Today I have something a bit different for you all. My boyfriend, Tom, who is also on a year abroad in Germany at the moment has had a rather different experience to mine so far, and is here to share some advice for anyone thinking of interning on their year abroad or year in industry. He had a tough start to his year abroad, but it's all working out now!
Year Abroad - What interning is really like and some advice
So you’ve probably come on this post to see what interning on a Year Abroad is really all about… I can tell you that it has been the hardest yet best thing I have ever done. What follows is a list of 5 things you can expect and look out for prior and during your Year Abroad, particularly if you have a year out in industry.
Do not take an unpaid internship
Now I know it sounds ridiculous to work full time for absolutely zilch money but that was what I had originally planned to do… wow oh wow was that a bad decision. Take note, there is a reason behind your lack of pay. In my case it was because the business I was at (for 2 weeks) made 60 EURO revenue in one month (not profit – revenue!) and couldn’t even afford one part time, let alone full time, employee – even though in the job description, they stated they had 18 full time employees… which leads me on to my next point…
Be prepared for BS
People WILL try to take advantage of you. What this experience has taught me is how to see through people whenever they are talking absolute crap. Somebody saying to me they have been to the ‘Harvard of China’ and that they have 18 employees when in reality it’s 3 unpaid interns and a small dog did not go down well at all.
Jump into the language
After my first internship I decided that my primary goal from this year was to, naturally, improve my language. It’s scary but definitely go for an experience where you will be launched so far out of your comfort zone you sweat like a fat man at a buffet. Just go for it and embarrass yourself… I do it daily.
Adapt to the culture
Now this is an important one… particularly coming from an idiot Brit like my good self. When in your destination country, take a note of the working environment and culture. I have genuinely been shouted at for telling a harmless joke which I found absolutely ridiculous at the time. You need to transform yourself… become a different person when speaking your language and adapt.
Prepare for the hard times
Working in a foreign country is by no means easy. You will work hard. You will work long hours and you probably won’t have too much free time. Make the most of the weekends and enjoy them but be prepared for long weeks of work. My Year Abroad started badly, and I am not the only one. I was working full time, unpaid, not learning anything and every night I was doing applications for new jobs. It was hard but at the end of the day and the year, everything you do will be completely worth it!
So my final bit of advice would be to just enjoy it. If things aren’t going your way, just go with the attitude of ‘we go again’. Being shy and afraid to speak the language after a difficult prior experience is not the attitude to have and, particularly in an internship in a foreign language, a good attitude can get you far.