the future.
Learning from Helmi’s experience, we can see that she fully embraced the challenge of her experience and that she took advantage of it. She came in as a travel veteran and still took time to adjust but ultimately came out at the end of her internship stronger and more independent. Snaps to Helmiu for being open towards her new experience! Through her involvement in her non-profit internship, she has taught us all an important lesson in seeing and understanding the obstacles in front of us in order to really appreciate them. According to Helmi, “[interning abroad] is beneficial for anyone to try even if they are apprehensive about how they would fit in somewhere far away from home.” Helmi’s experience shows us all that we need to allow ourselves to recognize the difficulty in the road ahead of us and ask others for help to go beyond them.
Is London Calling your Name?
Does Helmi's story inspire you to look into a non-profit internship abroad, or see where your opportunities lie in London? To find out more information, apply today and one of our Admissions Counselors will get in touch to learn more about what you’re looking to do and make your dreams a reality!