Losing connection with your loved ones is not something that has to happen while you are away. Having an international internship will be a great experience whether or not you decide to talk with friends and family back home. Here are our tips for staying connected while abroad.
First things first, bring your cellphone! You can use your phone any time wi-fi is available, which is almost everywhere! When you do this, make sure to avoid charges by turning off your data & turning airplane mode on. After this is done you can use your phone to contact friends and family wherever there is internet (at home, the mall, cafes, etc…). Also, avoid problems with theft by purchasing phone insurance and keeping it password protected.
Free Applications: There are many international communication apps available for Apple and Android devices. After using these we have found the ones that work the best and those that still need some work. Our favorites include Viber, IMO, and Google Hangouts. All of these are easy to use and offer texting, calling, and video chatting through wi-fi. We suggest you use these to keep you connected with your family & friends as well as our program directors. Another form of communication that we use often is Skype. Skype was originally made for video chatting, making it one of the best. (Tip: If you are able to get to a computer, the quality on Skype will be much better than the other phone applications). An application that is still working out the kinks is Facebook Messenger. Through our experience, we have found that Facebook is harder to use than Viber, IMO, Google Hangouts, and Skype. We have experienced longer lags and louder echoes through this application. (Tip: Be sure to use headphones if you are going to rely on Facebook Messenger). Try all of these applications and find which one is best to help you stay connected while abroad.
Other Options: If you aren’t worried about spending some money, you can buy a cheap phone and the service to go with it. In some countries options are available to purchase just the service as long as you provide the phone. Types of service vary by price from affordable to expensive. The most basic service is usually for short distance calls within the country you are visiting. The more expensive service can include data plans in addition to long distance phone calls. When you purchase data, you will be able to use the international communication apps anywhere in the country. This may sound like a great idea, but be sure to keep your eye on the price. Fee’s for going over data or making long distance phone calls can be unpredictable and very expensive!
Be Old School! A fun way to stay connected with family & friends is through mail. Many times people forget about our post system. Take advantage of it and write a letter or even find a cool postcard from your favorite place. Be sure to include where you have been, what your job is like, and how much you are enjoying your time abroad. Your family will be elated to get a surprise piece of mail from another country!
There you have it, keeping in contact with friends and family at home is easy! There are many options from free to expensive and electronic to old fashioned. Intern abroad with us to use these communication applications first hand!
Booking an international flight can be quite costly if you’re not careful. Check out these helpful tips for booking your international flight so you can save as much money as possible. Our hope is to free up a little more cash for you so you can fully take advantage of all that your destination has to offer.
- Make sure your passport and visa issues are all squared away – Before you spend a dime or input your credit card information, make sure you’re good to go with your travel documents as it pertains to your trip. Remember, with passports, some countries require it to be valid up to 6 months AFTER your travel date. Example, if your trip to London is on April 10, 2016 and you return at the end of April but your passport expires on May 25. 2016… you definitely need to renew your passport.
- Research and buy tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – The best time to buy is typically on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Airfares tend to be the cheapest on these days of the week but do your research week to week if you have time and are well away from your travel date.
- Look at and compare prices on as many websites as possible – There are a ton of places out there to get decent prices on airfare. A lot of the time, the best prices depend on how flexible you can be with departure times, days, and long layovers. Some of our favorite sites are cheapoair, kayak, skiplagged, Google flights, and Ryanair (for great flights in and around Europe). Kayak in particular does a good job of comparing the best flights/prices across several sites like Expedia, Travelocity, etc. Once you’ve found a flight you’re happy with, run it against Skyscanner as a last check to make sure you’re getting the best price.
- Go Incognito during your search – These days, search engines are pretty crafty and know when you’re trying to compare prices. As a result, since they know you’re searching, you may not always find lower prices especially when looking at the same dates/destinations over and over. Take measures like turning on incognito browsing, clearing your search history, deleting cookies, etc. You can even go so far as to search flights from different computers (library, school, friends laptop).
- Embrace the layover – Layovers can be a pain but they can significantly lower your airfare. Depending on the length and time of day of your layover, you can even get some abbreviated exploration at your layover destination. Travel experience within the travel experience.
- Buy well in advance – The farther in advance you buy your flight the better, in most cases. Booking around the holidays may be an exception as families/friends tend to be together and make plans to travel this time of year. Otherwise, the closer you get to your travel date, airfare will gradually increase. If you aren’t able to book months and months in advance, 6-8 weeks from your depart date is usually the best time to buy.
