Interning abroad: Working hard to play hard

Advice for finding balance between school, work and life while interning abroad.


File photo: A busy street in the center of London. (Camila Ceballos for WSN)

Gabriel Kauachi, Contributing Writer

As spring turns into summer, I look back on the past year of interning and studying abroad at both NYU London and NYU Madrid with gratitude toward both the cities and the people in them. After taking the Experiential Learning Seminar both semesters, which paired me with a hedge fund in London and a gourmet winery in Madrid, I learned how to adapt to different professional, academic and social environments. While it may seem challenging at first, making the most of your time interning abroad can be a breeze if you follow this advice. 

Create and maintain a focused schedule

When you’re abroad, exploring a new city, maintaining classes, interning and socializing can seem like a lot. Home to two of the world’s best nightlife cultures, Madrid and London are alive seven days a week, and after experiencing the techno and pub scenes of the United Kingdom, my friends and I were excited to go out in Madrid. Because of this, my roommate and I saw it important to establish an efficiently balanced routine between going out, our classes and my internship at the winery. 

As long as you focus throughout the day to get as much work done as possible, you can reward yourself at night and enjoy your new city. It can be helpful to set some ground rules as well. For example, my roommate and I scheduled a certain amount of exercise to do per week and a designated day to do laundry and clean our room. If you keep a steady routine, you can both enjoy the fun of the city’s nightlife and continue to succeed at school and work. 

Celebrate your accomplishments

Considering you will be working what is basically a part-time job in addition to your classes, it is important to reward your daily accomplishments. Whether it’s going to a cafe, sharing a dinner with a friend or visiting a museum, it is important to take time to unwind and explore your new city after productive days. Take, for example, any given Wednesday in Madrid. After a long morning of classes a six-hour work shift at the winery and homework, I take the metro home and meet with my friends to make plans for the night. Fortunately, they will have already organized for us to go to Discoteca Gunilla Club, a club notoriously known for its lively Wednesday night atmosphere, to dance, unwind and take our minds off the day’s work.

Embrace the social culture 

Interning abroad also helped me make friends with my coworkers and take advantage of the great connections I could build with them. Whether it was tea time in Mayfair with my boss at the hedge fund or wine tastings with my coworkers, I grew close to the people I worked with and learned a lot from them, knowing I could depend on them any time I come back to the city. To fully be a member of a company, one has to adapt to its work culture, and in another country with different customs and traditions, there can be more to get used to.

In the Spanish workplace, productive leisure — the ability to work while allowing time for a break or refresh — is integral to having a positive work-life balance. Similarly, in London, kindness and generosity to others through small things, such as going for tea or coffee throughout the workday, are important. Interestingly enough, a significant amount of business was actually carried out after work, specifically over what is called a perfectly poured productive pint at the pub.

While it may have not been the American hustle culture I was used to, I learned to work to live, rather than live to work during my time abroad.

Contact Gabriel Kauachi at [email protected].