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So, I undertook an internship abroad as as I wanted a challenge and something which would look great on my CV.

It's for a year, and I'm around 6 months in, but recently I've been having mixed feelings about everything, due to various reasons - not knowing the language (I am trying to learn in the small amount of free time I have) and therefore being unable to socialise outside of projects, as well as the long hours (for me) of 9-7, after which I tend to study until I go to bed.

I was wondering, is there ever an excuse to leave an internship early or would it pose too much of a risk to to your future chances of employment? I'm not the kind of person to quit something but I was just wondering how quitting an internship can affect you in the future.

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I thought it was 30 hour weeks in France with mandatory 6 weeks vacation? –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Dec 4 '12 at 22:41
    
FWIW there are reasons that would be acceptable for leaving an internship but not enjoying it is not one. Have you tried asking for a few days off to go home and see family? –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Dec 4 '12 at 22:42
    
You only talk about the social aspects - are you having trouble communicating on the technical stuff? –  HLGEM Dec 4 '12 at 22:48
    
@HLGEM Technical stuff is programming and programmings universal I guess, so no problems on that front. I normally end up working through the lunch to get stuff done sometimes but I get bonuses etc. so that's ok. –  anon Dec 4 '12 at 22:49
    
This particular incarnation of the question and its comments are getting too-localized pretty quickly. @anon, would you be interested in editing to make this less about your personal situation and more toward why or when it might be appropriate to leave an internship, in general (and the repercussions it might have)? I don't mean to downplay your situation at all -- it sounds pretty rough for you. :( –  jcmeloni Dec 4 '12 at 23:50
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You likely are not going to like my answer.

I was wondering, is there ever an excuse to leave an internship early

Yes. There are plenty of reasons to do so, for example:

  • You are not being assigned work or are completely neglected
  • The work you are doing is unrelated to your career aspirations
  • You are being forced to work unreasonable hours
  • Some sort of family emergency

However. You must have conversations with your employer for your internship about these questions. An unbelievable amount of interns have problems with this. You must be assertive about your experience, needs, and wants with your manager(s).

For many interns, rather than a direct manager, there is a "mentor" type figure - perhaps your day-to-day manager or even an officially assigned mentor. If this is the case, replace manager with mentor in the following.

Your manager is not a psychic. They don't read your mind. You could be hating your job and your manager might assume things are going great - after all, you never talk to them about any concerns you have! Must be going great.

Some questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Have I talked with my manager about feeling included in lunchtime conversations?
  • Have I talked with my manager about having to work many more hours than I expect?
  • Have I talked with my manager about the experience I am having as an intern?
  • Have I talked with my manager about missing friends/family?
  • Have I talked with my manager to discuss how much extra work I'm putting in?

Until you do these, you do not have a legitimate (see note below) excuse for leaving early. If you have those conversations and your manager goes, "I don't care" only then do you have a good reason to leave an internship early. But not even bothering to address the problems with your manager is a really, really, really poor reason to leave a job.

In signing up for the internship, you know the timeframe, you know the location. Just because your feelings change on this is a poor reason to leave a job - now, perhaps your conversations above with your manager indicate they would prefer you to not stick it out in an environment you don't like, at which case you have a much better situation. But saying "this sucks, I'm out" (which is effectively what you are suggesting) is really not good.

or would it pose too much of a risk to my future chances of employment?

Honestly, no, probably not. With that company? Yeah, but, unless you go into length about why you left an internship most employers will look at your resume/CV and see an internship and think to themselves, "oh, this person was a student. internships are always short!" and not think "oh, this person was going to intern for 12 months but only interned 6 months, must be suspicious."

note: you can probably legally leave the job nearly any time you want for any reason. You may have university obligations which cause a lack of credit, however.

This answer might also be valuable to you for information.

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Why wouldn't I like this answer? I'm not looking for people to agree just debate, and this is a good answer. I haven't talked to my main manager as he doesn't speak English but my project managers a pretty nice guy. I don't mind the lunch thing, I think a few people are just worried about me and I wish they wouldn't as I like keeping to myself but can communicate when it's a work-related conversation well. –  user5261 Dec 4 '12 at 23:19
    
@user1394965 I'd really recommend talking to whoever your "contact" is at work about this if not your manager. Oftentimes interns get 'mentors' who aren't technically their manager to guide them (sometimes officially assigned) - perhaps this is your project manager? –  enderland Dec 4 '12 at 23:21
    
Yep you're correct, he's back next week so I'll try talk to him. Thanks for the advice. –  user5261 Dec 4 '12 at 23:27
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@user1394965 just keep in mind that most often, people want you to enjoy your job too. But if you have difficulties or frustrations you have to make them known to work them out. –  enderland Dec 4 '12 at 23:29
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Sounds like you have a wonderful opportunity to learn a bit of another language as well as another culture, not to mention the real-world work experience that you gaining. But for what ever reason you've been unable or unwilling to take advantage of it.

