Hello everyone! My name is Leora, but my friends call me Leo. I'm half German (from my mother's side) and half British (from my father's side) & grew up in France up to the age of eighteen.
I have always wanted to pursue a career that would enable me to travel and use my languages, so I decided to study International Management with German. I am now in my third year at Bath, currently on my year abroad in Frankfurt - where I work as an HR (Human Resources) Assistant.
My multilingualism and my cultural awareness did indeed prepare me a little for my Erasmus year, but there are many other factors that I wish I knew beforehand. So here's some key information to help you...
Don't compare yourself to anyone
Every internship will be different from one person to another. For some, it may be their third or fourth internship in the same industry, and for others, it might be their very first internship in a foreign country. Some people are quick to settle in, whereas others prove themselves in the long term.
Everyone perceives things differently: you and your friend might be dealing with very similar daily tasks during your first week, but you might have contradictory expectations on what you should (or should not) be dealing with during your onboarding.
In the bigger picture, you might see yourself progressing exponentially in the first 6 months & then stagnating in the second half, whilst it might be the other way around for your fellow friend.
Remember, one will never know what truly happens behind closed doors. Someone might give you the impression that their internship is great, and that they are working on exciting projects - but they might also be under a lot of pressure to do well, as bigger tasks usually require greater responsibility.
Only when you are challenged, will you progress
A serious placement shouldn’t feel like a gap year. Of course, you should have plenty of fun, and make many memories – but your main priority is to wake up hangover free Monday to Friday so you can perform at your best.
If you are on a placement abroad, you might experience a culture shock (I personally did, even though I took up an internship in my birth country). You will need time to adapt to a new place: new home, new people, new friends, new job, new routine, new you! It took me around 6 months to adapt to my new life, and that’s okay.
Depression, anxiety, FOMO (the "Fear Of Missing Out"), homesickness etc. are not uncommon and can be very unpleasant. However, it’s worth remembering that they challenge you mentally, and once you overcome those psychological barriers, you will end up with tools that will help you throughout your whole life. I dealt with anxiety during the first three months of my internship but can now bravely say that I have learnt more about myself in the past couple of months than ever before.
Remember that there are various contact points designed to support you throughout your experience. You can always contact your placement officer at University, who will listen to your concerns and guide you to a solution. You will also have an internal contact point – Most companies have an HR (Human Resources) department. These people have the power to help you within the professional perimeter, of course in total confidence and secrecy.
We all must start somewhere, and we learn through trial and error.
You might not be signing a long-term contract with this company but...
Your placement will offer you many opportunities that will come useful at some point in your life. Use this year as an opportunity to boost and maintain your LinkedIn profile! Connect with all your work colleagues and write about your achievements. A strong digital presence can be very useful in a business setting.
Go for lunch with your colleagues and ask them about their professional life and how they secured their job. They’re likely to offer relevant advice and open your mind to other professional paths you haven’t yet thought of.
If appropriate, you may want to ask a college or supervisor for a recommendation letter, feedback or an endorsement of a particular skill that you have developed whilst working with them. Sometimes you may have to do some (less) exciting intern work, but my advice to you is to smile and just...DO IT! It is only temporary, and it is your chance to show others that you are willing to give this job your everything - your commitment will be valued.
As the new year approaches, you might want to set yourself professional goals for the next couple of months. During the second half of your placement, time will fly by and it will be over before you know it. My goal for 2020 was to hold a presentation during an All-Staff meeting in front of my colleagues. I did a presentation on digital marketing - which was inspired by the last networking event I attended. But feel free to explore dozens of other possibilities!
Some opportunities might not be offered to you directly, but it is on you to chase after them. Don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibility: you will be acting in their favour and you will show them that you desire to progress. Do your best to keep up to date with upcoming events organised or supported by your firm- you might be able to join colleagues at networking event. Networking events are fun & provide a great opportunity to exchange business cards and meet likeminded people & to step outside of your comfort zone.
Don't forget to have fun and make memories for life!
This could be the perfect time to get yourself a diary and a photo album to keep a record of your year abroad and immortalize special moments. It can also be a good idea to save some money and go travelling. Depending on where you are situated, for example, central Europe, you could travel to a dozen countries with Flixbuses for a weekend trip. Immerse yourself in the culture: visit different cities, celebrate national holidays, try new foods. Learn about the diversity of your country and channel your inner historian.
Don’t worry too much about leaving your friends from home. Genuine friends will always have your back, even if you haven’t been in contact as much as you used to when you were living closer together. Chances are, many of your friends will also be on placement, and you will be so busy getting accustomed to a new place and new job that you won’t have much time left to catch up. But you can make the time you spend with them more meaningful. Start sending letters, give them a phone call, or arrange a trip to meet them for the weekend or for them to meet you. Even If you split the travel costs, there are always ways to make it work.
Memories, whether good or bad, all have a purpose in life. If you end up working in an industry that doesn’t inspire you, at least you will be aware of what you don’t want to do. At the end of the day, we are all a little bit lost, but hopefully, this article will help you to see your future through a slightly clearer lens.