Imagine that you’re sitting in a hospital bed, the same one you’ve been living in for the past three days. You’ve been poked and prodded by doctors as they have tried to figure out what’s wrong with you. You’ve gone through more CT scans and blood tests than you can count. You’re exhausted and feel even worse than when you first came in.
Before I arrived in Bangkok, I had a very clear idea of what my role here would be. I was going to be a student. I don’t mean to flaunt, but with a whole life of experience and a passion for learning, I think I’m pretty good at being a student. This confidence made me feel as though I had a leg up on the competition. It made me feel like taking the leap and spending six weeks in Thailand would be easy. I was both right and wrong.
When I decided to take a journey across the world five months ago, the first thing I was warned about was homesickness. “The first week will be the hardest,” they said. “You’ll miss every little thing about home, especially the things you wouldn’t expect.” Professors, fellow students, family and friends reiterated this more times than I can count. They made the first week sound absolutely treacherous.
I’ve been traveling internationally for the past 10 years and one question that I’m consistently asked is “how can you afford it?” As a full time student and restaurant server paying her own way in life, most people cannot understand how I could whisk off on an extended vacation every summer. Well, the answer lies in the bag of tricks I’ve accumulated along the way and below are a few of my best tips!
Ahhhhh … inner city transport. Most people describe this means of transportation as: crowded, loud, smelly and at least once a week a drug addict will be itching to explain the ways of the universe to you. But I adore my underground journeys for two reasons.
I thought before I came to Quito that I would have to step back in the closet. My biggest fear was not travelling to a new country and learning a new culture, but it was the unknown of how the people would accept and perceive me. One week after arriving, I realized that you cannot have the experience of a lifetime if you are not true to who you are.
Interning abroad is a completely different experience than studying abroad, obviously. You can’t hide in the back of the lecture hall because you’re bored or slightly hung over. You will be constantly kicking yourself for not having paid more attention in second year German. You will be giving your best efforts to produce quality work by another culture’s standards (most likely for free). You’re handed tasks that range from doing dishes to doing things beyond your job title, often resulting in confusion and anxiety. However, if the first week jitters subside and your internship is falling short of your expectations, it helps to know how to turn the tables in your favor.
In an interview for a marketing position many years ago, I asked my prospective employer, “Whether or not I receive this position, what do you think it takes to succeed in this field?” His response was one that I have always carried in the forefront of my work ethic. He said, “Whatever you do, always think five steps ahead. If you think you have a great idea, you should already be thinking of the next one … always think in terms of the future.”