So, you’ve put in the work and landed yourself a sweet internship abroad. Congrats! After basking in that giddy feeling of impending adventure, you’re probably realizing that there’s still a lot to do to prepare for your internship. Packing, finances, and finding a place to stay are probably high on your list, but don’t forget to consider your health and safety, too! When thinking about how to stay safe while interning abroad, a little preparation can go a long way toward a successful internship experience.
Is interning abroad safe?
Let’s be real: aside from a hermetically sealed room, no place on earth is 100% safe. That said, thousands of interns spend time abroad each year without incident, and you can too! By researching safety tips for interning abroad before you depart and being smart on the ground, you can have an incredible learning experience that’s more fun than fear.
Staying safe while traveling is a lot easier when you’re prepared. By learning about your host country’s culture and gathering information from others who’ve lived there, you’ll arrive armed with enough knowledge to safely navigate your new home. This could involve making changes to your daily routine, altering how you dress, or learning how to be more aware of your surroundings.
Keep in mind that staying safe and healthy while interning abroad won’t happen on its own. You need to be an active participant in ensuring your own well-being. You can’t eliminate every risk out there, but by being aware of your surroundings and following our health tips for interning abroad, you’re putting yourself on the path to a successful and safe internship experience.
The world’s safest countries that also double as popular intern abroad destinations
If you want to boost your chances of staying safe while traveling, it doesn’t hurt to do a little research. While no country is perfect, by finding out which countries are ranked the safest, you can minimize the odds of running into problems.
Coincidentally, many of the safest countries are also popular internship spots, which means you get peace of mind to go along with all that career-building goodness. European countries rank high on the list overall, and nations like Germany, Spain, and Iceland are great places to hone your skills. If you’re focused on English-speaking countries, check out Ireland, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. For those interested in Asia, choosing an internship in Japan or Singapore is a great option.
13 basic health & safety tips
There’s a lot to keep in mind when you arrive in a new country. By practicing these safety tips for interning abroad, you’ll be well on your way to a successful internship:
1. Wash your hands.
This sounds simple, but washing your hands is one of the best methods of staying healthy while traveling. Especially in the early days of your internship, when you’re shaking a lot of hands and visiting new places, it’s one of the best ways to avoid getting sick.
2. Know who to call.
Make sure you know the numbers for emergency services in your host country, and keep all of your emergency contact numbers in more than one place. In case your phone is lost or stolen, you’ll still be able to get in touch with the authorities, your credit card or insurance company, and your family.
3. Be a picky eater.
Before you arrive in your host country, do a little research on food and waterborne illnesses. Is the water safe to drink from the tap? Do you need to consider how food is prepared? Depending on your destination, you may need to skip out on certain foods, drinks, or preparation methods to avoid food poisoning.
4. Be discreet.
Don’t display your money or new iPhone when out in public. Thieves commonly target people who look like foreigners, and more than one traveler has had her phone plucked straight from her hand, never to be seen again. Try to blend in with the locals, through your dress and actions, to avoid looking like an easy target.
5. Buy health insurance.
Trust us on this one. While the upfront expense might have you wondering if it’s worth it, if you end up needing medical care while abroad, you’ll be glad you don’t have to cover the cost out of pocket. Make sure you compare travel insurance plans and providers because coverage options and costs can vary greatly.
6. Learn the local language.
There is perhaps no way to stay safer than to learn some of the local language. If your internship isn’t in an English-speaking country, brush up on the basics before heading abroad. Not only will this serve you well when ordering dinner and buying souvenirs, but it’ll also come in handy should you require help from strangers.
7. Educate yourself.
Learn about your host country and its current social and political issues. There is often a lot more going on below the surface that visitors aren’t aware of, and having more details about local affairs is essential. Not only will this make you smarter when you’re out and about, it’ll also come in handy when chatting with co-workers around the water cooler.
8. Be street smart.
Look both ways when crossing the street! Seriously. Whether you’re in a country that drives on the other side of the road than you’re used to, or a place where traffic laws are merely a suggestion, learning how traffic works is crucial. Traffic accidents are one of the main ways travelers are injured, so avoid being a victim by learning the rules of the road.
