29 Mar 2016
Navigating An International Internship

Navigating An International Internship

By Taylor Valenta

Entering a new workplace is scary, especially when that workplace is half-way across the world. This was the situation I found myself in two months ago. As a student from the United States studying abroad for a semester, I chose to participate in an international internship at Spectrum Group, a Sydney-based integrated comms agency, for course credit. My first day was nerve-wracking, particularly because I was in a new country where everyone had unusual accents. However, I managed to overcome the shock that comes from moving half-way across the world and learnt how to make the most of an international internship. Here are some tips that have helped see me through:

In The First Week: Stay Positive!
  • The key to adjusting to a new workplace quickly is to have an open mind. It’s all about keeping those positive thoughts going! While it’s easy to let the nerves overwhelm you, you can’t let yourself fall into that trap. A positive attitude coupled with an open mind will not only help you adjust to your new surroundings but also make your new colleagues more comfortable while they get to know you.
  • As an intern, you need to know that it’s okay to ask for help. I’m aware of how simple and clichéd this sounds, but it really is important. You’re new and have a lot to learn about your new company, so don’t be scared to ask for clarification the first go-around. After all, everyone has been in the new starter’s shoes before.
In The First Month: Be A Sponge!
  • There will be a ton (or should I say tonne?) of new information being thrown at you and that’s okay! Take ownership of your own learning. Jot down notes in meetings, get to know the background of clients for yourself, and stay up to date on what is happening in the industry. You can create a tracker of clients with bios, keep relevant articles bookmarked by week in your browser and even have a seating chart of people in your office to get to know everyone better. Not only will this help you to adjust, it will demonstrate to your company your pro-activity and willingness to learn. On that note, find ways you can go above and beyond to add value to the company. In my time here I have taken on the title of Excel Spreadsheet Queen.
  • One of the best ways to dive in and get comfortable in your internship is to get involved. Participate in office events or grab lunch with co-workers, do your best to integrate yourself into the office culture. When you come from a place of ‘yes’, you will be surprised how receptive your co-workers will become. Always remember that you are there to help and they are excited to have you as part of the team.

Internships, particularly abroad, can be summed up perfectly by this quote: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” So get out there and make it happen!

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