Taking an Internship Abroad
My first solo travel trip was a daunting but enthralling internship in (the notoriously brutal) capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. The country is often cited as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, so when I made the decision to go there to complete an unpaid month long internship with an English speaking newspaper, you can imagine the questioning, doubtful and ultimately worried looks I received from friends and family.
For me, the scariest part of going there was not the bloody statistics splashed over the nation’s name, but it was the seemingly simple feat of travelling half way across the world completely on my own for the very first time.
Whether you’re planning on travelling to a relatively ‘safe’ country statistically, or somewhere like Honduras, I guess the feeling is the same. It doesn’t matter where you are going, all that matters after the string of events leading up to your arrival is that moment when you actually arrive. Two tired feet and one aching body – and in my case, 3 person’s worth of crazy hair – standing on a dusty airport floor, surrounded by strangers.
The internship was a form of structure to my solo travel, which took the edge of a little bit. But whether you’ve got a plan or you’ve just decided to jump on a plane with a badly packed rucksack strapped to your back, arrival is undoubtedly a daunting moment. We’ve all heard horrific stories involving travelling, and more often than not, they’re enough to put anyone off embarking on what could potentially be the journey of your life. But this is exactly it; you might just have the journey of your life, an adventure that will redefine who you are and open up opportunities you never even contemplated existed. In the process of writing a book to encourage students to go off and experience some of the magic that travel offers, here’s four facts to persuade you that internships abroad are A-W-E-S-O-M-E, and, to balance it out, four tips to make sure you’re doing everything you can for it to be just so A-W-E-S-O-M-E.
1) I learned to Dive as part of research for an article AND visited an incredible Mayan ruins site.
2) My Spanish improved. Dramatically.
3) I realised that I probably didn’t want to work for a newspaper… but I DID ignite a passion for travel writing.
4) I had an amazing experience to put on my CV that has contributed to my 4 month SPAR trip around the world and other job opportunities. Yaaaaay!
5) I met so many amazing people.
So – here’s some tips.
Research the Area You’re Going to: This may sound obvious, but the importance of research is overwhelmingly important when travelling on your own. Getting to know a few of the customs, a bit of the culture and a general idea of your location is only ever going to do you favors.
Always be Aware of Your Surroundings: Okay, so you’re going out for drinks with a few people from work? Make sure you know where you’re going and how to get back. Got there by bus? That may have gotten you there, but what if the last bus is at 9pm? Always have a back up plan.
Be Safe: Stating the glaringly obvious here, but you would be surprised at the amount of people travelling who never let anybody know where they are, what they are doing, who they’re going with and when they’re going to be back. It sounds like a routine your parents would be proud of, and you know what? They probably would. Reverting back to your childhood days and reporting back to somebody who cares about your whereabouts is simple, easy, and will probably keep you safe.
Don’t let Statistics Scare You: General criminal statistics are usually pretty terrifying. Don’t be scared off by them. Obviously take these into account when you’re researching where you’re going to go and spend a chunk of time, but just remember that it’s not all bad, and as long as you follow a few simple rules, the chances are you’ll be absolutely fine.
The most difficult part of my internship was the getting there and back. Casting away that fear and taking that big leap of faith into the unknown was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and as long as you keep your wits about you, you’ll laugh at the day you nearly walked away from that chasm of uncertainty.