On The Job - Internships Abroad

In order to ensure a successful internship experience, you must be proactive and take initiative. You will be responsible for yourself and your learning. The staff in many organizations and businesses is extremely busy and overworked. If you don't assert yourself, you may fall through the cracks.

You may have to prove yourself to your supervisor in the first few weeks. If you are given an easy assignment which makes you think, "I didn't come all the way here to do this kind of work!" do the assignment cheerfully and with as much effort as you would for an assignment that is more challenging and interesting. Your supervisor may have given you an assignment to see how you will deal with it. Remember that at all times during your internship, you will need to be flexible.

Unless you are working for an international and/or western government agency, you will need to be comfortable working in a relatively unstructured work environment. If you are not working on a specific assignment at the moment, use the opportunity to learn more about the organization and the field in which you are working. In general, internship supervisors not only appreciate your asking questions, but they expect it. Take the time to get to know your supervisor and discuss what is expected of you. Remember that your employer may never have hosted an intern before, so you may have to take the initiative.

Also, remember that every job has slow days. Get to know the people with whom you work, even if they are not your age. There are lots of things you can learn from your co-workers if you make the effort.

Once you've been at your internship for a while, ask for more challenging assignments. Ask to take responsibility for a project or a component of a project that will draw on your strengths, address your weakness, and allow you to improve yourself and gain valuable experience.

The Director/Internship Coordinator will monitor your overall internship experience. S/he will contact you and your internship supervisor regularly to discuss your internship. Please contact the Director/Internship Coordinator immediately if you have any problems or need other advice or help regarding your internship. It is not acceptable to stop attending your internship because you decide you do not like it or because it is not what you expected. If this situation occurs, talk to the Director/Internship Coordinator so any problems can be addressed. Also, if you are sick and cannot go to work, please let the Director/Internship Coordinator know, so that s/he may inform your internship supervisor.

At the end of your internship, be sure to send a thank-you note to your supervisor, recognizing his or her efforts and support for you. This is also important because you may want to ask your supervisor for a reference in the future, whether for a job or graduate school applications. Expressing your appreciation can also help create opportunities for future students to intern with that organization.