One thing that has become so evident during my internship in Barcelona is this: cultural context matters. The rules all change when a person leaves his or her home culture to plunge into an unfamiliar environment. What defines the norm for one social group may be under the influence of entirely different factors in another.
This philosophy applies whether the transfer takes you to the grocery store down the street or to an internship on the other side of the globe. My internship has taught me three important lessons about international public relations and interning abroad.
1. While it may initially feel uncomfortable, diversity always brings out the best in a team. The key to success in any work environment comes with a willingness to listen to other points of view and to allow a free flow of ideas and creativity. Make sure you bring an open mind and solid dose of humility when you enter another culture and a new workspace.
2. In addition to the usual communication struggles, many complex challenges face the international PR practitioner. Huge barriers exist with differing time zones, geography, customs, media, business etiquette, people groups and, of course, languages. If you want to intern or work in another country, start increasing your cultural IQ now. Follow their media, learn another language, pay attention to global news and immerse yourself in other cultures whenever you can.
3. Whoever coined the classic saying, “Think global, act local,” knew the importance of tailoring every strategy to the particular people it impacts. Despite feeling a little overwhelmed by all the cultural differences in Spain, I quickly made an exciting discovery: We are essentially experts when it comes to our home cultures. All the networking, professional development and experience I’ve had in the United States have proven valuable here.
Interning abroad has taught me so many lessons that I never could have learned interning in my home country. It is an experience that will hugely impact my future career and ultimately has shaped me in ways I could never have anticipated.
By Jessica Airey, Biola University