The choice to move to a foreign country for an internship abroad is a big decision.
It can be the most rewarding decision since it tests our character and abilities to our core, but it can also be one of the toughest decisions.
Like many others, you have chosen to put yourself completely out there and gain one of the most rewarding experiences – living in a completely new culture! You should be proud of yourself for making this decision.
If you’re moving to a new country which, not only, has a completely different culture to your own, but also involves speaking another language, we have some tips and tricks for you:
This is a big one. Allow yourself plenty of time before you leave on your internship to conduct research around the following topics:
Language: at the very least know what language they speak in your chosen country. Spanish, French, Dutch? It is best to learn and understand at least a few of the most basic phrases – for example, “hello”, “goodbye”, “please”, “thank you”, “how are you?” etc.
If this is easy for you, then the next step is to learn more complicated sentences, such as ordering food and understanding numbers. This will help you a long way in the first few days you have arrived. No one expects you to be an expert in the language, but local people always appreciate it when a foreigner at least attempts to speak their language – it shows you have respect for their culture and want to know and understand more about them.
Culture: understand some of the main points of the culture, such as important religious or holy days, whether you need to tip wait staff and service workers, what is considered appropriate clothing (i.e women must be covered at all times in some countries), or whether drinking or smoking is acceptable behavior.
These are just some suggestions; the list is really endless. Any simple Google search will assist you with all of these. And if you know someone who has travelled to the country you are visiting, then this is even better, as they will likely have tips for you that are not available online.
Food: it is always a good idea to research the typical cuisine before going overseas, especially if you have any allergies or food requirements (i.e vegetarianism). Not all countries have the resources available to cater to these needs, so it is a good idea to plan ahead.
Work life: since you are going for an internship, it is a good idea to research what the average working week is like in your chosen country. For some, you will be expected to work a full 40-50 hour week, while for others you may only be expected to be there 30 hours of the week. It is also a good idea to consult your company or internship manager if you have any questions prior to leaving.
2. A translation book
or any translation app on your mobile is a necessity. Just like native English speakers have different accents, other languages do also! So in case you get stuck, ensure you have a translation device handy at all times.
3. Be respectful
Now this might seem basic, but sometimes respect is less obvious than we first assume. A good idea is to observe the local people around you in any situation and basically copy what they are doing until you have a better grasp on customs and expectations. You would be surprised what some cultures find rude!
We hope these tips get you started along your way. While moving to a foreign country can be daunting, it is also a lot of fun! What better way to learn a new language than by being absorbed and completely immersed in the culture and sounds?! We think it is pretty exciting (and trust us, we have experienced it ourselves!).
Good luck, be adventurous, and remember to take on any exciting cultural opportunities that may present themselves to you!