I am now more than half-way through my time here in Spain and although I am still learning something new everyday, I feel I have gotten more than enough experience to have some sort of an idea what I am doing. Even though my experience as an intern has taken place entirely in Spain, I feel my advice can still be applied to any internship abroad. So without further ado, and in no particular order, I present my tips to ensure you get full satisfaction from your internship overseas.
- Get over yourself.
This is the piece of advice I can give to anyone no matter his or her situation. Studying abroad? Get over yourself. Interning abroad? Get over yourself. Studying in the United State? Get over yourself. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but rather a constructive way. Think of it as my way of saying, quit being so self-conscious about everything you do. You don’t understand something your supervisor just said to you? Ask for him/her to clarify. You’re an intern. Sure you’re not a student anymore, but you’re also not a full-fledged professional either. And to those of you who think you do know everything: in the words of my grandpa, “You don’t know the price of beans.”
- Be prepared for a more relaxed work pace.
If I had a nickel every time someone told me, “Here [Spain] the people work to live, not live to work [like in the US],” I’d be a rich man. The work environments in Spain are completely different. Granted, I’ve never had a job besides life-guarding and coaching swimming, but from what I’ve heard and the way my professors, parents, and older friends talk about this “real world,” it sounds like a terrible place compared to what I’ve experienced and witnessed here in Spain. Although this is a general rule, there are exceptions, but IN GENERAL they’ll be much more relaxed.
- Try to Speak the Language
This tip can be applied to students and interns all throughout the world. Try to speak the language. My interactions with locals here in Valencia have improved my Spanish faster than eight years of studies. It definitely helps me feel more “at home” here in Valencia because I can converse with the locals and ask for help when I need to. Sure, it is difficult to understand them at times and sometimes my coming up with a response can take a long time, but they appreciate the effort. If you don’t know the local language, at least learn the basics and/or take lessons if you can. Being able to communicate on even a basic level will help with making you feel more at ease in your new overseas home.
NOTE: Combine this one with Tip 1 for maximum efficiency
- QUÉ SERÁ SERÁ
What will be will be. Again, this advice can be applied to any aspect of your life. Sometimes things work out according to plan. Most times they don’t. Get used to. Your internship and time abroad will be the same. I was on my way back to Valencia after a weekend trip to Amsterdam and Rome, when the airline changed our gate three minutes after we were suppose to board. Rather become flustered by the situation, I just laughed at the absurdity of it all. Like some people say, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
- Get Lost
There is no better way to get acquainted with your new hometown than wandering. In Valencia, there’s a giant former riverbed running down the middle of the city that I can get myself to and from anywhere in the city. I can explore without fear of actually getting lost. As soon as you get to your new home, discover where the city’s major landmarks are (historical buildings, major plazas, etc.) so that you can then navigate back to your home or worksite. Having the city downloaded in your offline maps on Google Maps for a back up is also a good idea, but try not to become dependent on it.
Everyone is going to have a different experience abroad, and every country and city is going to be different. By keeping an open mind and heeding these five simple tips, you can ensure your time abroad is a positive one.
The world awaits…discover it.