Things to prepare as a European if you want to do an internship in Asia
If you are European, chances are that Asia fascinates or attracts you. You might consider traveling or even finding an internship in the continent. Still, there are a few things that you should consider before departing. As a French student working in Asia, I had to go through a certain number of struggles that could have been prevented. Here is a list of such issues:
1) The visa/foreign workforce policy
The EU is a wonderful place: without any problem, a Polish family can travel all its way through to Portugal, a German student can work in Italy, etc. We tend to forget that the whole world is not yet the global village we would like it to be.
Remember those words: no visa sponsorship. They represent the nightmare of a student looking for an internship outside of Europe. Most companies don't want to bother with the paperwork to help you work in their country. In China, paid internships are virtually unavailable to foreign students.
Hint: If your company can sponsor you for an internship in Indonesia, consider obtaining your visa in the embassy in Singapore rather than in your home country: the process takes only two days. You can also get help from an agency specialized in internships in Asia to avoid all the paperwork and stress.
2) Cultural misunderstanding
Not the same things are expected in Asia and Europe. More and more European companies encourage a flat hierarchy and a casual startup style. Some countries in Asia might seem to a European point of view a bit old-school in that regard. For an internship in Japan, working overtime is expected and the norm - leaving on time is rude. To live is to work. In France, work is something you have to do in order to afford free time.
Another example: Asian cultures tend to value age (ascription) rather than performance (achievement), as we do in Europe. Respect is earned through time rather than intermittent success. This kind of cultural difference can catch some Europeans by surprise. Remember that no culture is better than the other and accept the difference.
3) Being homesick
Being far from home is a habit to develop. The more often you travel abroad for long periods of time, the more likely you will be able to live with the absence of your family. As a European, going abroad to Germany or to Asia are two completely different adventures. You can't go home as often, the food - although very tasty! - is completely different from what you are used to eat, and culture is also a challenge. But challenges make you stronger and feel truly alive. Doing an internship in Asia as a European is one of the most valuable experience you can have - for your career and for yourself.
4) The language(s)
Spoiler alert: not everyone speaks English in today's world. Although we Europeans tend to forget that - Latin and Germanic languages share a lot of vocabulary with English. Mandarin Chinese is wielding increased influence over countries such as Singapore or Vietnam. Try to learn at least one of the main Asian languages: Chinese, Indonesian/Malay, Japanese or Korean to keep up with the trend. Another challenge for you!
You should prepare carefully. But don't let these points discourage you to fulfill your dream of working in Asia. This internship experience will be incredible! Looking forward to see you on that side of the globe! Choose in which country you want to work here.