Internship: 8 Pieces of Advice from a Former J1 Intern

I think the only way for you to grow and evolve is to keep listening, keep moving forward, keep jumping in and trying to experience.
-Dianne Reeves

*Note: If you aren’t familiar with what internship is, kindly click here.

2 years already passed by but I still remember my internship as if it had ended last month. It’s indeed a memorable experience. An experience, albeit not as wonderful as what I had expected, I wouldn’t trade and I would gladly do again.

As a former J1, there were things I wished I knew before having my internship. Although I had some fun, I felt like I wasn’t able to make the most out of it.

Whether you are currently a J1 or planning to enter the program, I hope you’ll have some takeaways from my blog.

*NOTE: I wrote this for the main purpose of advising current and future J1s. But these pieces of advice aren’t only applicable for them nor for the program but also to anyone’s life. We can apply it from where we are right now.

1. Listen to other people’s stories.

Every person you will meet in the internship has a story to tell. Some stories may be worth listening to and some may not but just take time to listen without judging. There’s a huge possibility that out of 10 stories you’ll hear, you will find a special one. 

During my internship, I’ve heard a lot of stories from my co-workers and even guests. It felt good to listen and to know how life is different from each and one of us but somehow the same.

Some stories inspired me while some taught me real-life lessons.

2. Save money… but don’t forget to have fun.

Attending the program was not cheap, especially for us living in a third world country. In my case, I was lucky someone lent me the money for the program.

I was able to pay what I owe, but I was so focused on saving money and buying materialistic stuff.

I forgot to spend time and money on what truly matters. Experience.

Saving money is not bad but it shouldn’t take away the fun.

Remember, this is a cultural experience. You should take part in the culture and community.

I wish I knew how significant the experience was.

I realized I will never have the same opportunity again. Of course, I can go for another internship, but it will be different. Not with the same people nor the same hotel.

So, do what I didn’t do. Focus on the experience, seize the opportunity and enjoy.

3. Be courageous.

Trying different things, talking to people, and travelling alone in a foreign land needs a lot of courage. It wouldn’t be easy and it would definitely feel awkward, at times, but just go for it. You’ll be thankful you did it anyway.

You will also need to have courage and stand for yourself. 

Chances are you will meet people who will look down on you or co-workers who will abuse your kindness. Learn how to say no when you think it’s too much. Know your limits and know when it’s enough. For me, that’s bravery.

4. Be open-minded.

America is a melting pot of cultures. Since it’s known as the “Land of Opportunity”, a lot of people want to have the taste of the American dream.

You will meet people from different places, and you need to be open-minded and prepared in dealing with cultures and beliefs you aren’t used to.

When you learn how to be open-minded, you’ll be less judgmental of other people. It will teach you how to be compassionate.

You’ll also not be easily hurt by prejudice of others because it will be easier for you to understand and accept other people’s opinion without having the urge to defend yours

5. Make memories.

Take as many pictures as you can. Talk to people who you love talking to. Go visit different places. Try different foods. Talk to local people, and get out of the freaking house.

You will be grateful for the memories you made not for the things you bought.

6. Stop complaining.

I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of complaining too much. Before starting the internship and passing the visa interview, I imagined how happy I’ll be when I arrive in the US. I imagined myself having the best time of my life. 

But guess what? It wasn’t as perfect as I thought it would be.

I got stressed out. I remember the times when I wanted to quit, when I complained a lot and I wished that the program will be over soon.

But as I type now, I want to turn back the time and do everything better.

You see, complaining is not good. It’s addicting especially when you can share it with others who love to complain.

As they say, misery loves company.

Let me tell you, it will not be a perfect experience. It’s no bed of roses. You will meet people who are not happy with what they’re doing and it will affect the way you think.

But I hope you’ll remember how lucky you are to have the opportunity.

Remember who and where you were before the program.

Keep in mind that there are people who wish to experience what you are experiencing.

Whether you’re having a bad day or a good one, be grateful. There’s always something to be grateful for. Sometimes, you just need to look at a different angle.

7. lower your expectations.

Try not to expect or at least lower your expectations.

Our expectations will have a great impact on our experience. If we expect too much, we might end up disappointed.

Like me, I expected too much from the program that when my expectations weren’t met, I became disappointed.

The situation didn’t ruin my experience, I did.

The best thing to do is to enjoy what you have in your plate and just stop comparing your experience from others or your assumptions.

8. Accept, learn and absorb.

Learnings will always be the best product for the internship. I am sure you’ll learn a lot and I’m not only talking about work or career-related stuff.

You will also learn a lot about yourself. There will be times that you will need to reflect on your actions. 

You’ll get to know your strengths and weaknesses and you’ll learn patience, willpower and discipline.

Moreover, you’ll find out how the corporate world works. The beauty and misery behind it.

You will go through some highs and lows and all you can do is accept, learn and absorb.

So, stop judging yourself when you commit mistakes, because you will. We always do, by the way. Instead of beating yourself up when you fail or when you commit errors, learn from them.

Write it down and reflect.

In the future, you’ll be thankful for the experience.

End Note

Enjoy what you have at the moment, seize the chance and just keep on learning.

When you feel down, think of what you can do to make it better. You can go out, eat your comfort food, or relax.

BUT NEVER EVER THINK OF QUITTING.

You’ll only realize how great the experience is when it’s over.

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