Interning abroad is a great opportunity to learn and hone your skills, however, in my case, the difficulties of working in a globally diverse environment forces you to understand a combination of social, cultural, and personal aspects of your colleagues.
Starting from the top, entering any new workplace provides interns with the anxious questions of whether the company will truly be a good fit, if their colleagues will like them & vice versa, and will the internship allow them to progress their professional skills. Interns have the choice to become self-starters to make the most of their experience, however, what if you are limited by an overworked supervisor or if the company doesn’t have the funds to provide certain resources that will multiply your effectiveness? Perhaps your supervisor has a different set of views than yourself, which is completely fine, but what if this makes communication challenging and opportunities scarce? What if the stereotypes of my ethnicity will make others react to me in ways that aren’t accurate to who I am or inquire about ignorant questions? How will we as a team collectively overcome language barriers? Will my own ignorance be accepted for long enough to acclimate and adjust my views, actions, and understanding of the culture?
Starting a new internship is stressful, you don’t know if you are ready, I get it, you get it, we get it. Instead of entering your new position concerned about what your capabilities or what problems you may face, change your mindset. Note, being aware of the challenges you may face is a good thing, spending too much time and energy on them isn’t! When you go to your internship, remember the 5 P's! Proper Practice Prevents Poor Performance. If you have done the research on the company, understand your role, and have brushed up a little on some old skills, you will be fine. The key is to understand that an internship is meant for you to gain and hone the skills necessary in your industry. You are not expected to know everything but you are expected to go into every project knowing that if you don’t have an answer, you can find one. If you adopt the mindset of “I may not know now, but I will learn it” your supervisor will be impressed and see that you are willing to put in the work necessary to complete a project. Take a few extra minutes to understand what you are doing, what is required, and how to complete it with the structure and criteria that your supervisor wants.
The second mindset to maintain in your internship is that patience, tolerance, and good communication: listening, respect, reiterating, questioning, and expressing, will allow you to navigate the challenges of being with a diverse set of colleagues with different or similar views. By taking the time to respectfully speak with your colleagues, you get to understand them and vice-versa. Being genuine and tolerant while communicating, you will be able to move beyond any stereotypes, comments, or ideas. Understand that people come from different backgrounds and hold different values, that is okay. Although there may be differences, understand that we as people are similar because we have the same needs (sometimes in different doses). Stay tolerant of others views and use good communication to dive in and learn more about each other!
Internships abroad are full of new experiences, some great, others not so much. It is our job to be reasonably tolerant, curious, and willing to put in the work to make the most of the experience. Sometimes days will be long and boring while others will be fast and fun. There are highs & lows. Remember that the whole time you are achieving our goal of an internship: learning! So go for it! Don’t be scared! Be curious, because you never know what is going to come out of the mystery box of internships!