Amanda Hagy is a student at University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA Internships in Dublin, Ireland.
Preparing and pursuing interning abroad has been an eye-opening experience that has broadened my individual, social, and professional perspective through my time working at the Young Social Innovators (YSI) in Dublin, Ireland. I have learned a range of lessons along the way that have added to my outlook since my last time abroad studying in Sydney, Australia.
1. ‘Life does not slow down; you just need to learn to adjust with it.’
The most significant difference that I noticed with my second time abroad has been the lack of flexibility to spontaneously take long weekend trips while working a structured nine-to-five. In Sydney, most of us tended only to have class three days a week. The open availability allowed for time to travel and the ability to plan our semester. During an eight-week internship working forty-hours a week, you not only tend to be exhausted by Friday but on top of this, you are limited to two full days to travel. While the idea of, ‘seeing it all,’ seems great learning to prioritize a few trips mixed with weekends to recharge and take advantage of everything Dublin has had to offer has genuinely enriched my experience.
2. Interning Abroad is a Real Professional Opportunity
Before I began my internship, I prepared and interviewed for weeks. Nonetheless, I initially expected something more like a two-month vacation before graduation rather than a serious position. Little did I know the moment I started at the Young Social Innovators I would be hitting the ground running with market research, content creation, public relations preparations, conducting interviews, attending events, and so much more. In some ways, I have done more in my eight-weeks than in a typical semester back home in the states.
My recommendation is to take an internship, abroad or domestic, seriously because you never know what will come out of it. For instance, I was lucky enough to have been offered an opportunity to extend my time at YSI for a short-term period outside of my initial commitment. Due to immigration restraints and personal roadblocks I respectively chose to decline; however, it reminded me that every experience can turn into a potential opportunity.
3. Studying Abroad and Interning Abroad Are Night and Day
A year ago, when I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia it was the beginning of my junior year. At the time, graduation was in the distant future, I had just turned twenty-one, and I was living each day for the memories. Not to say that an internship aboard is not still a period of amazing moments and surreal times, but many who are interning abroad are graduating seniors.
Priorities such as thinking ahead, networking, and attempting to produce a near flawless resume consume your free time during the week more than ever before. While pursuing your internship you are working a full-time job and simultaneously preparing for other professional opportunities in the coming future. It’s important to stay dedicated and make the most of the little time you are allocated in order to succeed.
4. ‘Closed Mouths Do Not Get Fed’
My mom always tells the same story about the time she dropped me off at daycare, when I told her I wanted to go in alone and that it was, “my time.” While independence is rooted in my personality, it is can be a learned trait. For instance, a few weeks ago I was confused on instructions my boss had sent me in connection to piecing together content for an Irish Secondary School program I was unfamiliar with. After initially attempting to research the answer with no luck, I decided to communicate with her directly. I expressed my confusion and she steered me in the right direction. While your supervisors obviously want you to succeed, no one is going to coddle and hold your hand. You have to learn to open your mouth, because as a mentor of mine once said closed mouths do not get fed.
5. Document Your Experience
A tip that I like to tell anyone looking to travel is to write or create something that showcases their experiences in some way. When I was in Sydney, I picked up a small ‘kangaroo,’ notepad that I have been collaborating, “one favorite memory,” from every country and destination I have gotten to see. The notepad reminds me of all the reasons I love to travel, aides in self-reflection, and has helped me in discovering writing topics to increase my professional portfolio. When I interviewed for my position with YSI, I had included a portfolio containing the ISA published blogs I wrote while in Sydney. In the middle of my internship, my supervisor in a one-on-one meeting said that my blogs from Sydney were a deciding factor to take me on at YSI. Initially, blogging, for me began as something I did because I always have loved writing and over time my passion has turned into real opportunities and potentially could be someone else’s next break too.
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