So, You Want to Intern Abroad – By Zoe Eager

As any other university student will tell you, finding paid work right now is murderous, pretty much wherever you go; finding work remotely relating to your studies can seem downright impossible. Which is why, like thousands of students before me, I turned to an internship abroad, figuring that I could bolster my resume in the increasingly unlikely event that I find a job opening for humanities students like me after university, and could experience a new culture to boot.

I also figured that, as a student of modern languages, I should probably try to graduate actually speaking the languages I study (French and Italian, if you’re curious).

I know it sounds like I’m over simplifying, and I am; so, let me explain how getting an internship abroad went down.

While I was frantically studying for my final exams, the summer was looming closer and closer, and I had exactly 0 plans for how to accomplish my goal of actually obtaining this  fantastic internship abroad. Looking for placements provided me with an obsessive procrastination outlet as exams approached, but after scouring website after website, and considering au pair positions of increasing dodginess, I finally submitted an application to an internship agency, figuring that if nothing turned up, I could always take one of the au pair positions and trust that, should things go awry, Liam Neeson would come and rescue me, à la Taken.

Italy was the natural choice for me, as I had worked in France twice previously, and my Italian skills were nonexistent in dire need of polishing.

As a side note, let me just mention the most frustrating thing about being a language student, which isn’t just that it leaves you next to unemployable, but which is the fact that if you didn’t grow up speaking more than one language, your odds of learning it well enough to be paid to speak it are slim. Someone else will always speak it better than you. No matter how much you study, killing yourself over pronunciation and the finer points of grammar in a common language, someone else is perfecting his Urdu because he grew up in Portugal with a French-Romanian mother and a Spanish-Italian father, and thus has had the main Romance languages under his belt since age 7.

Not that I’m bitter.

What I’m the most interested in is translation. Translation is something of an equalizer as far as languages go, because it involves striking a balance between objective and personal interpretation. Give five translators the same text and you’ll get five different translations. Not radically different, you understand, but slight differences in word choice or subtextual implication are common, which is why understanding a word’s connotation is just as important as the word’s definition, and why to really understand a text or book, it’s useful to know something about the culture and mentality of the native speakers.

It’s a depressing yet fascinating statistic that 93% of all communication is non-verbal. As Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a professor at UCLA found in the 1960’s, your tone accounts for 38% of how one communicates, and 55% of all communication is based on body language, which means that only 7% of all communication are the words you actually say.

Thus, working abroad has its own set of benefits beyond just professional experience and the opportunity to gorge on gelato and visit famous cathedrals. It forces you to problem solve, to think on the spot, to learn to communicate in new ways when the language barrier leaves you crippled and hamstrung. It removes your ability to fake your way through things and explain your way out of things, and forces you to rely on the skills you already have, while learning new methods of working and connecting with people.

So, if if this skill set sounds like something you’re interested, all I can say is that it’s worth it, but that you won’t know for sure until you do it yourself.

Enter the internship abroad.


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