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How to Have a Successful Remote Internship Experience

May 25, 2020 9:05:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Are you participating in a remote internship this summer? Read on to find out 10 tips to help you navigate your remote internship and to get the most out of the experience.

Over the past 25 years, CAPA has built strong relationships with thousands of incredible internship partners in and beyond our global city locations around the world. Beginning in summer 2020, were launching a virtual version of our well-established and highly respected internship program. Working closely with our global partners, weve opened up our network to make hundreds of intern positions available remotely. 

Opportunities will stretch across a wide range of industries including business, communications, education, finance, game design, marketing, web design, and more.

International experience is more important than ever in our increasingly globally connected workplaces. In a world becoming more reliant on connecting, collaborating, and performing virtually, the skillset employers are looking for in candidates is evolving. CAPAs remote internships will educate, enable, and empower you to develop those skills today that will prepare you for employers needs of tomorrow.  

Through this remote internship program, youll learn to work and excel in a global environment with international colleagues and compare experiences with student peers from across the US via CAPAs innovative Globally Networked Learning technology, gain remote professional networking and social skills, and learn how to communicate inter-culturally by navigating the nuances of a workplace in an international context.  

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Read our recent blog post 10 Benefits Of Completing a Remote Global Internship” to find out more about how a remote global internship can have an impact on your employability, and read on for our top tips that will help you make your experience a successful one:  

1. Define your goals.  

Having clearly defined goals and expectations from the beginning of your remote global internship will allow you to work closely with your site supervisor to define and shape your work experience, help you stay focused, and allow you to track your progress. Goals, along with a plan to achieve them, will be set with your site supervisor in a signed Learning Agreement as part of the complementary, required Global Internship Course.  

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Your goals may involve learning new technologies to communicate across borders and time zones, mastering skills specific to your field, improving soft skills such as how to appropriately use body language in international business communication, or building relationships with contacts abroad.  

When you set your goals, ensure that they are accessible to you in the role youve been assigned, useful for your future career, measurable so you know what success in achieving them will look like, that they benefit both you and your host company, and that theyre pushing your boundaries and keeping you motivated. 

2. Have a designated workspace. 

While you may want to occasionally work from different areas of your home for a change of scenery, its important to have a designated workspace where you feel most productive. This should be somewhere the Wi-Fi connection is strong, where you have a comfortable chair and table or desk, power outlets and chargers on hand, and a notebook and pen within easy reach. It should also be clear of distractions.   

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Something else that is important to consider is the background you have for for video meetings: what does it say about you or communicate to your colleagues? If in doubt, a simple blank wall, bookshelf, or piece of artwork are acceptable options.  

If you live with others, be sure your designated workspace is somewhere quiet, preferably where you can close a door during meetings, away from the busiest areas of the house. Set expectations with housemates or family members so they know when you need space to work without interruption. Consider a notice board outside on the door to indicate when you are unable to be disturbed. 

3. Check your tech. 

Before your internship begins, find out which tools and technology youll need for your role and be sure everything is working in advance. Test everything and ensure you know how to use important programs, apps, or websites. Check which platform your team will use for meetings, set up an account, and make sure your connection is working. Check your camera and sound quality. Make sure you have working headphones if needed, that your software is up to date, that you have plenty of storage available, and your Wi-Fi is in good shape. If youre required to work with large files, consider an external hard drive or invest in extra space on Dropbox. 

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With a global internship, there may be unfamiliar sites or programs that your supervisor and team use locally. Browse these in advance so you are comfortable with them.  

4. Write a daily to-do list. 

While interning virtually, youll want to keep up the practice of writing a to-do list and set the tone for your day early on to keep yourself on track with your tasks. Prioritize and note the top three items you need to complete that day. If you have a large project in progress, break it down into smaller tasks. This will help you manage your time more effectively and ensure youre meeting deadlines. Try to complete the most challenging to do list item or the task youre looking forward to the least first thing in the morning. Ticking that item off of your list will give you a sense of accomplishment from the beginning of the day.  

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While writing your to-do list, think about time differences with your international colleagues. If your teammates will be counting on you to complete a task and are working hours ahead or behind you, re-arrange your priorities so theyre able to have what they need on time. 

Depending on your personal preferences, your list could be kept in your phone notes, in a paper notebook, or on a digital organizational tool like Trello, for example. 

5. Take breaks and set time limits. 

One of the most obvious and appreciated advantages of a remote global internship is the privilege of the relative flexibility that usually comes with it. This can save hours of your day, but it can also make it more difficult to separate yourself from your work. Creating a work-life balance is an excellent skill to master now.   

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Know that its healthy to take small breaks throughout the day and to have set working hours which will give you an opportunity to unwind, reflect, and clear your head. Short breaks can be used as personal rewards for finishing tasks.  

When you complete a big project, you might arrange with a colleague from your host site to reward yourselves with 10 minutes of virtual chit-chat over coffee and get to know them better just like you would in an office setting.  

