Interning Abroad

Surviving When You Are In Over Your Head

By in Interning Abroad

What is the key to successfully transitioning from textbooks to the workforce? What are the steps to becoming a professional? Being a student comes with its own set of academic responsibilities. However, succeeding professionally means seeing beyond textbooks, gaining real-world experience, and entering the job market one challenge at a time.

The main issue for young adults these days is that “you need experience to get experience.” That is when the value of completing an internship comes into play. Interning abroad for a reputable organization does not only add to your experience and resume but gives you an edge when you’re up against other similarly qualified candidates.

As an intern, you may have the feeling of becoming overwhelmed at times, as you’re trying to learn the professional ropes. You will be exposed to a new environment, new colleagues, new tasks, and there will be times when you will feel like you are in over your head. Working in a professional setting is a big change to sitting in a classroom, and there are different tools you can use to experience a (close to) seamless transition. Here are a few tips on how to survive when you feel like you are in over your head and want to continue delivering your best performance as an intern:


The most common; SOS

The SOS is the most common technique adopted by professionals. Interns can learn a lot from SOS as well.




The ideal thing to do in an overwhelming situation is to take a moment and maintain some distance from your work/project. If you are sitting down for long periods, stand up and take a walk if you can. Give your mind some time to catch up with your situation and tell yourself that while everything can be done, the important thing is for you to stay calm and welcome one thing at a time.



Once you’ve taken a little break and a few deep breaths, you can move toward prioritizing your tasks. With your mind comparatively calmer than before, do a short but thoughtful review of the tasks at hand. List down all the tasks, organize them by figuring out which one is to be completed first, and then work on them in a systematic manner to gain your balance back.



Once you have figured out the things you need to work on, the last thing for you to do is feel secured. This basically involves putting your pride aside and asking others for help. By having someone’s assistance, you can complete your work in a comparatively shorter time. You’re an intern, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help. Doing so will also help you professionally bond with other colleagues.

Forget about the cities and countries you will have the opportunity to visit in the future. Anytime you have the chance to see new things, it’s sure to put a smile on your face and some pep in your step. Before you leave for your internship, make a list of places you want to see while you are there. You may not have the opportunity to see them all, but at least you’ll have a list that can keep you on track.

For example, if you are interning in London, there are plenty of sights to see and things to do. People are happier when they are taking in new experiences. This will never be a problem when interning abroad. There is always something new for you to see.


Other tips

While you adopt the SOS method, there are other tips that you can also adopt to ensure that you stay grounded when you are in over your head.


Be honest

When you are starting to feel out of your depth, and it is clear that you will be unable to complete your to-do list, you need to call out the things that you won’t be able to submit. There’s no shame in admitting what you can and can’t do in a timely manner. Tell your higher-up about it and even ask about having the deadline extended if possible. Being truthful can help your mentors see that you are aware of your strengths as well the areas that can do with some improvement.


Try suggesting what you want

As an intern, your goal is to learn what you can and gain valuable experience from a professional setting. Go ahead and suggest different projects you’d like to start or take part in. You might not realize this yet but your mentors are interested in what you think and what you want.

If you feel that there’s as task you won’t be able to give your 100% to, let your mentor know. It’s far better to come clean about what you can handle instead of potentially affecting your performance as an intern. Furthermore, talk to your mentor about the kind of work you’re comfortable handling in the professional establishment.


Ask help from family and friends

One of the key aspects of interning abroad is knowing your friends and family at home have your back. Part of having that support from them is opening up and asking for it before you leave. Let them know what your insecurities are, what your needs are (emotionally and financially), and what you’re most excited to experience. When you start your internship, keep them posted with the work you’re doing. It’ll be easier for them to understand and be supportive when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Furthermore, connecting with the other interns within the program will contribute to your sense of belonging and feeling of being supported. Chances are you are going through many of the same experiences, and are the best possible support for one another. Talk about how your internship experience is going, exchange advice, and bounce off the culture shock. Making new friends within the program or at the office will be your best bet at reducing overwhelmingness.

Having a good support group is key when you’re feeling like you’re in over your head. Whether it’s through friends and family at home, or new connections and friendships abroad, you want to make sure you are well surrounded.


Don’t forget to rest



While you may feel the need to work hard to make a good impression in your internship and unable to rest, remember to always give yourself a much-deserved break to recharge. When you are short on time, you might want to work without stopping, and as a result, you end up skipping lunch or working too late, slowly decreasing your productivity.

So, make sure that you schedule some breaks after every hour or 90 minutes even if the break is only for five minutes. You might think that doing so could slow down the momentum you have built. However, if anything, it will only refresh your mind thus increasing productivity.


Keep your head up

Adaptation is part of becoming a successful professional, welcome it, it’s all a part of the growth. Ambition plays a role in how far you’re able to go in life. It’s all about pushing your limits and keeping your head up. If you’re not taking risks and avoiding challenges, you won’t be able to determine how much potential you really have. Best of luck!

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