Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

3 Unexpected Internship Abroad Lessons

For the past three months, South Africa has been home.

Living in my own flat, looking after myself, working in one city, and volunteering in another, I have gained unexpected insights through unexpected experiences. These are reflective of my internship with Wits Business School, volunteering with the Mamelodi Initiative, and establishing relationships that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I hope these tips prove helpful for your prospects abroad:

Your network won’t always be around

Personal, professional, spiritual – whichever networks you form when interning abroad, be cautious: these networks cannot always be around as your support during your stay. They have lives too! Although unfortunate, this will push you towards independence; towards taking on/starting projects, cooking your own meals, and taking public transport with the help of locals. Your networks might not always be available, but remember that they are present. Do not neglect to make an extra effort to reach out and establish good connections. Once you’re boarding the plane back to the U.S you’ll wonder where the time (and those networks) went.

Initiative is important

Just because you landed an internship abroad doesn’t mean the work ends there. Once your feet touch foreign soil, you have to be proactive – most unpaid internships in the international development space are heavily under-resourced. This means that to expect your supervisor to micromanage each and every task you do is unreasonable. It’s liberating, yes, but discipline, initiative and creativity are the not-so-obvious lessons to be learned. Learn them fast.

Hunt for WiFi spots

If you find free WiFi (especially when in South Africa), cherish it, and do not disconnect.

I would like to extend a special thanks to Babson CCD (Scott & Arline), Chimene Chetty, Teresa Le, and Mische Kang. You have helped make this one of the most fulfilling summers of my life.