The Internship Programme makes it possible for vocational students in Europe to do an internship in London or Dublin as part of the EU venture Erasmus+. One of the most common struggles our work experience students face upon arrival is understanding the importance of good communication. Being the new kid on the block is never easy. You may speak English fluently, but still find it difficult to understand the British or Irish accent and have a difficult time picking up on social codes. Or maybe you are too afraid to ask for help or strike up a casual conversation with a colleague. If a problem arises at work, it may seem impossible to solve.
But there are ways to start off on a positive note. We have put together a list of ten communication guidelines that will help you make the most of your internship.
Compared to other parts of Europe, the British and Irish are known for their friendliness and polite jargon. It is important to say "please" and "thank you". If you have a question, start the sentence with "excuse me, could I please ask you about something?", rather than going straight to the point. If you didn't hear what someone said, don't blurt out "What?" as it is considered rude. Instead use "Pardon?" or "Could you repeat that, please?". If the social codes confuse you, smiling and being open about the fact that you have just arrived in the country will put most people at ease.
2. Body language
According to research, most communication is non-verbal. By keeping your body language open and curious, you invite people to speak to you. Most of the time, our body language is a mirror of our feelings. It is ok to be nervous - everyone knows how difficult it is to be the new person - but try to be aware of how your nervousness shows in your overall posture. If you sit hunched over in a corner with your arms crossed, people are less likely to approach or trust you with tasks. A firm handshake and a smile, however, will give people a good impression of you.
3. Will I work with a friend?
You might, but it is not guaranteed. It depends on the logistics of our planning at the time of your stay. There is also a chance you might work in the same organisation as someone you know, but perhaps in a different department. We are not able to place you in the same organisation as a particular friend (for example the person you live with) as the work placement depends on the quality of your CV and English test results. In terms of communication, students are more likely to do well if they work independently. Rather than speaking to your friend, open up and be curious about the new people around you.
4. Asking for help
Are you unsure of a task? Don't pretend like you know what you are doing and risk making a mistake. Instead reach out to your colleagues and ask for help. Your contact person or mentor is there to assist you in situations like these.
5. What else can I do?
If you have finished a task, you should not expect your contact person or designated mentor to give you a new one. German students, for example, are used to having their whole day of work experience planned out in advance. In contrast, British and Irish work culture largely relies on independence and initiative. Ask your colleagues what else you can help with. Alternatively, suggest a task you would be interested in taking on, like cleaning the messy cabinets behind the till, writing an article for the company blog or introducing the nursery children to games from your home country. This shows initiative and is likely to impress your colleagues.
6. Your mentoring session
The mentoring session is a 20-minute one-to-one session that takes place at ADC College at the end of your second day of work. We will ask you a few questions about your internship, how you are treated there and what responsibilities you have been given. The session is meant to encourage and guide you through the experience. It is important that you let us know if you have any questions or worries. That way, we are able to help you out sooner rather than later.
7. What if there is a problem at work?
Work-related issues often stem from a lack of communication or simple misunderstandings. Depending on the matter, we might ask you to try to solve it on your own first. If the problem persists, we will intervene and seek an alternative solution. Our Work Placement Team has strategies in place to solve any issue that may arise. You may also speak to us about your dilemma during the mentoring session. Then, we might be able to guide you in the right direction from the start.
8. Your reference
Good communication skills are not just about being open and willing to learn. It is also about planning ahead, being confident and understanding how this experience can benefit your future. A reference from a UK organisation is likely to give you a head start on the job market. Your placement is not obliged to provide you with one, but will be more than happy to if you have done a good job. Just make sure you ask for it and give your contact person enough time to prepare one for you.
9. Keep in touch!
Some of our students receive summer job offers at the end of their placement. Others have waited until after graduation and then returned with the ambition to study, look for a job or settle down. Whatever is your plan for the future, keeping in touch with both your work colleagues and us - the ADC College team - is a great idea. In case you decide to come back, we are more than happy to guide you in the right direction!
ADC College organises Internship and Teacher Development Programmes in London and Dublin, eligible for funding from Erasmus+. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.