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The date is coming closer and you have been counting down the days. You may feel a range of emotions. Happiness and excitement, fear and panic. However, having such feelings is always a good indication. It means that you are really looking forward to your Erasmus internship. Starting a new job comes with greater responsibility, and you feel pressured to make a good impression. Moreover, working abroad always seems more frightening. There are a few things that could help you to survive your first day at work abroad, whether it is an internship or a regular job. In these cases, preparation is crucial and could affect your performance to a great extent.
Before your first day at work abroad
- Move into your new city a few days in advance – It would be better if you could move to your new place a few days before you actually start working. Besides avoiding any delays, you will have enough time to unpack and settle down.
- Get to know the surroundings – As soon as you have a chance, go around the city and find out where your workplace is. On the first day at work abroad, you will already know where you have to be and how much time it will take you to get there.
- If you are planning to use public transportation to get to the office, test the routes you will be taking – It would be awful if you got lost (or late) because you didn’t know which bus to take. Before you start working, put public transportation to the test. Find out which lines you will have to take. Check whether they are late or not, see how much time it takes to get there, be aware of ticket prices, etc. Remember that timetables tend to change on weekends, so try to choose a working day for your test journey.
- Ask your boss about the basics – Contact the responsible person to get important information, such as the dress code, working hours, lunch breaks, or if there is a kitchen (in case you would like to bring food from home).
- Check the weather forecast the day before and pick an outfit accordingly – Having an outfit prepared will save you time getting ready in the morning. Check online what the weather will be like, so you have a solid idea. However, don't forget to look out of the window before you leave. Weather can be unpredictable sometimes!
- Get to know the company before you start working – if the company you are going to work in has a website, explore it. Read it carefully and note the most important information, especially if it’s related directly to your work position. If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask your employer or manager, whenever you meet them personally. It will show how interested and proactive you are.
- Do some research on the business etiquette in that country – It is crucial to know what you should or shouldn't do in a business environment in certain countries. Business etiquette varies depending on country and its culture, and knowing it beforehand will help you avoid some misunderstandings. For example, in some countries humor and jokes are acceptable and used as a way of 'breaking the ice'. However, other countries find jokes inappropriate in a business environment, and you would not be taken seriously by your work mates, even if you tell them the best joke you know.
- If you have paperwork to be filled in by your employer, don't forget to pack it – If it’s an Erasmus internship, don’t forget to organize all the documents you need to take with you, such as learning agreement, confirmation of arrival, etc. The needed documents depend on your Erasmus agreement and also on your company;
- Go to bed early – There is nothing better than a good night's sleep before going to work. Even though you are probably going to be too excited to sleep properly, being early in bed will help you relax.
Surviving your first day at work abroad
- Be there early – You don't need to arrive 1 hour in advance, but be there at least 10 minutes before your shift starts at your first day at work abroad. Being punctual is always well-regarded by employers.
- Don't forget your manners – As soon as you arrive, don't forget to greet and smile to everyone you bump into in the office, be it the reception or even the elevator. Don't forget that you are new there and this is your first day at work abroad, so you probably wouldn't know to whom you are talking to. Even if they are not the ones you are going to work with, being nice will improve your mood and confidence, apart from giving everyone a good impression about yourself.
- Be mentally prepared and open-minded – You will probably be asked to do some tasks outside your field or that you have never dealt with. Even though it might seem scary at first, accept it and let your employer know that you will do your best. Being an intern is the best opportunity to try new things and learn a lot.
- If possible, note any tips your colleagues or employers may give you – On your first day at work abroad, you should act like a sponge: absorb as much knowledge as possible. Writing it all down will help you to remember every detail, especially if you tend to forget things easily.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help – You have just started working, so don't be so hard on yourself. When a task is given to you, take the opportunity to ask your employer or colleagues how you should do it. If you are struggling with something, be polite by apologizing and asking for help.
- Be positive and confident – Even if you’re not sure how to do your task, do your best and stay positive. If you are given something important to do, it means that they believe in you, so you should too.
- If your colleagues or boss ask you to have lunch with them, go for it – Having lunch with your colleagues is a good opportunity to relax a bit and get to know them better. Ask them not only where you could have your lunch, but also about all the must-go places in the city.
- If you are asked to go for a drink after work, consider accepting the offer – Any opportunity to hang out with your colleagues should be taken into consideration. You don't have to do it every day, but every now and then it would be nice to meet them in a different environment.
When you are feeling homesick, uncomfortable or when times get rough, remember the reason that took you there in the first place. Living and working abroad is not easy. If you are living alone, you might feel lonely at times, and that’s alright. Remember that this is a unique opportunity, and things will start getting better over time. After you are done with your internship, you will look back and feel proud of the choices you have made and of the obstacles you have overcome. Your first day at work abroad might be stressful, but it’s going to be worth it.
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