A year on …reflections on international internship

A little over a year ago, nearly a quarter century working in higher education came to an end for me. Then, a twist of fate and a little initiative allowed me to work for a period as an intern on the beautiful island of Tenerife. How the world and I have moved on since then.

The international internship was in reality an entrepreneurship exchange, supported by the Erasmus for Entrepreneurs programme, just under the wire of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It was a statement of intent to do what I can to mitigate at least some of the ill judged effects of Brexit on the future of British and European youth.

But it was also a fantastic learning opportunity from the established professional team at Tenerife Job Training, a business sharing many of my own values of learning through experience, opportunity and stretching personal boundaries.

The world may have moved on but, as I mentioned so have I, and in no small part through experiences I could scarcely have predicted. The value of internships in learning industry and practical skills is undeniable, yet what we often fail to highlight is the immense value a change of perspective an international intern experience provides. For this I’m enormously grateful both to the Erasmus+ programme and to TJT, my hosts.

The Covid-19 pandemic has stifled the opportunity to establish an intern support business, but I developed a renewed drive and agility even in a short time as an intern. It has helped me pivot in another direction, and pursue the value of supported learning and personal development.

I returned to the UK, and trained as a teacher of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Drawing on a love of language and a fascination with other cultures that I’ve always tried to nurture in my students, I’m now teaching students and professionals English. The satisfaction I get comes directly from helping others to understand both language and culture. It’s entirely consistent with my ongoing belief in the value of international experience, and my intention to develop InternationalEyes as a business venture that makes a difference.

Even for someone with significant experience across two distinct careers, working and learning abroad can be life changing. It feeds self awareness and self belief. Intercultural experience does more to develop your ability to manage relationships with others than you can expect from the familiar. Empathy and the wider aspects of emotional intelligence are readily enhanced by exposure to ’the other’. Arguably as important are the changes in your ability to manage yourself in unfamiliar environments and situations.

Wherever you intend to work, whoever you expect to come into contact with, the potential benefits of international experience are without equal. So aim for new, for different not familiar; aim to stretch not just to fit. Take the chance, and let chance make its mark on you. Have goals and direction, but don’t be enslaved by them, because often it’s the deviations from the path that make life interesting and worthwhile.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Ernest Hemingway

Published by John Humphreys

Education and leisure industry professional with over 30 years' experience and a focus on delivering international experiences and employability development.

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