Law Internships Abroad
Meet Christina, our internship abroad expert in Prague and internship student.
Q: Why did you choose an internship abroad?
A: I chose an internship abroad mostly due to my major; I’m studying international relations with an end goal being law school for international law. I had always known I wanted to study abroad, but after some browsing through the options my school offered I noticed that CEA also offered an internship. I figured this was a great way to get some experience in my future career field while also fulfilling my dreams of studying abroad.
Q: Why did you select Fall 2016?
A: I chose to go abroad Fall 2016 because this is my junior year of college and at my school, junior year is the most frequent time that students go abroad. I had intended to go abroad during the spring, due to the weather mostly being better in Europe, but the program I was doing didn’t offer an internship in the spring. Although I hadn’t intended on going in the fall, I’m glad I did! The weather, especially in Prague where I’m studying, stayed warm until early October. Also, I get to experience the beauty of watching the seasons change in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Q: What was the placement experience like?
A: In order to get placed into an internship, once you have been accepted into the program, you must Skype with the internship coordinator. In my case, it was a wonderful woman named Denisa. She asked me a few questions about what my interests were, what I was studying, where I wanted to intern, and what my skills were that I could bring to my internship. Later, that I skyped with Ana, the woman who would be my boss at the company I was working at. We got to know each other and she also asked me what I was looking to gain from this experience. Once this was all done, I was all set to go to Prague!
Q: Which company did you work with?
A: I worked with People In Need
Q: What was your typical day in the life like?
A: Denisa, Ana and I had agreed that in order to balance work and school, I would work every Monday and Tuesday. Mondays I was in the office from 10 am – 1 pm, (I had class at 2:15 pm), and Tuesdays I came in around 12 until 5 pm. They were very flexible with scheduling and let me build a schedule that worked best for me! On a typical work day, I came into the office at my scheduled time. I usually said hello to Stepan and Ana, the two people who were in charge of me and my assignments and the two I worked very closely with. We got to know each other fairly well throughout my time interning for them, and they even offered me advice about traveling around Europe! Once I had gotten tasks assigned, I went to my office that was located in a room across from the main offices. I worked there until it was time for me to leave, and then I’d say goodbye to Stepan and Ana. I’d take a tram home, public transportation in Prague is extremely useful, and end the day that way!
Q: What was it like working for an international company?
A: As this was my first internship ever, I didn’t really know what to expect. But in all honesty, it has been one of the most rewarding and important experiences I have ever had. All of the work I do is important to me and to the company I interned for. Also, I got to experience working for a company in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. I truly think it made me grow as a person and reach out to people I normally wouldn’t if I was in the comfort of being at home. I learned a tremendous amount about myself, the professional environment, and the people I worked with.
Q: How did you manage your time between your internship commitment, classes, social activities (including balancing time between study abroad friends and locals) and travel?
A: I definitely did have more work due to the fact that I interned as well as took classes, but I never felt like I had too much to do where I couldn’t enjoy myself abroad. I traveled just as often as my non-interning friends and had just as great of a social life as anyone else I’d met. I think it’s important to really map out your schedule at the beginning of the process. CEA helped me a lot with making sure I wasn’t getting assigned any more hours than I was supposed to be working. Also, my internship was very flexible with my scheduling. I got to choose the days and hours I came into the office to make sure it didn’t coincide with my school schedule. Overall, I felt like I had more free time than I expected. As long as you schedule your school and internship commitments in a way that you don’t have too much on your plate, and this is actually harder than it seems because you want to agree to do everything and come in on Fridays and work during the weekends, but you have to be realistic with yourself. Studying abroad should be a fun and exciting experience, and the internship should only add to that experience. Don’t overwork yourself.
Q: Was there ever point where you questioned your decision? If so, what did you do to overcome that and how do you feel about it now?
A: I never questioned my decision. Even though some days have been stressful, I have never felt like I made the wrong choice. This semester has been the best one of my entire life, and I’ve made memories that I will cherish forever. I truly think I made the right decision by interning while abroad.
Q: What recommendations do you have for developing a good relationship with your co-workers and your supervisor?
A: I think it’s important to be friendly, but not too overbearing. Europeans definitely have different cultural habits than Americans, and you pick up on these things fairly quickly. I think the best thing you can do is to show up on time, finish your assignments and do them well, and just be respectful. They might be hesitant about you at first, but they will warm up to you. Once they do, coming to work is fun because you have new friends to talk to and that can offer you advice about the places they’ve lived and experienced. They also know so much about the career you’re trying to master and have so many resources to offer you. Creating lasting relationships with your coworkers and supervisor are incredibly important in having a successful semester and they could even help you in your future endeavours.
Q: What did you learn that you can apply to your future career?
A: Throughout my internship, I’ve learned that success requires a lot of hard work. My future in the international law field is currently unknown, I don’t know where this career will take me but I do know that in order to do great things and to achieve great successes, I have to work very hard. The people I interned for showed me that working hard and diligently puts you into the perspective of future employers and allows for you to grow as an intern.
Q: What success tips do you have for future internship students?
A: Pre-departure planning:
My tip for pre-departure planning is to research your company. Once you arrive, they will expect for you to know the company, what they do, how they handle things, and what is expected of you. It also looks really good on you if you can tell them things about their company or what you’ve read about them; it shows that you truly care and are interested in the work that you will be doing.
First week of work:
My tip for the first week of work is to relax. Interning itself is stressful, but interning abroad can be even scarier. Go in with an open mind and take things with a grain of salt. Cultures differ and vary depending on what country you’re in, and you’re not always going to understand certain mannerism or see eye to eye with someone. That doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have an incredible time at your internship. Be open and ready to learn. These people have so much experience under their belts and are more than willing to help you become better at what you are doing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and spend time with your co-workers and supervisors. Have fun, especially during that first week. While you’re still getting your footing at your internship, it’s important to enjoy yourself. You have such an incredible opportunity, make the most of it while you can!