Learning the ropes of an internship is one thing, but becoming accustomed to a big city for the first time while starting an internship can make those first few days all the more nerve wracking.
After scoring two internships in New York City last summer, I couldn’t have been more excited – and then the realization of living alone in a city I didn’t know anything about terrified me. From the moment my plane landed at La Guardia, I was a nervous wreck until I made it through my first few days.
By the end of my time as a summer intern, though, I had the interning and city gag down pat. In fact, I couldn’t get enough, so I decided to come back to New York in January to intern again. With three different internships under my belt in one of the biggest cities in the world, here are some tips that helped me become a big city intern faster than I thought was possible.
Timing is everything: Since most big cities rely on public transportation, you will need to leave earlier than you normally would anywhere else. For example, if it takes you ten minutes to walk from your residence to your company’s building, you should leave twenty minutes early – at least for the first few days – to make sure you get there on time. Also, who knows what can happen on any given day. Traffic could hold you up one day, a morning rain shower could crowd the subways, or a longer than anticipated line at Starbucks might hold you back while waiting for your morning Venti Mocha. Always give yourself some leeway because this way, you won’t be late and you will save yourself the stress of worrying about getting to the job on time.
Transportation shortcuts exist: Most transportation systems, such as the subway and buses in major cities from New York to San Francisco, have websites that you can find all the information you will ever need at. However, most helpful is the popular HopStop, a website that will tell you what subway trains to take, what bus to transfer to, and how many blocks you need to walk to make it to your destination and how long all of that moving and shaking will take you. It not only informs you about maintenance hold-ups, but it will give you different routes for you to pick from. And to top it all off, you can use HopStop on your cell phone. You won’t get lost with this website in your life, I promise.
Make friends with the doormen: Whether your company’s office has a doorman or you are running errands for an author out of her apartment, get to know the people working the front desk or building doors. Not only will you have a smiling face to greet you in the morning, but you will have someone that knows the city well to direct you in a time of need. This past January, the doormen at the apartment building I constantly ran errands out of were some of the nicest people I met my entire internship. Constantly helpful, they always made me laugh no matter how cold it was in New York or how many boxes I had to carry blocks away. They will brighten your day, and by talking to them, you will brighten their day.
Band-Aids make good friends, too: I can’t begin to count the amount of band-aids I went through during all my internships. It didn’t matter how old and broken in my shoes were, they gave me big, ugly blisters. Why? Well, because the amount of walking I did while interning was far beyond the normal amount of any day around a college campus. I learned quickly to keep a box of Band-aids in my over-sized bag and everyone should do the same. Trust me, you don’t want to be the girl limping with a bloody shoe. Also, since interns usually deal with a lot of paper, nasty paper cuts are guaranteed and you won’t want to have bloody fingers when handing faxes into your boss.
Keep a detailed notebook: Purchase a small spiral notebook and keep it in your bag the entire internship experience. While you write tasks or errands you need to run throughout the day in it, you can also keep addresses of locations you visit, phone numbers and other contact information, and any thoughts you feel need to be recorded all in the same place. If the notebook has pockets, slide in all the business cards you get. Notebooks also come in handy because you can write directions down in it, which saves you time and embarrassment from opening a huge subway map in the middle of a metro station to see where you need to go. At the end of your internship, you will have pages filled of duties you completed (which will make you feel good about yourself) along with a lot of other information that could one day come in handy (for example, a lot of the locations I visited during my summer internships were places I wanted to go again – and I was able to reference them from my notes during my winter internship). This is a good way to keep all your stuff organized so you aren’t leaving things all over the place.
Keep up the pace: Internships in big cities tend to go at a very fast pace. Make sure you keep up. Some days it will honestly suck and you will probably hate it – but you are there to learn. Soak everything in – the good, the bad, the bloody socks from your new shoes, the compliments from your new boss – everything. You were picked to be an intern for a reason, and as long as you remember that, you shouldn’t stop working hard to show that you really do belong there.
Make the most of it: A major perk of interning in a big city is actually being in a big city! You will have a ton of culture and excitement at your finger tips, so live it up! Although working may wear you out, make sure you spend time seeing what the city has to offer. Not only will you gain immense amounts of work experience, but you will do so in a cultural environment – there really isn’t much more you can ask for during an internship!