8 Tips to Surviving Your First Week Abroad

Dan Elias Bliss


As a college student or young professional, interning abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s your chance to see the world all while gaining valuable professional experience which will take you places in your career. Being abroad is thrilling, but the first week can be overwhelming. You are out of your comfort zone, navigating a new city, meeting lots of people from different backgrounds, and in a new work environment. Don’t worry, once you make it through those first few days, you can make it through anything. Here’s our top tips to surviving your first week abroad.  

Culture shock

Young Woman Walking Around Sydney

At first, everything about your host country is new, exciting, and slightly confusing. The culture shock, different foods, and new language can be overwhelming and disorientating. You might start asking yourself “Will I ever get over this? Will I ever fit in?” Yes, you will, but it requires some effort.

The more you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone, the easier your adjustment is going to be. These are the moments that shape you; more times than not stressful situations build character. Interning abroad is all about new experiences and expanding your horizons.

You’re not alone

Alexandra Brown Raushan New York CityBeing changed by travel is a uniquely individual experience. Thousands of other young professionals and students have interned abroad, but no two have had the same experience. No one will have the exact experience as you, but this doesn’t mean you’re alone. All your fellow interns are going through a similar mix of emotions.

The first week is by far the toughest. You might feel out of place and wonder what everyone back home is doing. However, your international internship is not the time to sit in your room scrolling through social media to see what everyone else is doing. Befriend your fellow interns and coworkers, and experience you the city around you.

The bonds and friendships you make while abroad are extraordinary and ones you’ll never forget. When you’re willing to say “yes” and explore everything around you, those feelings of being alone will quickly fade.

Jet lag remedies

Milan Intern at AirportNo traveler has ever won the war against jet lag. There are countless articles, tips, and tricks about how to get over the sluggish feeling, but none are a guarantee. You’re in a new time zone and you need to adjust your internal clock accordingly. Those first few days you’ll fall asleep too early, wake up too late, and be hungry at the wrong times.

The best way to fight jet lag is to stay awake until your host city’s bedtime. Fight the overwhelming eager to take a nap the second you get to your accommodation. If you fall asleep at 5 PM only to wake up at 1 AM, you’ve already lost the battle

Whatever you do those first few days don’t sit on the couch or stay in bed trying to adjust. Stir up energy by going out with your fellow interns and explore your new surroundings. It just might take a few days and more than just one cup of coffee, but you can beat jet lag!

Make your accommodation into home

You’ve made it! You’ve gone through the long flight and the journey to your accommodation. Now it’s time to make your new place feel like your new home. Unpack as soon as you arrive and avoid living out of a suitcase. Your accommodation will start feeling like home once all your things are out and organized.

During your first few days, find out where the essential stores are. Anywhere you know you’ll need during your stay--grocery store, drug store, clothing stores, etc. No matter how much of a pro you are at packing, you are all bound to forget something. Take a walk around to discover the area around your accommodation or ask your Location Coordinator.

Once you get all set up, those feelings of homesickness will be replaced by excitement and the belief that your host city is where you belong.

You’re going to get lost

Lost Interns Exploring Milan

No matter how much planning you do, how many maps you read, or how many times you look down at your GPS, you’re going to get lost. It’s inevitable and happens to everyone who travels abroad. Don’t panic, sometimes getting lost can be better than finding your way on the first try.

Being lost doesn’t mean your day has been ruined or your adventure has ended. In fact, it can actually lead to something even better and take you to places you otherwise would have missed. Instead of being frozen by fear, treat being lost as a chance to explore a new neighborhood, take a stroll, and see what you find. It’s your first week in your host city, and there’s a lot to discover.

When you do eventually get lost, don’t blame it on the person you’re with or bad luck. Instead, embrace the situation. Some of the best memories abroad will be the ones you find while getting lost. If you can’t find your way or need to be somewhere at a specific time, don’t be afraid to walk into a shop, restaurant, or hotel and ask a local for directions.

Get ready to be more than a tourist

Milan Intern Exploring Italy

For the first few days, you will feel like a tourist -- full of excitement, look a little out of place, and completely in awe of everything around you. Don’t stay in tourist mood your whole program. For the next few months your host city is going to be your home and you should experience it like a local.

When you’re living somewhere unfamiliar, it’s easy to unintentionally isolate yourself and stay in your comfort zone. You stick to going to touristy things or hanging out with your fellow interns, both of which are great, but to live like a local you need to engage with locals. The more you embrace the culture and befriend locals, the more at home you will feel.

Cherish the small victories

Buying a transportation card, setting up your phone, getting cash, the list goes on for all the small things you need to get done in the first week. However, the small victories that come with knocking off the small tasks one by one will make you feel even more comfortable and independent.

If it all feels a little overwhelming at first, just remember it’s only the beginning. In a few weeks, you’ll look back on those stressful days with a smile. You’ll fall in love with the city around you and consider it a second home.

First few days of your international internship

London Film Intern on her first dayYou landed yourself an international internship, amazing! The hard part is over, but the first day at work can still be nerve-racking. It’s cliché to say first impressions matter, but it’s true. Your first impression can set the tone for the rest of your internship.

Two of the biggest factors of professionalism are being punctual and dressing for the part. For your first day, make sure to show up about five minutes early. Even if you’re in a city where it's common to be a little late, you should always be on time.

Wondering what to wear on your first day of your internship? Ask your supervisor what the common attire for the office. First few days is when you can get away with being slightly overdressed.

When meeting someone for the first time make sure to stand up and give a firm handshake, it’ll show your coworkers you have the trust, enthusiasm, and confidence to be a valuable part of their company. Once you get over the initial nerves and make a great first impression, you’re bound to have an incredible internship experience.

There you have it! Everything you need to know to have a successful first week abroad. Setup a call with one of our Admissions Counselors to discuss your opportunities to intern abroad.

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