GRIP, Internships Abroad First Day Lessons

June 21, 2019
By Michael Lin, CAS '22

Keru - Shanghai, China

Click.

Angsty passengers instantly threw off their seatbelts and hurried off the plane, unlocking themselves a world of towering concrete, vibrant lights, rampant commercialism, and very long lines.

Flutter.

People shuffled through the airport in every and all directions, like autumn leaves carried by wind through infinite paths to the ground. Direction is a variable; destination is a constant.

Thump.

Suitcases were lifted off the conveyor belt and crashed onto the floor as a loud proclamation that someone’s finally home.

Click. Flutter. Thump.

I stepped into the urban unknown. Armed with limited service on my phone and Mandarin, I had to find my Airbnb in one of the world’s largest cities. On the way, I picked up valuable lessons that help shape the way I experience my internship abroad. More than that, they undoubtedly filter into life outside of finding my way around Shanghai.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. While I was lost in the frenzy of the airport, metro, and concrete jungle, people more often times than not were inclined to help point me in the right direction. Even if people didn’t know the answer, they would direct me to someone who did. Everyone who helped me laid a new stepping stone for me to find my way. It just took a little bit of asking.

Be resourceful. And use what’s available. In my pockets of available signal, I would open Apple Maps and screenshot the directions to reference later. I also made sure to take a picture of the metro map before I got on. When there is a will, there is a way, but it requires the right tools to get you there.

Pay careful attention. Being mindful of the details can spare you trouble in the future. For me, that meant properly navigating the lines both below and above ground and following the signs. This made the difference between a purposeful journey and a frantically disoriented wander. There’s definitely more to be said about paying attention in your internship, career, and life ahead.

Value your language classes. I sure came to value my Chinese classes when I was stranded with little to no knowledge on how to get home. When you learn a second language, not only are you given a set of technical skills, but you are also equipped with a new cultural understanding of another part of the world. You will only ever have more opportunities with mastering a second language.

Enjoy the process. We’ve all heard the overused adage, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” For me, it was meaningless until my destination seemed abstract and unreachable, and all I had was the journey. It’s worth it to enjoy it.

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The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.