Remember to switch off your technology in the evenings, especially in the few hours before you go to sleep, and give yourself time for a morning routine that helps you set yourself up for the day mentally. Incorporate fresh air and exercise into each day and set aside enough time to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch too. 

6. Build relationships. 

One major advantage of a globalized internship is the ability to connect with your international colleagues, to form strong relationships, and to learn from themabout everything from work life in their city to daily life abroad on a more personal level.   

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Use technology to chat with your colleagues, to meet regularly with a mentor, and get to know your supervisor. Use video chat over voice calls or emails whenever possible. Be a good listener, make eye contact, and pay attention. Try to make sure you have individual meetings scheduled alongside larger group discussions so you have more one-on-one time that will allow you to build stronger relationships. 

Sign in promptly to video calls and use the beginning of the meeting for of few minutes of personal chat while waiting for others to join if appropriate. Ask about how your colleagues spent their weekend and make small talk similar to that which youd be making in a typical office environment throughout the day. Make an extra effort to remember the little details your colleagues’ share about their personal lives.  

With a remote global internship, youll be communicating with a team who are based in a different location across the world. Its useful to follow their local news or take interest in events they might be chatting about so that you feel more connected to their conversations and can join in or ask questions. 

7. Know and limit your distractions. 

You know yourself better than anyone else, so take stock of what your biggest distractions are at home and make efforts to limit them as much as possible.   

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That may mean turning off notifications from your phone during the day, closing tabs in your browser that you might normally keep open to check social media, news sites, or RSS feeds, and making a point to stop Netflix from playing in the background so you have full focus on your internship work.  

This may also mean eliminating offline distractions, from setting those important boundaries with others who live in your home, ensuring you dont schedule deliveries during your internship hours, putting aside any personal tasks you know need to be completed, or changing your location to somewhere more peaceful that allows you to focus fully on your internship projects.  

8. Be proactive. 

A proactive intern is a successful intern; the effort you put into your internship will reflect what you achieve from it. Your site supervisor will notice and appreciate your efforts.  

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Being proactive means asking for feedback, guidance, and new tasks when you finish what youve been working on, making sure youre staying on track with the goals in your Learning Agreement, speaking up if theres something specific youd like to be involved in, and making suggestions for ways you can contribute to the company based on your skills, experience, and interests.  

Being proactive means contributing to discussions during virtual meetings, keeping up with industry news and developments, sharing ideas, and volunteering to complete tasks that help others meet their own goals while also contributing to your professional learning experience. It might mean noticing work that could be done, such as updating an out-of-date social media profile or an area of the website that could be improved but may not have been noticed by full time staff who are focused on other things.  

You may wish to make note of specific accomplishments during your internship so you can share these with your supervisor if you ask for a letter of recommendation when youve completed your time with the company.  

9. Ask questions. 

Your site supervisor may not know the extent of your knowledge or skills, so its important to ask questions and ensure you fully understand your assigned project or task. All communication should be as clear as possible.   

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An international internship is the perfect situation in which to develop intercultural communication skills that will stand out to future employers. Asking questions will help bridge the cultural divide and is an essential way to cultivate those skills as well as strong working relationships with your colleagues across the globe. 

Your site supervisors role is to provide you with guidance and support to make this a productive learning experience for you as well as a valuable partnership for the company and they will be happy to answer questions. 

Youll be an important part of the team, bringing your own international perspective to the virtual table, and your colleagues will be as interested in learning more about you and your own cultural background and work experience as you will be in theirs. Extending the conversations you have through asking appropriate and relevant questions is a good opportunity develop a deeper understanding of the culture, gain knowledge and insight into what its like to work in your industry through an international lens, and make observations about the local work environment.  

10. Participate in extracurriculars. 

Even though you will physically be in the United States while participating in a remote global internship, you can mentally be in your host citys location while youre interacting with your placement site, and even when youre not.   

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You may be able to join in on after work events through video, ask colleagues to meet for a virtual cup of tea and a catch-up before or after the working day, or set up dates to have virtual lunch breaks with different co-workers so you can get to know them a bit better. Find out if there are other opportunities you can be a part of or take the initiative to create your own and invite colleagues to join in.  

When youre not working on internship projects or academics, make an effort to immerse yourself in the local culture through virtual tours of the city or its museums and galleries; watch films created in or featuring your host city location; listen to podcasts by local hosts or ask your colleagues’ for their best music recommendations from local bands; find out where your colleagues eat lunch, buy coffee, or hang out after work and then lose yourself in Google Maps or Instagram exploring the streets around your internship sites physical location. All of these activities will give you a greater insight into your host citys culture, a deeper understanding of local life, and an appreciation for diversity both in and outside of the workplace.   

If youre participating in a remote global internship, please share any additional tips with us on social media. Wed love to pass them along to future students. 

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Topics: Internships Abroad, Online Programs