First internship abroad is a serious step forward in life. Although it is usually associated with freedom and excitement, it is common that students and graduates encounter the same dilemmas and fears when they decide to take one.
The Programme team of Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme deals with these concerns every year.
Before one generation of scholarship holders goes to their internship cities, they are a part of the introductory week in Berlin. Among the many workshops that should prepare them for living in Germany, the Programme team does its best to take the time and address these potential problems.
Here are some of the typical dilemmas and fears a young person has before their first internship abroad:
1. What if I get to do something not related to my studies/dream career?
Millennials often have this urge to get a career that is „right“ for them. It comes as no surprise – since we are all bombed with motivational posts about perfect jobs that don’t feel like working at all. But there is no such thing.
Having studied something for several years doesn’t mean that a graduate knows how it is working in this field. It is the tip of an iceberg. To test your skills and discover your interest, you must challenge them in the real working environment.
These six months are an invaluable opportunity for you to check whether this industry and the way of working suit you. And remember – learning what you don’t want to do is equally precious, sometimes even more relevant.
2. What if my mentor gives me a task I am not comfortable with?
The truth about the tasks and the workload in general is – they are not carved in stone.
Many scholarship holders of our Programme confirmed that they had regular meetings with their mentors. Together, they were assessing the period behind them and making plans for the future. Use this time to ask for help, guidance, or feedback if needed.
What if an undesirable task occurs anyway?
Be grateful for the time and energy invested in you, but if you have another view on your obligations – tell it assertively. Ask to work on something of your interest. Make an effort to analyze clients, competitors of your company, and the industry in which they are doing business. Listen carefully about future projects and think of the ways you could contribute to their success.
3. What if my German is not good enough?
When it comes to languages our scholarship holders should speak – German is an asset, but it is not obligatory. The only exception is with the candidates who apply for an internship in the fields of architecture or commercial law. They are required to have a good command of German (minimum B2 level).
For all other professions, a very good command of English is sufficient. There is no official exam certificate that is required as proof of your language skills. The knowledge is tested through the written application and during the interview.
If you would like to learn more about the criteria applicants should meet, click here.
4. What if I don’t meet the expectations?
Companies that participate in internship programs know that they are taking, well – interns. Nobody will expect of you full proficiency in your working discipline. Even if they did, do not take it personally. Stay calm and explain how well do you know the subject and where you need more support or clarifications.
You should take your job seriously but in the end – it is a job. This is the setting where you can improve yourself daily through the process of trials and errors. We highly advise our scholarship holders to be responsible and hard-working. That doesn’t mean that they should have answers to all the questions.
5. How to handle homesickness?
Ah, one of the issues that are often underrated. Yeah, you will be a little homesick – so what?
The sentence usually comes from the people who:
- Haven’t left their home country to work somewhere else;
- Have left their country, travel often and pretend they can’t remember how it was the first time for them.
The first group is usually significantly bigger and no, you don’t need to follow their advice.
Also, learning about the culture shock and its phases may help you understand that you are not alone in this. You can predict all sorts of uncomfortable feelings using this scheme and think of the ways to resolve them.
What is more, people often overestimate the number of things they will miss from their hometown in these three to six months. When they come home and ask what has changed in this period – the answer is usually: nothing at all.
6. Will I be able to deal with all these „adult“ problems?
Even for the students that lived alone, with roommates, or in a dorm – living on their own in a foreign country can be stressful. Things can get overwhelming, especially during the first few weeks.
Some of your obligations would include getting registered, opening a bank account, and finding proper phone card. And you should manage them all before you even get to know the exact path to your office.
When you look back after your internship, you will realize how much you have grown. Some of the most ordinary life problems will teach you lessons about decision making, negotiation, and responsibility.
Negotiating with your landlords and taking care of the grocery list will turn out to be just as important as some of the work assignments.
7. What if I change?
This one is not as obvious as the previous fears. Students usually don’t even recognize the feeling, until a friend or a family member says: “You’ve changed.”
Somehow, these words always come out with negative connotation.
Instead of trying to prove the opposite, acknowledge the fact that you did change. It was necessary, and it was worth it.
No matter how confused you are at the moment, you will thank yourself later – for being brave and trying. Give yourself time to figure this out.
What dilemmas and fears you had before your first internship abroad? Share with us in the comments.