Top 10 Life Skills You Get From Interning Abroad
By Katie Arango
It’s no secret that internships abroad are life changing. Not only do they offer the chance to gain actual resume-enhancing career experience in your chosen field, but you also get to live abroad and immerse yourself in a completely new culture while you do it! You get to develop as a professional while learning to become a more global citizen. It doesn’t get much better than that.
But there are also slightly less obvious reasons to intern abroad, including all of the long lasting benefits the experience will have as a person. Here are just 10 of the many, many life skills you develop from interning overseas.
Successful communication is all about making your point understood. But when you’re interning overseas, this is not always as easy as it sounds. You’ll quickly get used to gesturing, pointing, rephrasing, re-rephrasing and coming up with alternate ways to fill in those gaps in comprehension. Though you likely won’t need to mime things too often when you get back home, your ability to mean what you say and say what you mean, directly and without overusing clichés or overusing buzzwords will serve you well for years to come.
While taking classes back home and traveling are both great ways of learning another language, nothing quite compares to living and working abroad. In a job setting, if there is something you don’t understand, you can’t just slink back in your chair and wait until everyone moves on to the next topic. You simply can’t complete your tasks without understanding what’s being asked of you, and there’s no greater motivation to improve your language skills than that.
An international intern that has just arrived in their host country, in addition to being excited, is typically a bit nervous, slightly confused, and maybe even a tad overwhelmed. By the time they’re heading home 2-6 months later, they’re confident, cool, and ready to face whatever life throws at them. Why the change? Probably due to the constant challenges they’ve had to work through all. on. their. own. Being in a brand new situation with none of the tools you’ve always relied on pushes you to become more independent and self-confident.
4. Cultural Awareness
There’s a definite “a-ha” moment that happens the first time we realize that there is not a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ to do things, but rather there is a way your culture does things and the way they are done in another culture. Being able to see our own cultural lens and realizing how it shapes all of our long-held beliefs is an enormous opportunity for growth. And it’s the foundation for true cultural understanding.
5. Creative Problem Solving
There’s no autopilot when you’re living abroad. Just going through the motions isn’t an option a lot of times. So when you’re trying to get home from work but there are picketers blocking off your usual route, or the bus drivers are on strike, or the subway is closed for construction, and it’s raining and you can’t get a cab, you have to be able to muster all your creativity and figure out how to get yourself home. These problem-solving skills will never cease to come in handy when life throws you curveballs down the road.
Living in a foreign country and looking cool all the time just do not mix. Throwing yourself out there is a hazard of the trade. Even if you run the risk of publically misunderstand a joke and laughing at the wrong time. Or using the wrong (and perhaps embarrassing) word for something. Or waiting for several hours in the wrong line because you misunderstood the instructions. Even if you’re used to being the best of the best, interning abroad is guaranteed to give you a lesson or two in humility.
7. Work/Life Balance
We all know people that put in a full days work, only to stay late and then continue to check emails well into the night and on weekends. If you have a domestic internship in your town, depending on your company’s culture, you might be tempted to follow that rhythm. But when you’re interning abroad, you are likely going to work hard AND play hard, as you know you only have a couple of months to see and experience all that your host country has to offer!
8. People Skills
When your language skills aren’t the strongest, and you’ve recently arrived in a new country, you’d be surprised how much a bit of charm and a smile can get you. In today’s world, you’ve got to be able to work well with others, and while abroad you’re likely to give these skills a serious workout.
9. Practical Work Experience
Studying abroad is fantastic, and to some extent can offer up opportunities to gain a lot of the skills listed here. But gaining hands-on work experience in the field of your choice is a benefit specific to interning. It can help you decide if your chosen career is right for you. It can make your resume stand out. It can give you plenty to talk about on your next job interview. When it comes to moving ahead in your career, it’s hard to top an international internship.
Are you a creature of habit that likes every thing just so and falls to pieces if the slightest element of your routine is out of place? If so, you should intern abroad ASAP! Both at work and in everyday life, there will be many times you’ll have to change your course mid-way through, and learn the new rules as you go. Being able to react to changing circumstances is a necessary life skill, and interning abroad will provide you a crash course.
What skills have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.
Katie, a US native, had traveled to Buenos Aires on several extended trips before the citys lure became too strong and she decided to call it home. Long fascinated by the global scene, Katie earned a degree in International Studies from Miami University and spent time studying and living in Madrid, Spain. She then worked in marketing for an international board game company followed by a brief foray as an online community editor for several websites before joining the Connect-123 team. Still a tourist at heart herself, Katie loves watching newcomers discover the charm of Buenos Aires and takes great pleasure in helping them make the most out of their work and volunteer opportunities while experiencing everything this dynamic city has to offer.