At if i could… we see a constant flow of interns coming and going – leaving with valuable lessons from internships and volunteer experiences. We walk with them on their journey. Starting from the excitement of planning their trip and the task of packing up their lives. From the moment they step off the plane and panic because they don’t see us in the first four seconds to when they cry as they get on the plane, say goodbye and go back home.
Lessons from internships
As part of our process, we always end their internship with a few moments of reflection. We’ve collected five lessons from internships and volunteer experiences that we think will help you!
You get out what you put in
This is more of a general life rule but will apply to your internship as well. Internships don’t happen to you, you have to make them happen. Learn everything you can about your organisation before you arrive. This will help you make a more valuable contribution when you start your internship.
Say yes to everything – from staff parties to assignments. If you have not been allocated a task, find one. Offer to learn about every facet of your organisation. Go everywhere you can in your city and meet as many people as you can. If you go home exhausted, you’ve done something right.
2. Spread the word
Journaling is fine and dandy, but why keep your internship to yourself? Writing home about your trip will encourage travel among your family and friends. Having an audience will help you focus on the positive. Your journal may be about the four-hour hike, but a detailed letter home will be about the view from the top.
With a bi-weekly email, you can put together a little newsletter of your trip and add pictures and videos. This also serves as an opportunity to reflect on your journey and reflection will allow you to experience deeper learning.
3. Take Chances
You’re going to find Big Macs all over the world. While we encourage you to try the special menu, please, please, please eat local food! Taste food you don’t know. Take a traditional dance class. Hang out with people whose names you can’t pronounce. Go places not featured in the travel guide. Learn how to greet people in their native tongue, and laugh with them as you butcher the pronunciation.
Be daring and embarrass yourself. You might just learn about yourself and you’re not going to see a lot of these people again for the rest of your life (however, we do not recommend you embarrass yourself at the office!)
4. Take it Personally!
You may have heard that you leave your personal life at the door when you go to work. We’ve heard differently. Your internship is about improving YOU! Think about how you can add value to your life by doing your job.
Bring your heart and soul into the office and give it everything you have. This is not an invitation to involve yourself in office drama (we do not recommend this) but rather to allow the work to make an impact on you. Let your work open your eyes and move you. We want you to come out of this internship a new person.
5. Stay in Touch
You would not believe how easy it is to make a lifelong friend after spending three months (or more) in a foreign country together. This friendship will be moulded by things like: being placed into each other’s personal space every time you take public transport, having all the challenges you would usually have with your friends back home but in the space of a week, splitting bills when your new buddy eats twice as much as you and having to shop for new clothes together because street food is cheaper and more delicious than you ever imagined.
This friend will pull you through the lows and take selfies with you on the highs. Make sure to get their home number. Actually, make sure you get everyone’s number. Networking is how people get ahead in this busy field. An international internship looks great on your resume.
By Vasti Hannie