10 Ways to Impress your Colleagues during your Internship Abroad

The first day on your international internship can be slightly nerve-wracking to many of Leave UR Mark’s volunteers and interns.  Here is Leave UR Mark’s advice on how to easily have your new Indian boss and colleagues warm up to you and help you have an amazing cultural and learning experience while in the country.

1.  Ask Questions
While being introduced to your new boss and new work, it’s crucial to make a great first impression.  Some questions to ask would be:

  • How do you think I can contribute most to your organization?
  • Are there ways that I can make your life easier by working on certain projects?
  • What would you like me to do during the first week?
  • What would you like to see me accomplish over the next (x) weeks?
volunteering in India

Abby works alongside her boss in India


2. Create a Cultural Connection
Find out what hobbies and cultural passions that your boss or colleagues have and try and start up discussions with them about it.  Three topics that a lot of Indians always have an opinion about is: Bollywood movies, Cricket, and the traffic jam.  Ask them things like:
  • What Bollywood movie would you recommend I watch during my time in India?
  • Who’s your favorite cricket team?
  • How long did it take you to get to work today?!
3. Discuss Family ties
India is a country with a strong foundation of family bonding that extends well beyond the immediate family.  Without getting too personal, chat them up about your own personal family ties and what kind of family they come from.  If they have children, ask them about their children’s achievements.  They love talking about how proud they are of their children.  Some questions to ask might be:
  • Do you like joint families or individual families?
  • Do you have family all over India or do they all live in this city?
4. Do not criticize or argue 
Indians are very sensitive to criticism and taking feedback a little too personally.  There is also a very strong hierarchy system in play in the Indian work environment.   If you feel there are things that can be improved during the work operations, you can say things like:
  • Well have you thought about doing it this way?
  • Has anyone ever done it like this?
If you have a strong criticism or opinion about something, check with Leave UR Mark to see what would be the best way to approach your colleagues about it.
volunteering abroad

Giulia works on minority communities in India

5. Refer to them by “Sir” and “Ma’am”

It’s not usually considered polite in India to simply say your bosses name without adding a “Sir” or “Madam” to it.  It’s much better to refer to them as “Ravi Sir” or “Tina Ma’am”.
6. Be incredibly proactive

After working in the organization for about 7 or so days, you will start to get a handle on how things operate.  Your boss will be very impressed by you if you can go to HIM/HER and come up with 10 tasks that you can start to work on for the rest of your time in India.
7. Go to work on a Saturday if it’s a must
Many of us are not used to working on Saturdays when coming to India from countries like the U.S., Canada, etc.  However, in India it’s common practice to work some Saturdays (especially half days).  If your boss says it’s not necessary, then don’t go.  However, if it seems like there is an important event or meeting happening on that Saturday, make sure to check if your boss would like you to come in.

8. Don’t talk negatively or offensively about India 
Although Indians may be constantly complaining about the state of politics, the corruption, the rising prices, the social stigmas etc., they are also fiercely proud of their country.  Although they may constantly be busting on India, they may get offended if you join in and criticize the country.  You may end up with colleagues who think you are the “stereotypical” foreigner.


9.  Ask for Feedback
Bosses and colleagues may not be under the routine of providing structured feedback to their interns or volunteers.  Don’t assume that they will simply provide the feedback to you automatically.  Thus it’s important for you to schedule a time to chat with them and ask them things like:

  • How do you think I’m doing so far?
  • Do you think I handled this project correctly?
  • What ways do you think I can improve or get more involved?


10.  Share Food
Food is a big part of the way that Indians bond with one another.  It’s common at the workplace to bring in lunch or sweets and share it amongst colleagues.  We recommend bringing something from your own country (if you want to) and asking your colleagues to try it.
volunteering in India

Laura volunteers on a farm in India

Visit www.leaveurmark.com for more information on internships abroad in India in order to have these experiences with your colleagues abroad!


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