Dear Future Intern,
Congratulations on taking a huge step towards learning new things about yourself and the world! No matter where you’re going, what organization you’re working with, or your area of study, you will gain so much from this opportunity and will grow both personally and professionally. I’ve now gone to Zambia twice to work on community development projects and I’ve written a few tips that have helped me along the way and I hope they can help you during your internship!
Let go of expectations – of yourself, of others, and of situations. It’s good to have an idea of what you hope to achieve, but getting stuck on achieving specific things may cause you miss out on other opportunities. It can be hard to ease up on this, as it’s the way many of us our used to living. At most times, we know how our day, week, month, and even year are most likely going to play out. Living abroad and working for organizations that perform a wide array of services for communities, life can be very unpredictable. You may not know from one week to the next what opportunities might pop up, so can be good to expect the unexpected and be ready to take things on as they come.
Be patient – this is a big one that took me a long time to get used to. I don’t mean being patient in the time sense, but managing flight delays, visa processes, and coffee line-ups will definitely take a lot of patience. I mean this in the sense of being patient with yourself. You’ll hear from many friends, family, and interns about how much they loved their time abroad. What they might not tell you though, is about the times when they didn’t love it or when they weren’t that comfortable. And there probably will be some of these times for you too. So be patient with yourself, and give yourself the time and space to become comfortable with your new surroundings.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – the biggest lifestyle change for me from my time in Zambia has been learning to not let little things get to me. On a daily basis, so many tiny things will inevitably go in an unexpected direction. When you’re feeling stressed, homesick, or uncomfortable, it’s difficult not to feel like things are working against you. It’s in these moments when I like to find something about the day that has been absolutely ridiculous and have a good laugh about it.
Be open – have an open mind and open heart during your internship. Let experiences come to you and try everything you’re comfortable with. You never know what or who will change your experience or your life. These unexpected experiences will teach you new things about yourself and will be important for your personal growth.
And most importantly: have fun, try new foods, and hold as many babies as you can!!
Best of luck & enjoy every minute!