What to Expect From an Internship Abroad

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Claudia Telling, an Economics student from the University of Bath, is currently doing a marketing and business development internship at tech start-up labfolder. What makes this internship different from others? It’s based in Berlin.

Keep reading for Claudia’s top tips on navigating an internship abroad...

There are a lot of factors to consider when applying for an internship abroad. Not only is it a completely new work environment, but adjusting to the city itself can be a shock to the system.

Not to fret, if you stay level-headed, it should be relatively easy to adjust to your new surroundings.

Break the language barrier

The most daunting part of doing a placement abroad is immersing yourself in a foreign setting. This can be particularly overwhelming if your language skills aren’t up to scratch. But the best way to learn is to jump in head first and learn from experience. You’ll learn so much more by interacting with locals than by repeating the alphabet in a classroom.

True, it can be nerve-wracking when you are approached by a local asking for directions in a foreign language. However, this really pushes you to learn phrases that will help you cope with all kinds of situations. If you are applying for a placement in a country in which you don’t know the language very well, it’s a good idea to practise a few simple phrases that will help you out when you are put on the spot.

For example, the first phrase that you should learn is “I can’t speak *foreign language* very well” to indicate that the language should be switched to English. From here, it is important to learn phrases that apply to your day-to-day life, such as going to the supermarket or ordering in a restaurant.

Experience different cultures

You’re unlikely to learn everything about a country’s customs just from browsing the internet. So no matter how much research you do, it can be a bit of a shock to the system when you arrive.

However, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can open up so many doors of opportunity. When you move to another country you’re no longer just a tourist, and interacting with different people allows you to find out what that culture is really about. Speaking from personal experience, locals are more than grateful to share their experiences and the hardships they have faced. 

Enhance your future prospects

An international internship or placement looks great on your CV.

As well as proving to future employers that you are willing to challenge yourself, working abroad opens your eyes to different ways of working. It’s an opportunity to build a global network of industry experts and develop a wide range of transferable skills, all while get a clearer idea of which career you’d like to pursue. 

Widen your career options

Whether you already have your future career path laid out, or you still aren’t sure what you want to do, a placement year abroad will broaden your horizons.

For instance, economics undergraduates typically charge into the City of London to take on an internship in the banking sector. However, I opted for an alternative route and applied for a marketing role in Berlin. It has been refreshing to learn that my skill set can be applied to more roles than previously thought.

As a native English speaker, I am the designated English content writer, which means writing numerous articles on subjects I’m not familiar with. This has included content on laboratory automation and digitisation, as well as on the uses of an Electronic Lab Notebook. In doing so, I discovered a writing talent I didn’t know I had.

Given my position as an intern, knowing that any English content had to be reviewed by me also gave me a glimpse of editorial satisfaction. This experience has opened up a whole new career option that I could choose to follow; one that I wasn’t open to beforehand.

You need a lot of resilience if you’re going to handle the responsibilities that come with doing an internship abroad. It is a giant leap out of one’s comfort zone, but a true testament to your character; something that will help you standout in future job applications.