Top tips on how to survive (and enjoy) an internship abroad

When it comes to careers I’m always telling students how important it is to have a story of your own which marks you out from others, and demonstrates that you’re not just academically able, but are also rounded individuals. 2016 Law Graduate Farhana Hamid-Butt took this to heart and headed off to Singapore. Here’s her advice.

“The experience of undertaking an internship in another nation is sure to generate fascinating tales to tell during the course of an interview and will make a CV sparkle. This having been said, interning abroad can be challenging and here are some things for you to bear in mind so that you can get the most out of your internship.

Singapore300I was lucky enough to be offered a nine week internship as a Research Associate with the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network,  headquartered in Singapore. I didn’t think the work was going to have much to do with my law degree, but when the opportunity arose I seized it with two hands – not a decision I regret. In fact, the great thing about law is that it permeates all aspects of society. I was pleasantly surprised to find that part of my work was to research legal frameworks in countries across Asia.

Here are my top tips to consider when interning abroad:


piggy bank300Now this might be obvious, but interning abroad can be a very expensive experience and budgeting is essential! Make sure you take the time to familiarise yourself with the costs likely to be incurred. Find out the prices for things you’ll need to survive in the country you’re going to. Draw up a list, add up the costs, and convert the costs into your home currency. Be methodical and systematic.

Don’t necessarily let a lack of finances put you off a foreign internship. There are various trusts which may be able to assist you. A good place to start may be the Turn2us search.

Remember that if you have any questions before you go, the organisation at which you will be interning may be able to assist you with answers and could help calm your fears.

Creating An impression

If you’ve had a long journey and had to cross time-zones you’ll probably arrive very tired and jet-lagged. Try to get to the country a few days before you have to start your internship, so that you’re well rested and raring to go on the first day of the internship.

lunch Singapore300Initial impressions really count. Make sure you take the time to get to know your colleagues – talk to them! If the team go out for lunch together don’t be shy, join them! When I was in Singapore the AVPN team had lunch at 11 o’clock, not my preferred time to eat, but in order to be able to socialise with my team I adjusted to their timetable which really helped me to network and get to know them.

Don’t forget to network

Networking is essential. Follow up with your colleagues after the experience. You’ll want to thank them, but also to keep in touch. If they’re on LinkedIn, connect with them, it might be appropriate to Friend them on Facebook too. Perhaps you can follow them on Twitter? Maybe you just want to send them a newsy email once a year, you’ll probably know what the most appropriate thing is. Don’t just do nothing!

Isolation and hobbies

It’s  not essential to go diving but a diving image is nicer than one of a book club!!

Travelling away from home can be a lonely experience. Think about creating a support network. Are there students or alumni from your university who are in the country? Can you make contact? Alternatively, think about joining local clubs which align with your interests. Is there a local book club?  If you’re a bit more adventurous maybe you could join the Deep Sea Diving Club (that probably won’t work if you’re going somewhere landlocked though!)


Learn about the different culture

Talking to people can provide an invaluable insight into the views and customs of another country.  I am fascinated to learn about other cultures, conversations about government policies can be very illuminating indeed!

A Final Word…

Doing an internship abroad will present challenges, but overcoming them will make you realise that you’re more resilient than you expected… As time progresses any nightmarish moments are sure to be displaced by better memories. You’ll have demonstrated just how determined and robust you are.

Good luck!smiley300


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