Overseas internships: You may be foreign but you're still human

By on August 15, 2013

This is one in a series of posts offering quick internship advice by students wrapping up their summer programs. Read the whole series here.

Everyone knows that internships are scary and exciting. Well, internships in a foreign country are exponentially scarier and more exciting. There is so much more to consider. However, you will learn so much more in the end.

Filling the new-guy position at a company in the Motherland is daunting, but a whole new level of intimidation is created when cultural and language barriers are included in the mix. You have to decide what to wear and how to act appropriately according to the new social norms, on top of figuring out how to navigate the new city.

You are human, and no matter what country you’re in, you will make mistakes. You will also always be easily identified as the American. But there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you to avoid living up to the noob American stereotype:

1. Be relevant

Coming up with posts for our blogs, Twitter and Instagram accounts, etc. come as second nature to us in the States. We know what our viewers like and what they want to read about. If you are doing these things at your foreign internship, keep in mind that the interests of your new audience will be different than those of Americans. Think about what is going on in local news or the things that are popular there.

2. Be careful

Watch for different lingo, if not a different language altogether. Remember who your audience is and who you are talking to on a daily basis. Terms we throw around in America might not be recognized. For example, most European countries don’t use the word “internship.” Instead, it’s referred to as a “Voluntary Work Placement.”

3. Be flexible

Schedules are completely different outside of America. People aren’t so hard on themselves; there are a lot of breaks. You will have a lot to do, but don’t be afraid to accept the offer for tea or the trip down the street for lunch. Breaks add to creativity when you are back on task. And there’s a bonus: foreigners are impressed when Americans drink tea.

4. Be normal

Sure, you are foreign, but you’re still human. The accents or language of the people in your office might be intimidating, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. This ties in with number 2. Your boss will throw terms at you that you may have never heard before. Try to relax. Ask questions. The more natural you seem, the more smoothly your day will go.

Hannah Pap Rocki is in her third year at the University of Georgia, where she studies magazine journalism and psychology. This summer she interned at Mediorite in London. When she’s not writing, she’s snapping photos or traveling the globe. Contact her at @hkprocki or hannahpaprocki@gmail.com.