As Chad suggests I'd ask for a few days off to visit friends and family. I'd also take the time to evaluate why you feel the way you do.

Is this a problem with work and the work environment or are you lonely, isolated, and homesick? Valid reasons to feel the way you do, but not a reason to resign.

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Don't get my wrong I've learnt the basics and try to spend 30 mins each night learning, but most of my 2 hours free time is spend improving my knowledge of the new programming languages I'm using for work. I don't know if I'd seriously out-and-out quit as I've managed 6 months so far alone so why not do another? I guess it's just the isolation outside of the actual work itself which is causing this –  user5261 Dec 4 '12 at 23:09
    
Hang in there! But you need to take some time away from the work and spend a bit of time on yourself. Is there an expat or English speaking community you could get involved in? Usually one in every country that I've worked in. –  Stephen Dec 4 '12 at 23:21
    
I think there's a few English guys (mainly Bankers) and like I said I go to a football game on Sunday evening which is great. Thanks for the advice! –  user5261 Dec 4 '12 at 23:27
    
You said you took the internship for the challenge, but you seem to be saying that now it turns out to be challenging you want out. Stephen is right - take some time off, find some English speaking friends and socialize a bit. –  DJClayworth Dec 5 '12 at 3:05
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OK first 9-7 are not outrageous hours that's only 1 hour a day more than I work on a 40 hour schedule. Believe me I have seen (and worked) much worse that that. Now if you are working every evening after you get home, then you are getting burnt out and need to take few nights off. (And if you are doing so is it because you are required to or because you don't have anything else to do?) If you haven't contacted friends and family when you have time off, then that is your own fault. There is always time to do what you want to do. But you have to choose what you really want to do.

It seems to me your problem is that you are homesick and you have made no effort at all to learn the native language (After 6 months there you should be semi-fluent!) or make friends. Except for the language, you will need to learn how to make new friends at any job. Start joining in at lunch even if you don't speak fluently. The only way to get fluent is to speak.

I personally would not quit the internship, I would use the rest of time to start to learn to be more social and to get out and see part of the counrtry. Are there other interns? See if some of them will go out with you on weekends and ask them help you with improving your French.

If your internship is part of a college program and you quit, you will fail the internship and possibly not graduate on time. I would seriously consider if this is a good thing to do. Potential employers won't be impressed either and since you are in Europe, that international experience is quite a good thing for your resume starting out. By quitting because you can't handle being in a different culture, you could limit your employment prospects to stricly local companies. And no employer is impressed by someone who fails to complete an internship - you will be competing against those who did complete theirs.

Much of what you think is outside your control is entirely in your control. Call your friends/family for half an hour each night. Start trying to speak French with your co-workers at lunch and laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. Get together with your co-workers on weekends or meet up with others who have the same interests as you. Learn to be self-sufficient. Learn to persist even when the going is tough (probably the single most valuable work skill is persistence!). The worst thing you can do is give up and go home. You will set a life pattern of running awy when ever things are hard. If you have to get a calendar and mark off the days, you are already half way there, you did 6 months, you can do six months more.

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After work I tend to do 30 minutes of French, followed by 2 hours of programming/technology related studies/coding for the new projects I'm doing at work. On Sundays I normally take 4 hours off to watch a football game and have a beer so at least it's a good release. Like you said 6 months is down and that's the way I'm looking at it, I just need to power through it –  user5261 Dec 4 '12 at 23:15
    
do the 30 minutes of French at lunch chatting with your co-workers –  HLGEM Dec 4 '12 at 23:53
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And take a few nights off, you will elarn faster if you take a break at night from programming at least some nights. YOur body needs those breaks to be efficient. see:alternet.org/story/154518/… –  HLGEM Dec 4 '12 at 23:54
    
Good ideas, thanks for the answer!. –  user5261 Dec 4 '12 at 23:57
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