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You may think you’re ready for a public health internship and can handle anything that comes along. However, before you make a commitment to get involved in an internship, there are some things you might not be aware of or may have not previously thought out. Make sure you’re prepared before making a big commitment that could affect the direction your career takes.
- Be very particular. Decide on what goals you have and use any past experiences that you have. If you want to work in a foreign country for your internship, choose one that you have a strong interest in. You may think a prospect sounds interesting only to be disappointed later on. Use any experience you’ve had with a foreign country, or languages you know that will make the experience more rewarding. Think seriously about the kind of internship you want before making any decisions.
- Be open to all the possibilities. If you read about a particular problem that you may not have had an interest in before and there is an opportunity, it might be a good idea to explore it. It might not be what you had originally intended to do, but you could have a great opportunity to help people in ways that you never expected. If you’ve applied for several internships, follow up with the potential employers. You should cover all the bases.
- Not every internship, like any other work experience, will be exactly as you envisioned. You have to learn to deal with the unexpected, and may have to handle situations that you don’t want to be involved in, but that’s all part of the learning process. When you start taking responsibility in your position, you may encounter problems you didn’t anticipate. Utilize your coursework and see how it can help you to deal with the unexpected. You could make recommendations to the director of the project that could improve how well things work, and you may surprise yourself with your new found abilities. Some of your recommendations could be used in further projects.
- Learn from your superiors and your co-workers. Think of it as a learning experience for everyone involved. Listen when others are talking about the people you’re working with, and pay attention to stories or situations they talk about from past experiences. Learn as much as you can about the culture of the people in the country you’re working in. Find out about everyday problems and what the people have to deal with. Get to know your co-workers as well as the people you’ve been sent to the country to help. You can gain a lot of insight by listening to your co-workers and hearing about their past experiences.
- Your experiences in your internship can be invaluable for future employment or additional courses of study. Once you get involved in your internship, you may encounter new possibilities you hadn’t thought of before. Be open to anything new that comes up. You may find that you want to take additional courses based on your intern experiences. While you’re working, keep in mind that you should be professional at all times. Many people don’t keep this in mind. It’s important to arrive for meetings or other activities on time. Keep up with emails or return phone calls when you’re expected to. What you do in your internship can have a big influence on later work experience. Talk about your plans and interests with others you work with. You don’t know what connections anyone else may have that could help you with future employment. The more professional you are in every aspect of your work, the better the experience will be for you.