9. Dress your best.
Pay attention to how your colleagues dress. Do they dress formally in the office, or is their apparel more laidback? Does your host culture prefer modest dress? In order to be respected in your office and while on the street, consider what you’re wearing and if it’s appropriate. What may be fine in your home country could be taken as offensive elsewhere.
10. Be aware of your surroundings.
Do some research on your host community and find out more about different areas of the city. Talk with locals. Are there certain areas that should be avoided after dark? Is it common for people (especially women) to walk alone at night? What safety tips should you follow to avoid becoming the victim of a crime? Your co-workers and other locals are your best source of information, so take their advice seriously.
11. Become a money master.
Before you depart, think about how you want to handle your money. Are credit cards widely used in your host country? Will you be able to get cash easily? Should you get some local currency before you arrive? Try not to carry around large amounts of money on a daily basis and ensure you have a couple different ways to access funds. Cash machines can occasionally malfunction, so having more than a single credit or debit card can be a lifesaver when yours disappears into the ATM.
12. See your doctor.
Aside from a quick check up to make sure you’re healthy, it’s important to discuss your travel plans with a medical professional. Depending on your destination, you may need additional vaccines or medications. You can get an idea of what’s recommended by visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control travel website. Additionally, if you’ll be away for a long period of time, ensure you have adequate amounts of any medications you’re currently taking. It’s not always possible to obtain refills in other countries.
13. Take care of yourself.
This is one of the most important health tips for interning abroad. Mental health is often overlooked when traveling, but it’s also one of the most crucial times to implement self-care strategies. Internships abroad can be stressful. You’re not only navigating a new country’s culture, but you’re trying to figure out a new workplace culture, too. You might be working long hours or have a lengthy commute, so it’s important to find time for yourself. Your internship experience will be greatly improved when make your mental health a priority — guaranteed.
While women and LGBTIQ* interns may have additional safety concerns, that doesn’t mean that interning abroad isn’t an option. By doing some advance research and preparation, you can still find the perfect host country to help you expand your professional skills.
Is it safe for women to intern abroad solo?
Yes! Women intern abroad by themselves all the time. By taking into account all of the advice of how to stay safe while interning abroad, you can have a successful internship experience while flying solo. However, note that in some countries you may need to alter your habits or dress to better fit in with the local culture. Talk with your female colleagues about special safety tips for women in your host city. This will help you get a feel for your environment while also hopefully making some new friends!
Sexual harassment in the workplace. If you’ve been sexually harassed at your internship, document the incident in writing. Then, report it to your in-country support staff. Let’s say all the staff are men and you’d rather open up to a woman. You can totally reach out to a counselor or advisor back home. Skyping a 1-800 harassment hotline is acceptable too. Check out GoAbroad’s sexual harassment resources for students abroad as well. We’ve put together an entire e-book on the topic.
Should I be worried about sexual harassment in the workplace?
Sexual harassment is likely a concern in your home country as well as your host country, and it is something you need to be aware of, but don’t let it scare you from doing an internship abroad. Before you leave, look for resources you can contact if there is an issue. If your internship is organized through a placement program, make sure you know who to contact in case of problems. Additionally, ask female colleagues what you should do if an uncomfortable situation arises. Not all companies have clear reporting structures or HR departments, so knowing your resources and what steps to take can be useful if harassment does occur.
Where is it safe to intern abroad openly as a LGBTIQ*?
While interns who identify as LGBTIQ* can work in any country, they may face certain challenges in countries that are less tolerant of these identities. Unfortunately, being open about who you are in some places can be dangerous, and this something that LGBTIQ* identifying interns need to consider. For more information about living abroad as an LGBTIQ* individual, GoAbroad has created an e-book full of travel tips. This guide provides further information on countries that are more accepting of varying identities.
Safety first, yo!
Interning abroad can sometimes feel a little crazy; not only are you learning about a new culture and country, but you’re also trying to navigate an unfamiliar business culture while also improving your professional skills. It’s a lot to juggle! Learning how to stay safe while interning abroad is another piece to the puzzle, and it’s an essential one to keep in mind as you begin your time overseas. Luckily, a little preparation goes a long way toward ensuring that you’re well-prepared and ready to rock your internship.