1.It’s okay to not know everything.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I can’t stress how important this is. Ask questions about everything; about work, about the culture, about the language, about etiquette, etc.
You can never succeed if you don’t try. You can never know if you don’t ask. No question is a bad question.
As an intern you are not expected to be perfect, but you are expected to learn and work hard. The same is associated with being a foreigner. When you are not native to the country you are not expected to know everything so asking a stranger for help is perfectly okay.
2. Make an effort to learn the language.
The more you attempt to fit in to the culture, the more you try to expand your vocabulary, the more you utilize the words you do know with confidence, the more respect you are treated with.
Effort is your ticket to acceptance.
People notice that you’re trying and appreciate it. I cannot count the amount of times I got a lot of smiles, compliments and questions on if I knew how to speak Japanese whenever I used my limited vocab. Each time I would say just a little bit, but they would still remain happy with my effort.
3. Say yes to after office events
The way to really make the most of your internship abroad is by getting to know your colleagues outside of the work place. Get to know each other, learn about their life story, talk about more than just the “Work To Do List”.
Creating a more personal relationship to the people you work with changes the environment of the internship experience and will make you feel more at home and accepted in this foreign country you’re in.
4. Have an open mind
Said to every traveler.
You are not interning in a foreign country for you to not try new things and constantly wallow in the fact that you miss this & that about home.
Of course you will miss certain things from home, that’s a given. But you should focus on the amazing things you get to try that are not at home.
Hopefully you are interning abroad because you want to experience more than what home offers. Hold on to this excitement and desire to try new things until the end!
5. Break routine – explore
When your work schedule falls into the groove of 9-5 it’s easy to want to go back to where ‘home’ is during your internship and just relax. But, don’t forget you are in this foreign country for only a certain amount of time.
Don’t only explore the area during the honeymoon phase and keep to what you know. Keeping to what’s familiar is easy.
Try to eat at different restaurants and try new food as much as possible. Take a bike ride up a mountain you haven’t explored before. Swim in a different part of the river. Keep biking past that point you know.
And if you can, explore more than just the city you’re stationed in. Create an itinerary, just wing it and travel around this new country you’re in. You’ll never repeat what’s happening here and now.
6. Experience doesn’t stop once you reach home
What you have learned in this new country will stay with you for a lifetime. There’s no doubt that it will leave an impact on your career — whether from the connections and relationships established or from the knowledge you gained.
But a key factor to allowing this experience to linger and keep an impact on your life is by maintaining the relationships you made and keeping in touch with people.
I know that for myself, I wish to go back an visit Japan again one day.
Until next time 🙂