Global Experiences intern Stephanie Mellinger shares her insight on some of the curveballs you might encounter while living abroad, and how to handle them.
You’re interning abroad. You get to explore new cities and new countries. You can meet new people, try new food, go to festivals, and see famous sights among countless of other things. To top things off, you get to do all of this while gaining valuable work experience. What could go wrong?
As an intern, you’re going to be abroad for 8-15 weeks. When is the last time you went 8 weeks without a single issue or bad day? Never? Exactly.
People get so wrapped up in the amazement of a new experience, they sometimes forget that they are still human and they are still living life. Here are some things that are very likely to happen. Don’t get discouraged when they do. Stay positive, and treat it like any other day!
#1. Feeling like an outsider:
It doesn’t matter how much you research a country and its cultural norms; you won’t truly know what it’s like until you arrive. It can be kind of a shock, and it’ll take a little bit of time to adhere to the norms. It’ll be even more difficult because you won’t have your normal support network. You may feel alone and confused, but don’t get discouraged!
That’s the great thing about Global Experiences, you have other interns going through the same difficulties as you and who you can relate with. Get lost and make mistakes with each other, then learn and grow with them as well.
#2. Homesickness/general bad days:
Homesickness is a real thing. Even if you’re ready to be completely independent on this great trip, you’re going to develop homesickness at least once. Thankfully, you’ll have plenty of access to WiFi, so it’s easy to Skype friends and family from home!
If you’re just having a normal bad day (everyone gets those) don’t make it worse. Sometimes, when people have a bad day, they make it seem even more awful because they’re in a completely different country. You may get sick, you may have a bad day at work, you may get in a fight with a friend, and you may get homesick.
Didn’t these things happen to you when you first left for college too? You still had a great time, and you’ll still have a great time abroad! Being in a different country doesn’t change anything. If nothing else, use it as a reason to see passed the bad.
You’re only in this amazing place for a limited amount of time. Don’t get yourself down, and don’t let others get you down. Make the most of your experience. Just remember, if you do have a bad day, that’s OK. Deal with it like a bad day at home, and get on to having the experience of a lifetime! Plus, our location coordinators are available 24/7 if you need them for any reason.
#3. Language barrier:
This is true even for those who are fluent in the language. Different places have different accents that can make some people hard to understand, and they may use slang words you’ve never heard of. It can get very discouraging and even more so if you don’t know the language.
Thankfully, Global Experiences is all about you being successful. So, if a foreign language is necessary for your internship, your program will include training to help lower this barrier.vHowever, it’s not just verbal communication you need to worry about. Non-verbal is just as important if not more so!
This can get frustrating as well. For example, a simple handshake can send a huge message. In the United States, a strong handshake shows confidence. In other countries, a firm handshake will come across too strong and turn people off. So be aware of body language and learn as you go. Don’t get frustrated. If you accidentally do something wrong, just apologize.
You’ll be surprised how understanding people can be as long as you’re trying!
We are so conditioned to thinking of value in terms of USD. We see $25 and know that value can equal a nice shirt, the total for 2 to go out to lunch, etc. However, 25 of any other currency is completely different. Of course we know that, we learned about conversion rates back in middle school. It’s difficult, though, because all of a sudden you have to measure value differently. For example, if you see 25 CNY, you have to understand that can’t even buy you a nice lunch. Your sense of value is completely thrown off and this can get frustrating.
#5. Miscellaneous emergencies:
Again, this is life. Anything can happen! Don’t stay in a bubble, but be prepared. One thing you can do is keep all of your documents with you. Even if you’re going out to eat, bring your passport, insurance information, IDs, and anything else you might need.
That way if you’re injured or something happens, you don’t have to worry about going back to your housing. However, this also means pay extra attention to your items and avoid pickpockets (Don’t bring purses that don’t zip, don’t keep your wallet/phone in a back pocket, never leave your stuff unattended, etc.).
Overall, going abroad is an amazing adventure, and you have an opportunity to do something unique. Enjoy it, but understand it won’t be perfect. The challenges you will face are part of what will make this such an incredible experience, though.
They are the reasons you become more independent, more mature, more confident, etc. If traveling was easy, everyone would do it. So, don’t get discouraged. Keep your head up, and enjoy an amazing experience abroad! Take the first step and inquire about an internship today.