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4 Life Changing Lessons from Interning Abroad


By : Nailah Ford-Burrell


Diverse Perspectives:

4 Life Changing Lessons from Interning Abroad

Traveling to Europe was an eye-opening adventure that every student should experience. I moved to the Netherlands to intern with an exotic animal sanctuary that housed over 150 monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, coatis, arctic foxes, and porcupines. Through this internship, I had the opportunity to transform my life and have the adventure of a lifetime.

I learned a lot from living abroad, here are four of the most memorable lessons:

Lesson 1: Traveling in Europe Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive or Dangerous!

In January 2012, I moved to the Netherlands for 89 days. During this time, I made friends from around the world who inspired and encouraged me to make the most of my stay in Europe. I am so glad that I took their advice to explore my surroundings.

Through my travels, I learned several languages (survival Dutch, French, and German), which made life less complicated when traveling between European countries. Traveling between countries was easy and surprisingly affordable. Within a few minutes of searching the Internet, I found affordable train tickets for weekend trips. Instead of paying for expensive hotels, I stayed with friends or at hostels.

I felt very safe as a woman traveling alone through Europe. With that said, if you are considering traveling on your own, DO take the necessary safety precautions and use your common sense. Also, keep your passport in a safe place, and make sure that your friends and family know your travel itinerary and check in with them throughout your trip, just in case you get sick or in an accident.

Lesson 2: Living Abroad Teaches You a Lot About Yourself!

Although I am passionate about my culture and heritage, living abroad gave me a deeper understanding of my identity. Before going to the Netherlands, I had a certain idea of what it meant to be an African-American woman. As an African-American living abroad, I was able to share and contrast my experiences and perspective of African-American culture with my Dutch colleagues. We discussed a myriad of topics from race and politics to love and food. From these conversations I learned that certain aspects of my identity that I considered uniquely African-American were in fact common in other cultures. Many aspects of Dutch fashion, popular culture, music, and even slang have been influenced by African-American culture. If I did not travel outside the U.S., I would have never known the impact African-American culture and history has had on the world.

Lesson 3: Graduate School Abroad is Possible!

Although I had an internship abroad, I was unaware of opportunities to attend graduate school in a foreign country. During breaks from my internship, I visited a friend from college in the U.S. who was now living her dream studying space sciences in Strasbourg, France. From her, I learned that attending graduate school abroad was not impossible. In fact, my friend’s graduate school experience in France was very similar to attending school in the States. For example, all of her classes were taught in English (although she had the option of taking French language courses).

You can also find financial aid to help with overseas tuition. In order to pay for school, my friend received scholarships and applied for student loans.

From my friend’s experience, I learned that anyone could attend graduate school and live comfortably in another country. All it would take is a little effort and persistence.

Lesson 4: Anything is Possible after Interning Abroad!!

Interning abroad expanded my perspective of the world and clarified what I wanted to do in life. Living in the Netherlands helped me develop the strength needed to overcome my fears and face life’s challenges. As a result of my internship abroad, I have decided to apply to graduate school. Although getting into graduate school is not easy, I know that after interning abroad I can succeed at anything. Within a year, I will be continuing my education and my work with conservation organizations for exotic animals worldwide.

Change Your Life

Overall, interning abroad can have a life changing effect. I have become a better communicator, decision maker, and I have become more knowledgeable about the world. I gained courage and a sense of inner balance while gaining life-altering and career-building experiences. If you are considering interning abroad, you will not regret it!


To find out more about internship and graduate school opportunities click the following links:

Internships Abroad Guide

Find Internship Abroad Programs

Graduate School Guide

Graduate School Abroad Programs

4 Life Changing Lessons from Interning Abroad
Nailah Ford-Burrell received her bachelors of science degree from Florida Institute of Technology and intern at an exotic animal sanctuary for chimpanzees and monkeys. Nailah Ford-Burrell
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