Building International Career Skills Online
My name is Hector and I’m a law student at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. Recently, I completed a six-week remote law internship program through Absolute Internship with Libryo, a compliance management software company based in London, England. I pursued this internship to gain international experience and expand my future career choices, even during the pandemic era.
One week before the start of my internship, I began researching and reading everything I could find about Libryo. I looked at their work as well as practical things for the virtual internship, like the time zone differences. I also began thinking about what I could offer to the company during my internship, and how to make the most of the experience. I had visited London in 2018, so I had a little bit of experience with the culture.
During the internship, my support systems included my manager and the other legal engineers. We were constantly in touch online and they responded quickly whenever I had questions or comments. Having this support network meant I wasn't afraid to try and fail, which was important. Every day there were unique challenges, either due to the time zone differences or my own less-than-perfect legal English writing skills! My way to overcome these complications included requesting Zoom meetings with colleagues for clarification, using alarms to manage my schedule and other approaches.
Work management and adaptability were important parts of this experience for me. Because all my colleagues were seven hours ahead of me, I had to wake up early and work hard in the mornings. This was important so that they could see my progress and there would still be someone in the office if I had questions about my work, but it can be challenging to change your schedule to suit a foreign country.
Another thing I struggled with was my communication, even though I thought my English was good, I learned that it wasn't good enough! This was frustrating sometimes, but I still worked hard and got the job done. I am naturally an extrovert, so I was not going to let my language skills stop me from learning or chatting with my colleagues, who were from South Africa, England, Brazil and Canada.
One situation in particular tested my cross-cultural adaptability. I was required to wake up at 4:00am and conduct a presentation about a Brazilian legal project – in Portuguese! Even though I don't know that much Portuguese, I prepared myself the night before to be as fluent as possible and avoid any misunderstanding. I received great feedback from my manager, which helped to keep me motivated to continue working and improving my skills.
It was also interesting to work with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds online. I noticed that I got along easily with my colleague from Brazil, since we are both extroverted, social and can connect on the current struggles in Latin America. In contrast, my boss was from South Africa, and she was much more introverted and naturally reserved. I learned a little bit about South Africa from her, but the social component was definitely less energetic when connecting across bigger cultural gaps.
Through this internship, I acquired skills such as legal writing, legal editing, legal research and legal analysis. I grew professionally in ways I never could have done here here in Mexico. I’m proud that I put myself out there and got international experience, stepping out of my comfort zone, even while at home. My plans for the future are to continue working at the company, but as a part-time worker, because it seems like a position with great future potential. As I head towards graduation, I plan to examine options for a masters's in law. I could do it here in Mexico, but ideally I would travel to the Netherlands to complete the master's in tax law at Leiden University.
My advice for those that want to pursue a virtual internship is not to be afraid to try it out. This remote experience allowed me to quickly adapt to the new virtual working world, which is definitely here to stay. By doing a virtual international internship during school, you are going to be way ahead of that those that still haven't worked remotely. You will grow from this experience. So, don’t hesitate – and trust the process!
It sounds like Hector plans to pursue an international career in the future, by continuing to work with his UK-based company hosts, and by heading abroad to Leiden University in the Netherlands to complete his master’s degree. We commend him for taking the plunge to complete an international experience online, and we support his intentions to continue on the path to a global career. We suggest heading abroad and immersing himself in a fully English country to achieve total fluency, which will come in extremely useful in his future career. In addition, I might suggest that Hector tries to gain experience with yet another region of the world, to expand his cross-cultural understanding and global awareness even further. Perhaps a volunteer placement with an NGO in Asia or Africa would be an exciting and eye-opening option. We wish him luck!
- Read the entire International Law Careers section to get an overview of some of the most popular international law careers and advice on how to select a law school.
- [idlink:8808: %title]: This is a foundational document for any globally minded young professional. Don't miss it!
- [idlink:8775: %title]: No matter what your home culture, or which culture you work with, this model will help you improve your awareness and relationships.