Top Regrets of International Interns

by Dominic James Fusco

If you have decided to take on an internship abroad, then congratulations, the hard part is over. Committing to such an adventure takes a whole lot of gumption, so you should be happy that the decision to go for it is behind you. Now comes the fun part: traveling the world, making connections with people from all different walks of life, and doing something you love while experiencing a new way of life.

You should be looking forward to your internship abroad, because it is bound to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. But still, undeniably, it can be an intimidating prospect awaiting on the horizon when it is pre-departure time. However, if you keep an open mind and make the effort to learn from your surroundings, then you will surely be just fine.

To qualify your experience and affirm your reasons for interning abroad, here are some helpful pointers from those who have gone through the process themselves and lived to tell the tale. From start to finish, the following are some of the top regrets of international interns, which you can luckily plan ahead for and avoid. 

Regret #1 - Playing it Safe 

Right from the outset, you should know that challenging yourself at every turn is the right way to go about an internship abroad. Interns who play it safe by staying close to home, both geographically and culturally, do not come back with the same sort of perspective-altering experience as those who took the literal “road less-traveled.” Starting with the initial choice of your destination, try something new and exciting; don’t be afraid to take risks! 

Regret #2 – Shutting Out Your Environment 

Interning abroad in a faraway country where everything seems distant and strange can sometimes spark an internal desire to close yourself off. Going straight from work back to your room and watching TV, surfing the web, or chatting with friends from home is a common outlet for fending off culture shock. However, the sooner you embrace your environment on all levels, the sooner it will begin to feel like home.

Maximize the experience of being abroad at every level by making a disciplined effort to engage with your surroundings. 

Regret #3 – Sticking to the Familiar 

It is natural for foreigners to bond first and foremost with one another when entering a foreign country, forming an instant nuclear friend group. You will be able to relate to other foreign interns, because you come from the same place, share the same language and/or culture, and have similar feelings of displacement, and this will lead to numerous blossoming friendships. While these friendships are well and good, the only problem is that sticking tightly to what you know can alienate you from befriending locals, which leads us to… 

Regret #3.5 – Not Befriending Locals 

Wherever in the world you find yourself, one of the very most rewarding parts of interning abroad is putting yourself out there and engaging with locals. These are often the strongest friendships you will make while abroad, and the most culturally educational as well. In leading a socially immersive life and conversing with as many people as you can, you will come to learn a whole lot about your host country and build relationships that will last well beyond the duration of your internship abroad. 

Regret #4 – Yielding to the Language Barrier

If you are interning abroad in a country where you do not know the local language, this can create a challenging dynamic. You will likely not be staying abroad long enough to become fluent in a new language, but that is no reason to brush off learning the language all together. You will find that even learning the basics of a language and making the effort to constantly improve will take you a long way in connecting to your surroundings. It certainly can’t hurt while networking, either!

Regret #5 – Working (or Playing) Too Hard

While interning abroad it is important to strike a balance between work and play. You don’t want to look back at your experience and think “Wow, I was so concentrated on work that I really didn’t get a chance to have fun and explore my surroundings.” At the same time, you don’t want to be thinking “Wow, I really didn’t put any effort into that internship because I was out partying all the time.” Remember that as an intern abroad you have a responsibility and a major professional opportunity; it’s important to supplement this purpose with fun, but don’t lose touch with why you are abroad in the first place.

Regret #6 – Cutting Travel Short

Lastly, interning abroad is a major opportunity to further travel the world and take some time off to have a personal journey. You can make travel plans before or after your internship placement, in the same region or in a completely different area, or you can completely wing it! As you delve further into the professional world, finding time to trek off and explore the world will become increasingly difficult. Use your internship abroad as the chance to lose (or find) yourself somewhere in this amazing planet we live on!

Here are four internship placement providers to check out who can get you started on a regret-free international adventure: