four people summer internships in cape town with bridging gaps

Six steps to prepare for a summer 2020 internship abroad

So you’re looking for an internship abroad for summer 2020? This article will help you to find the best internship abroad and make the most of your experience.  Heads up, if you need help we’re ready to find your internship abroad in 2020.

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Photo credit: Steven Lewis at www.unsplash.com

Travelling in general can be a bit daunting. You are never quite sure what to expect from the experience and there is always the added worry that goes with being in an unfamiliar country or city. These fears and worries are compounded when you travel abroad for work, volunteering or interning. The added pressure of doing a good job, getting along with your temporary colleagues, and making the most of your learning opportunity makes this type of travel so much more stressful.

Below are some general tips on how to prepare for an internship abroad in order to make sure that your 2020 summer internship is fulfilling, valuable and worthwhile.

1. Make sure you get the technicalities right

Pre-trip preparations with regards to insurances, visas and vaccinations are of the utmost importance. This will require that you do the necessary research with regards to the legalities and preconditions of visiting a certain country or region. This is where an internship provider can make your experience so much easier. Because of the fact that they operate in a host country, they know the ins and outs of every requirement imaginable. If you would like the security and peace of mind that an internship provider can provide, make sure to check out this article on how to choose the right internship provider for you.

2. Weather, safety and the cost of living

The weather, safety implications, and the cost of living are other important pre-trip preparations that you need to get down. Most of the time, a simple internet search will help you with everything you need to know. You can only pack so much and must make sure that you are appropriately prepared for the weather. For example, in Cape Town, the city that Bridging Gaps operate in, the region is known for having four seasons in one day. This may sound scary at first, but you soon realise that when Capetonians say it is cold, people from Europe walk around in shorts! For Africans in general, anything below 22 degrees Celsius qualifies as winter.

Further, be sure to understand the safety scenarios of every region, this includes crime rates and making sure to understand which transport options, areas, and housing are safe. Asking the right questions will go a long way in understanding how to prepare, be safe, and get around easily. 

It is also important to know about the exchange rate and the cost of living in order to not get taken advantage of.

In this regard, try and have a conversation with someone from your area/town that has visited a specific city or region. Their insights will usually be extremely helpful.

3. Your must-see and must-do list

Although you might be interning or volunteering, make sure to also set out time to experience your host country. Because you will only be there for a short while, make sure to make a list of the things you would like to experience and the places you would like to see. It is better to decide and consider your options before your trip, as when you eventually arrive in a city, it becomes difficult to navigate all of the different suggestions and choices. A list prepared beforehand can ensure that you don’t miss out or regret any of your excursion choices. 

4. Cultural insight and local customs

It is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the customs and culture of a country or city. This will make your stay so much easier as you will be able to understand the local people, language, and practices so much easier. It will significantly reduce the learning curve usually associated with a foreign land and your host organisation will most surely appreciate the time you took to learn about their culture. It demonstrates appreciation, wisdom and openness. 

Further, it is also a good idea to research the industry your internship falls in – its history in the region, current status and challenges, and future developments. This will show that you are serious about your internship and that you respect the work that your host organisation does.

(Have a look at this helpful article on how to be respectful of other cultures while travelling.)

(If you are considering doing an internship in Cape Town, have a look at the 6 Golden Rules of visiting this amazing city.)

5. Think about what you want to learn

Although travelling and seeing the world is a wonderful part of interning or volunteering, it is firstly a learning opportunity. You have decided on an internship in a specific area or discipline for a reason. Why did you choose this internship? What are you hoping to learn about the profession or industry? What skills would you like to develop? What research must you complete in order to obtain course credit? And how will you complete your research project? What questions would you like to ask? What contribution would you like to make?

You should consider all of these questions and more in order to make your internship valuable. In other words, to make your internship a real opportunity for learning, skills acquirement, and deeper professional or career knowledge and understanding.

6. An open heart and an open mind

When lucky enough to have the opportunity to intern abroad, it is very important to approach your internship and work with an open heart and open mind. If you are closed off, you will miss out on a culture, a people, and personal development. Remember that your host country won’t be the same as your home country. People will do things differently, have different ways of being, saying and seeing, and the more you open your heart and mind to difference, the more fulfilling your experience will become.


Get help finding your summer internship for 2020

We’ll design a tailored internship programme in Cape Town, taking into account your desires and objectives. And we provide unrivalled support on the ground to take away all your stress!