- Check out the baggage policies – Make sure to do your research about checked baggage policies. A lot of time, international flights have different policies than the ones we are used to on our domestic flights. It may be beneficial to pre-pay for checked baggage services in advance. A lot of airlines can jack up the price and hammer you with increased fees once you are at the airport.
Do you have any tips of your own for booking an international flight? Let us know if we missed anything!
As with most other services or businesses, all over our former interns and study abroad candidates have the opportunity to review their experience. This entry responds to the most salient issues that crop up in intern reviews.
Sometimes the biggest issues are ones that are totally avoidable with a little bit of preparation, research, and a tempering of expectations. Now let’s clarify, we’re not saying set the bar low… rather, set realistic expectations as opposed to over-romanticizing the idea of your travels. As almost any experienced traveler will tell you, there’s the good and the bad in every destination or travel experience; things rarely ever go as planned or as advertised.
And with that, let’s look at a couple of qualms we’ve heard over the years:
1. “I loved my program but I didn’t like the city I lived in.”
As a program provider, there’s not much we can do about this one, unfortunately. However, what we can say is that this is an easily preventable predicament.
Step 1: Do Your Research – if you’re going to be doing an international program in a foreign place, you’d better be prepared for what you signed up for! These days there aren’t any secrets with the internet; so take some time to do research outside of travel blogs and the sites/articles getting all the top hits on Google. Get firsthand knowledge or experiences from others. You can even see or watch street activity via Webcams to see what’s like to walk the streets everyday!
Step 2: Reflect – After doing your research, what are you supposed to do with all that new information? Well, it’s time to process it in the context of you. You know yourself better than anyone, so be honest with yourself… Will I like this city? Am I compatible with it? Can I adapt? What will I struggle most with? Some places are more agreeable than others when it comes to meshing certain personalities. So think about how you may fare in any particular destination. Either way, one thing we can guarantee you is that there isn’t any one place on the planet that absolutely has it all, bringing us to…
Step 3: Prepare Yourself – Murphy’s Law: anything that can happen, will happen… especially in travel. Refer back to step 2, think about what you may have problems with but be ready and able to roll with the punches. We can’t stress this enough. Bottom line is there will be things you’ll have to deal with, what can separate a good experience from a bad one is the realization and mindset of “alright, this kind of sucks but it’s alright I’ll deal with it and everything is going to be ok.” Trust us, if some seemingly catastrophic event occurs, we’re willing to bet you’ll live through it. If anything, it will become a great travel story down the road.
2. “My internship wasn’t what I expected.”
Let’s first address this qualm by saying there are a host of different things not limited to the following that can affect your internship experience; how long you will be going for, what time of year it is, your previous experience, your Spanish skill level, and even how proactive you are upon your arrival. Now, let us elaborate:
Longer programs almost always are more beneficial to an internship experience. Let’s face it, companies are not going to give you VIPs (Very Important Projects) if you’re only there for a month. Conversely, they’re far more likely to give you meaningful work if you’ve spent time at the company, gotten to know the culture, and if they have gotten to know you also.
Time of year matters. Take Spain for instance, most North Americans like doing programs abroad in the summer time. However, in Spain the months of August are extremely slow. Businesses close down for days, have atypical operating hours, and it is not uncommon for bosses to be gone for weeks. So, adjust your program abroad time frame accordingly or temper those expectations if you plan on being there in the summer.
As with any position in the workforce, your skills (in this case, technical and language) count! Your company abroad will likely base your workload on the skills you possess. In other words, if this is the first and only experience you have in a given field with limited Spanish speaking ability… don’t expect to get those VIPs! Rather, work on the little things, turn your weaknesses into strengths. Give yourself the elemental skills in your field, get more comfortable in your Spanish speaking.
If you feel confident and want more work, be proactive! A past intern complained about not having anything to do. When we spoke to her supervisor, the supervisor responded with “Well, she was always in her cubicle and on the computer looking busy.” Companies, especially the larger ones, aren’t always going to stop everything and cater to a one or two month foreign intern. Sometimes we forget that even though this is our experience of a lifetime, this is just life going on for a Spanish, Chilean, Costa Rican, etc. company. If you want more projects and responsibility, approach your supervisor for it!
Above all else, how can I make my internship experience count? Don’t forget where you are… in a professional setting in a foreign land. Not many are privy to this opportunity. At the very least, learn as much as you can and take anything and everything in. Learn about the company’s culture, how people conduct themselves, how business operates in an international setting. Befriend a co-worker, learn as much as you can from them, inquire about the ins and outs of their job. If you put your mind to it, there are an infinite amount of things you can take away from an international internship experience.