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Internship Guide: How To Survive In An Unfamiliar City

Posted by admin on Saturday, May 7, 2011

Like most college students, if you're not going abroad to "study" (let's be real -studying abroad is just an excuse to be a beach bum and bar hop in a foreign city) or taking those dreadful summer classes,  you're probably scrambling to either: A) find the perfect internship or B) tie up the loose ends to preparing for your summer internship.

While I hope you've already completed Choice A, you're probably in the same position I'm in. Done with the spring semester, done with finals (yup, lucky me!), and preparing for my summer internship ahead. What's the big difference though? It's no where near Texas! In fact, I'm taking on the Big Apple this summer interning for a global PR agency. While I'm absolutely stoked, I'm going to miss my Study Breaks family dearly. What's even scarier is being in a city I'm rather unfamiliar with. Here's what I've been doing as preparation to conquer New York City and how you can too!

1. Reconnect with all your networks for housing

Housing is probably going to be your number one problem, especially in a city as expensive at New York City. Know anybody that might even have one friend in the city you're interning at? Hit them up! You never know what connections they'll have or who they'll know. By asking only three of my friends that either lives in NYC or once lived there, I was able to find many options for housing. It definitely beats looking at Craigslist and fearing whether the offers are legit or not. Don't trust Craigslist? Check Facebook marketplace! Facebook can tell you how you're connected to people who list posts for subleasers.

This is my friend's dog. She hopped in her suitcase and begged my friend to take her along!

2. Pack the essentials and leave plenty of extra room in your luggage

The downside of interning away from home is figuring out what the heck to pack for three months. While you may want to pack your entire room away, limit yourself to two suitcases and one duffle bag. Unless you have someone meeting you at the airport, lugging huge suitcases by yourself is no fun. Pack the everyday things you use but leave chunky things at home like towels or your Snuggie. Wait until you get to your city to shop for things like shampoo, towels, pillows, and blankets. These things are all fairly inexpensive and you can donate the pillows, towels, and blankets before you leave back home. And if you have an impulsive shopping disorder like me, leave plenty of room for the cute summer dresses and shorts you'll most likely buy.

3. Study the map and your city's public transportation system.

Unless you have the luxury of bringing your car with you (though I don't recommend it. What a hassle!), take the time to study a map of the city, especially the area surrounding your office and temporary home. If you're interning in a big city like me, it's imperative to get an idea of how their public transportation system works, specifically the subway. HopStop.com provides the best directions and routes to take for a ton of different cities, including major cities like NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

4. Don't be afraid to prepare packed lunches - and save the extra money

Sure, you may feel obligated to eat with your co-workers during your lunch hour, but it can get pretty eating at the swanky sushi bar or overpriced, organic salad bar cafe. During my last internship in Hong Kong, I would switch off days of eating with co-workers or eating at my desk to save a little money. While you probably don't have time to pack cute Hello Kitty bento boxes (pictured right), bring in your last night's leftovers, a Ziploc of grapes, crackers, and water/tea/juice. How can you spruce up a bland lunch? Invest in capers, hummus, Sriracha hot chili sauce, or dried fruit to fancy-up your lunch. Not only could you get ahead of work by bringing lunch, but you can save that extra few bucks for happy hour afterwards!

5. Research other companies to visit during your stay.

Interested in learning more about another company and want to go for an office visit? That's totally okay to do! As an intern, your company you intern for completely understands that you aren't committed to anybody, so you should have the freedom to network elsewhere. Of course, don't schedule visits during the first couple weeks of your internship, but ease it in as time passes throughout the summer. Unless your internship manager has talked to you about a full-time offer, you aren't under any obligation to them. Take advantage of the opportunity to schedule office visits and time to talk with other company executives instead of making a separate trip later on after your internship is over. Not only does this give you the chance to truly shine in person, but if you do decide to apply later, you'll stick out from the bunch of résumés for your proactivity to meet with them beforehand.

Still have questions about how to rock an internship or survive in an unfamiliar city, or have your own tips? Leave a comment or Tweet me at @jenniferzhenyu!

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