It is insane to think that I am almost done with my 8 weeks abroad. I have made so many great friends and connected with so many people at my internship and elsewhere, that it has come to the point where I am starting to feel like this is my actual, everyday life. I have learned so much over the past few weeks, especially concerning how to adapt to a different culture and way of life. I thought that for this post, I would provide you with a handy list of things to keep in mind if you decide to participate in a study abroad internship, or really any study abroad program!
- Be knowledgeable about the industry you’re working in, and specifically the industry in the country you’re working in. As a Marketing and Economic Consulting major, I was really nervous about working at a bank, as finance is not something that I particularly enjoy or understand. I kept thinking to myself, if I didn’t understand finance in the US then how would I understand it in another country? Luckily, I am working in the Communications department, which is not heavily focused on the technical financial services sector. I have been given the opportunity to do the work that I enjoy in an industry I thought I had no place in.
- Along with understanding the industry, it is important to understand the economy of the country you are working in. Ireland suffered from the global economic crisis in 2008 just like many other countries around the world, but it has taken them a long time to rebuild themselves. Because Ireland is such a small country, they are still, to this day, struggling financially. Additionally, the banks are not looked upon favorably, as many say the banks are what caused the crisis in the first place. Because of that, it has been very interesting to work in a bank and understand public sentiment towards the whole financial sector.
- One last thing that you should have some knowledge on – be informed of any general or big news stories that have emerged in your host country. Irish people are very well-informed and have even told me about American news stories. Especially in a work environment, people chat about what’s going on around the city and country before diving into work for the day, so you don’t want to appear apathetic towards what is going on in your host country. Just a week ago, for example, you could not go anywhere and NOT hear about Garth Brooks and how he canceled all of his upcoming concerts in Dublin. Apparently the Irish are huge fans of Garth Brooks (who knew?!) and it was quite controversial that he canceled his concerts. While this might be a ridiculous topic of conversation, people at work would have looked at me like I was the ridiculous one if I was not following the Garth Brooks saga. Long story short, being well-informed will allow you to make a good impression and also have substantial conversations with your coworkers.
- If you don’t understand what someone is saying, politely ask them to repeat themselves. Ireland is similar to the US in that everyone speaks English. However, I never thought I would be in a situation when I literally could not understand a single word someone said, and they were supposedly speaking the same language as me. No one will take offense to you asking for them to repeat themselves, so don’t worry about it!
- Get to know your coworkers. I have already met a really nice girl who is an intern at Bank of Ireland and she is from Ireland. She has basically designated herself to be our ultimate tour guide and has given us great tips on what to do in Dublin that isn’t super “tourist-y”. Additionally, I have also received great tips about things to do and places to see to enrich my experience from some of my other colleagues. They’re excited to talk about their country and where you should go, and it’s a great way to get a conversation going and establish a connection!
- Don’t let yourself get into a standard routine. Working 9-5 and then just going straight home can be boring. Remind yourself every so often that you are in another country and you should live your experience to the fullest. Go out after work! Take the long way home! Grab a coffee from the cute local coffee shop down the street! Believe me, after working for 9 hours I am so tempted to lay in bed and watch Netflix with a jar of Nutella and a spoon to keep me company. But I’ve gone out and explored Dublin after work a few times and run into some really interesting areas and places to go. Netflix and Nutella can wait until you’re in Bloomington and wishing you were back in [insert country you studied abroad in here].
These are just some of the random tips and tidbits I have gathered over the course of the last few weeks, and I’m not even finished with my program yet! I know everything is coming to a close soon, however, so I plan on doing as much as I can in the little time that I have left. Studying abroad, and especially interning abroad, is all about immersing yourself in the culture of the country you are residing in, and I hope that I have done that to the fullest extent thus far.