Personal Journey | Interning Abroad

Every year, as students shuffle back from their summer internships and tell stories from their taste of the working world, a narrative starts to unfold. Not all career opportunities are created equal. In fact, some summer jobs are simply more awesome than others. Which of these draw the most “oohs” and “ahhs”? Internships in foreign countries, otherwise known as interning abroad.

RenTrust sat down with Rafay, a student that interned abroad last summer in Dubai for Bain & Company. His journey overseas started just like any other job search, except he focused on companies that wanted to send him to a different country. Here are his tips for landing that international opportunity!

Tip #1 - Don’t Limit Your Search

There is a misconception that companies will not encourage you to work overseas. In fact, several companies will sponsor your work permit even if you have never been to the country before. These types of companies range from startups to large companies to volunteer organizations.

Start your search on your favorite company’s career page. They will post positions globally that you can apply to. If you are looking at something more niche, good old networking techniques work well in uncovering positions that may not get posted. Your lack of search is generally a case of your imagination limiting you, rather than limited opportunities.

As a good rule of thumb, turn down offer letters rather than job postings.

Tip #2 - Research, Research, Research

It is important to understand that moving to a new country has a learning curve and unique set of challenges. There could be many things that make or break your summer experience; your ability to assimilate into the culture, the living standards, the work norms, and even the exchange rate.

With so many variables, it is easy to get bogged down – paralysis by analysis. To guard against this, I would recommend doing research in two phases: Shortlist countries and regions you are interested in and do some basic due diligence before applications.Once you have a job offer, research that branch, the area, and any firm-specific details you can gather in order to be prepared.

Some useful resources include YouTube, Lonely Planet guidebooks, TripAdvisor, expat blogs, etc.

Tip #3 - Be ready to immerse in the culture

Your success in a new culture will depend on how well you can adjust to working under new norms. Most companies will do a cultural orientation if you are going to a new place, but don’t hesitate to ask for one. In the same vain, it’s always better to ask questions than assume.

There is a fine balance between assimilation and cultural appropriation. Sometimes, locals appreciate it if foreigners wear their national clothing (never call it costume), while other times, it can be perceived as a sign of disrespect. You always want to be respectful; the easiest way to navigate this is by asking your coworkers or by doing a quick search online. Expectations and norms also vary by industry, so take what you read online with a grain of salt.

The best guidance comes from people who you trust and have lived in that country. Start by searching school resources to connect with alumni. Utilize social networks to reconnect with friends or family members that have moved to that country. Lastly, be open minded to the experiences!

Now or never

An internship is a low stakes way to try and figure out if you want to live and work in another country. And if things don’t work out, there’s always another recruiting cycle. So, take the plunge! 

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