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Was interning abroad worth it? A former intern answers

Is interning abroad worth it?

As an international internship provider, we are very familiar with how difficult it can be to move your life to another country—even for a bit. There is so much that you need to consider, from visas to accommodation, finding the right employer or even the right country. Regardless of these considerations, at the end of the day, it’s still going to come down to whether or not this particular experience will benefit you, and whether it’s worth the effort that you’re putting into it. So, is interning abroad worth it? 

Sharing her success story with us is one of our former interns from our previous London Misk cohort Danah Alturkistani. Originally from Saudi Arabia, Danah has gone on to reach new heights upon completing her internship abroad—but the journey wasn’t easy. Here’s how it went.

Before deciding on interning abroad

Before interning abroad, Danah was already immersed in the professional world as a content creator for major companies’ social media accounts. She then transitioned to a marketing specialist role in a legal services company. This position, though challenging due to the strict formalities of the legal environment in Saudi Arabia, equipped her with invaluable knowledge about the legal sector and honed her ability to balance creativity with formalism.

Reflecting on this phase, Danah mentioned, “I gained a lot of knowledge about the legal stuff. Sometimes I speak like I’m a lawyer, but no, I got that from my colleagues in the office.” This experience not only broadened her professional skills but also prepared her for future career shifts.

Danah’s passion for the culinary arts had been a long-standing interest since high school. However, at that time, Saudi Arabia only offered diploma programs in culinary studies, and she aspired to complete a bachelor’s degree. Consequently, she opted for marketing, a field she discovered she enjoyed through a pre-university campaign project. Her university years were filled with joy as she immersed herself in marketing, a decision she did not regret.

Yet, her culinary dream never faded. The burgeoning culinary field in Saudi Arabia presented new opportunities, and Danah decided to pursue a master’s degree in culinary business management and international business management in Switzerland. “When I saw the program, I knew it. I want to go into this program,” she recalled.

New cultures 

Danah’s journey took her to London for an internship through our Misk program–an experience that she says significantly enriched her CV and opened doors to various job opportunities.

“The rigorous selection process and the cultural immersion in London were eye-opening and the people there are really friendly. I didn’t expect that,” she shared. London tends to be relatively well-connected in terms of public transportation but also quite confusing. Danah explained that it was easy to get assistance from locals in London, who were more likely to approach you than the other way around.

Danah later learnt that Switzerland, on the other hand, would pose different challenges. The people were more introverted so you would have to approach them first—but even then, in a particular manner that isn’t intrusive. 

Adequate public transportation to more remote areas was difficult to find and more expensive compared to London. Plus the language barrier added to the complexity. “In some cities, they have two parts: some of them use German and others use French. I only speak English. I thought, ‘How do I work with this?’” Danah recounted. 

An introvert interning abroad

Danah’s journey wasn’t just about professional growth; it was also about personal development. As an introvert, she initially struggled with making friends and stepping out of her comfort zone. University life in Saudi Arabia, especially during the pandemic, was particularly challenging. However, social media became a lifeline, helping her forge lasting friendships with peers in the same field.

One of the most pivotal moments in her journey was her decision to pursue an internship abroad despite her introverted nature. “When I go out of my comfort zone, I become really social. I don’t know why, but yeah,” she explained. 

Navigating the day-to-day as a foreigner

As Danah continued sharing her experiences, it became clear that her journey was not just about academics but also about cultural adaptation and personal growth. She recounted the challenges of juggling an intense academic schedule with practical training.

“I actually took a French class on my first term of the master’s and then the second term, I just dropped the French class because I didn’t have a lot of time. I needed to focus. One thing about the master’s in Switzerland is that is really intense. You have six months of studying but imagine two years of classes packed into six months. Every subject you study requires research.”

The master’s program was rigorous, and Danah had to prioritise her time effectively, often sacrificing additional activities like language classes to stay on track. Her perspective on academic performance shifted as well. “I reached the point in my life that I don’t care about getting 90. I just want to pass. I’m happy with 50, you know.”

The demanding nature of her studies was compounded by the practical component, which required long hours. “I spent about 12 hours in the restaurant,” she explained.

Making friends in London

Having spent her time studying and/or working in both the UK and Switzerland, Danah shared her observations and experiences with making friends in both places. “In Switzerland, if you smile at someone in a public place, they don’t usually smile back. In London, you smile at anyone, they say hi, and you speak to them—it’s fine. You could have casual conversations with everyone. That was really good.”

What helped her make friends in London was her love for food. She reminisced about the vibrant food markets and festivals she attended. “When I went to London, I was really underweight. I was trying to gain weight for like three years and couldn’t. But when I came back from London, I gained like nine kilos!” she exclaimed enthusiastically.

New realisations

Interning abroad as a marketing professional, Danah navigated a unique field that provided her with invaluable experience. “I was a marketing intern for a barbershop chain, which was a new field for me. It was different, and I wouldn’t get this opportunity anywhere else. My tasks included creating marketing campaigns, planning how to increase sales, and balancing visitor numbers across different chains.”

Her internship in London had a profound impact on her career outlook. “After my internship, I realised that to be a master in marketing takes a lot of work. So I tried to find another way to be a master in something without spending years and years to do that. But the marketing experience in London affected my work positively. I can now create ideas from a different aspect.”

Her unconventional choice to intern in a barbershop chain equipped her with unique skills and perspectives, making her a more versatile marketing professional. “Every time that a marketing professional picks something completely random to gain experience in, they become better overall. It forces you to think outside of things you’re comfortable with.”

As she adapted to different cultural environments, Danah also learned to integrate her cultural background with new techniques and styles she encountered in the UK and Switzerland. “In marketing, it was easy to mix the cultural aspect because you’re going to get unique ideas in your work. In the culinary field, it’s good for fusion cuisine, but there are strict rules, so improvising isn’t as easy.”

Danah’s advice 

As her career journey took her across Saudi Arabia, the UK, and Switzerland, Danah stumbled upon unexpected cultural discoveries, new ways to improve her personal growth, and invaluable lessons about following your heart.

As she aptly puts it, “Don’t listen to anyone’s experience. Just go and experience yourself.” This advice is a reminder that everyone’s journey is unique and that what works for one person might not work for another. By exploring the world on her own terms, Danah has discovered that sometimes the most valuable experiences come from the least expected places.

For anyone hesitant to take the plunge into new experiences, Danah offered: “If you didn’t gain anything from this experience, you won’t lose anything as well. So, why not? Things might not go as planned, but I’m happy with what I accomplished till now. I’m 24, I will be graduating with a dual master’s degree before I turn 25, and I have a lot of experience locally and internationally.” 

So, as you navigate your own path, take inspiration from Danah’s story. Embrace new experiences, learn from every moment, and remember that your journey is uniquely yours. You never know where it might lead you.

If you want to kick your career off the right way this year, book a call with us, and let’s talk about it. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for the latest career information, tips, and updates. (They’re both completely free!)

Kahless

Kahless

Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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