A summer internship abroad can be a life-changing experience. You learn new things, see a different part of the world, get hands-on work experience and come back with memories that can last a lifetime.
An international internship on your resume can do wonders, but only so long as you leverage it as best as you can to achieve your objectives.
But how do you actually make the most out of your internship? How do you use it to ensure that you get one step closer towards building a great career?
Here are 21 tips that will help you make the most of your summer internship abroad:
1. Set personal and professional goals
Before embarking on your internship, identify what you would like to achieve from this experience. Set professional as well as personal goals and work towards them once you begin your internship.
This will not only give you clarity on how to proceed once you’re there, but it will also help you get the most out of your internship.
2. Research the work culture of the company and country beforehand
An important aspect of working in a different country is conforming to the work culture of businesses there. By familiarising yourself with how companies function there, you show them that you respect their work ethic and are a true professional.
Being aware of how things are beforehand, helps you adjust to the new culture much faster than it would’ve otherwise.
3. Be punctual
Punctuality is one of the few things that is universally expected and appreciated in the corporate world, no matter where you are. Needless to say, being punctual won’t go unnoticed and is one of the best ways to create a positive lasting first impression.
4. Ask questions
Often, being in a new place, working on complex problems with new people in an environment you’re not used to, can be daunting at first. Whenever you feel out of your depth, ask questions.
In fact, asking questions ensures that you get your basics right and helps you learn better. No matter how simple a question might seem in your head, there is nothing wrong in asking it out loud. The simplest questions sometimes lead to the best solutions.
5. Deliver quality work, always
As with an internship anywhere, delivering your work on time and ensuring it surpasses the highest standards and expectations is a must.
It shows your dedication to the task at hand and the value you place in the work you do. This will not go unnoticed and will definitely improve your standing in the eyes of your peers and your bosses.
6. Build a good rapport with your superiors
A very common mistake made by most interns is that they shy away from upper management.
It is very important to build a good professional relationship with those higher up in the organisation. This will help you in building a valuable network.
When the time comes for you to seek a referral or a recommendation or better yet, convert this internship into a full-time job opportunity, the rapport you build with your superiors will come in handy.
7. Ask for feedback and listen
Constructive criticism is crucial for all of us to improve. Without feedback, you won’t be able to consistently improve and deliver quality work. Being able to listen to everybody’s point of view is the mark of a good leader.
Ensure that you are open to feedback and listen to what others have to say. Listening is of those skills that you should master on early on in your career. It will definitely serve you well throughout.
8. Be a fly on the wall
As an intern, initially, you’ll have more to learn than to offer. The best way to get over this effectively, is to sit in on calls and meetings whenever possible.
You needn’t even say anything, just listen and take notes. Observe and learn. Be the fly on the wall. As you get more comfortable, ask questions regarding the doubts you might have.
Before you know it, you’ll be a regular part of the discussions that go on and you’ll be a lot more involved than you were initially. In fact, your presence at these meetings will be expected.
9. Don’t be afraid to pitch in
Being an intern doesn’t make you any less a part of the office. Whenever you have an idea or a suggestion, feel free to voice it.
Your co-workers and bosses will appreciate your willingness to take initiative with confidence.
10. Meet people from different teams and learn about their roles
One of the best things about an internship is that you’re not confined or limited by your role at the company. While you will be assigned to a role or task, you have the freedom to interact with other teams and learn more.
By interacting with people from different teams you not only meet more people but also get to learn from them.
11. Be flexible
Never be picky about the work you get. Always be flexible and willing to get your hands dirty, even if it is just grunt work.
Some of the top leaders started at the bottom and worked their way to the top. Understanding the ground realities of the simplest of jobs makes for a great leader in the future. Being flexible about the work allows you to explore a variety of tasks from the ground up.
12. Volunteer to help out on projects not assigned to you
Another great way to learn diverse skills and gain more experience is to volunteer to help out on other projects even though they may not be assigned to you.
That way you may get to work on many exciting things that you might otherwise not have gotten a chance to be a part of. It also helps you get a holistic understanding of the business.
13. Try to apply what you have learnt in class at your work
Up until your internship, you will have had little understanding of how things work in the real world. Now you have an opportunity to apply the theories taught in college and understand the practicality of them.
Nothing beats knowledge coupled with experience and this will definitely serve you well in the future.
14. Network as much as possible
An international internship allows you to interact with experts in the field in another country. It is a great opportunity to build your network of professional contacts.
Moving forward, you network will help you build a great career.
15. Document your work
As your internship progresses, regularly document the work you do and update your CV. This will ensure that by the end of your internship, after you have documented all the work done, you will be able to analyze the work and gain insights from them.
If you leave doing this for after you’re back home, you might miss out on certain important details. Also, maintaining a list of your accomplishments will help you leverage your international internship better when the time comes.
16. Identify your strengths and weaknesses
An internship abroad is a good time for introspection. Use this opportunity to push yourself to your limits and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
You will find that you can work on improving yourself not just in your work life, but also in your personal life as you overcome the fear of living in a foreign land.
17. Establish real relationships with your peers
Don’t just limit your interaction with your co-workers to the office. Try to socialise and mingle with them after hours. Forming real relationships with the people you work allows you to see the place from the eyes of a local.
You’ll learn about all the local hotspots, the food, the drink, the places to visit, etc. Essentially, your new friends will also be your guide to the city.
18. Travel on days off
Needless to say, try to travel and explore the place as much as possible. Your internship abroad can also be a learning vacation where you explore the culture, see new sights, and tour around the place.
19. Try the local cuisine
Nothing beats experiencing the local cuisine of a new country. You come across exotic spices, aromas and new flavours that make for an unforgettable experience.
The cuisine of every place is unique and different. So be sure to give most things a try, no matter how you might feel about it at the time.
20. Ask for letters of recommendation
Before you leave, make sure you ask your supervisor or manager for a letter of recommendation. It’s easier to get one while you are at work than later when you’re back home.
A referral from your employer can go a long way in helping with your future job applications as they highlight the practical value of your skills, achievements and most of all serve as a testament to your work.
21. Write thank-you letters and maintain contact post the internship
Small gestures go a long way in forming long-term relationships. Write thank-you letters to those who might have helped you out in your internship, be it at work or in your personal life. It shows them that you care and appreciate their help and will help in forming relationships that last a lifetime.
Also, maintain your contact with them as much as possible after you leave your internship. Even if your internship may be done, make sure that you stay in touch with your contacts and the network you will have built.
This way you maintain the relationship you had with your peers, your bosses and the professionals in your network.
Landing a great international internship is only work half done. Ensuring that you make the most of it and grow on a personal as well as professional level, will make all the difference. Following these essential tips will help you in turning your summer internship into the experience of a lifetime.
At ConnectInc, we help you get professional world-class internships abroad, that offer all of the above and more. To learn more about our internships, you can reach out to us here.