During the Program
Creating a positive experience
For all concerned, one thing is certain: the program is going to be a new and different experience. Everyone adapts to new situations differently, and the host organization plays a vital role in making it easier for international interns to become part of the team.
While the official training plan outlines the essentials of what participants will do and learn, it’s the day-to-day professional environment and interaction with supervisors and colleagues that will have the largest impact. A positive, friendly atmosphere and a little understanding on all sides make a big difference.
Before the intern arrives
Host organizations can make their participant’s stay more memorable by helping him or her find a place to live, offering advice on things to do and see, and by making it safe and easy to get to the workplace. Everyone benefits when interns are happy and productive. Being helpful also creates the foundation for a great relationship.
Before the intern arrives, you should:
- Coordinate with human resources to arrange for onboarding and orientation
- Prepare training space and any equipment, if needed
- Brief staff members and encourage them to get to know your intern professionally and personally
- Research local housing, transportation, and cultural opportunities, to help the participant get settled
Setting the stage for success
CIEE interns are eager to learn new skills but may need a bit of extra help from their host organization to get started.
The American workplace likely is a totally new environment for participants. Allow ample time and offer enough instruction to make sure tasks are mastered.
Make sure you understand one another
English is not the native language of many participants, so this should be taken into account when interacting in the workplace. Asking the intern to repeat instructions back is a good way to ensure he or she is fully understood, and the intern needs to know that it’s OK to ask questions if anything is unclear.
Don’t take things for granted
Business practices may not be the same as the ones participants have experienced at home. Host organizations should be very specific about routine things like meal breaks and office rules. Take time to explain the reasons behind the rules. It makes them easier to follow.
Be open and friendly
Everyone in the workplace – interns, colleagues, and managers – should take the time to engage with and learn from one another. That’s what exchange is all about!
- Share insights and talk openly about adjustment issues. Some cultural differences may impact the workplace. For example, expressions – gestures, tone, and demeanor – carry different meanings in different parts of the world, and this is a great opportunity to learn about those differences.
- Organize activities, such as cookouts or outings, to build team spirit and help people get to know each other
- Consider a mentoring approach that pairs staff members with interns, for support and guidance
Supervisors should check in regularly to see how things are going. At the same time, interns should be encouraged to ask questions or bring up issues. Most misunderstandings can be prevented by communicating clearly and often. If you need advice on how to communicate better in the workplace, call the CIEE support team at 1-888-268-6245. We’re always happy to help.