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I'm a software engineering student who is currently doing an international internship in Rwanda. Being a European myself there where some challenges before I was able to get all the stuff I needed in order to go to abroad (housing, visa, find a company etc.).

When I found the company where I wanted to do my internship I was very excited at first. There was good communication from both sides. During the initial contact I told my to-be-supervisor that I would like to go on a vacation to Uganda during the last week of February. He told me that it depended on the progress I made during my internship. Of course, I wanted to go to Uganda so I worked very hard for the last couple of months and made good progress.

So last month I approached my supervisor again telling him that I would like to go to Uganda in a couple of weeks time. He told me that we would discuss it later and so I set an appointment for him to meet. However, he never showed up during the meeting so I contacted him again via text message. He kept telling me that we could discuss it later.

I got fed up with my supervisor telling me that "we can discuss it later" so I told him via text message that I am going anyway. I was met with an angry response telling me that I can't go because of security reasons.

I already booked my accommodation for the trip and I really want to go. Of course I told him I worked very hard last months and that I have a couple of free days to spend (I even worked during some weekends). He told me that we will discuss it further on monday so we set a meeting (I hope that he will show up this time).

So now my question. How can I convince him that I deserve a vacation? I did not come to Rwanda to spend the whole day in the office. I want to explore the country and neighbouring countries. I feel like he is keeping me on a leash only to finish the piece of software I'm writing for him. I think he is overly concerned and if he had shown up in initially we could have talked about it face-to-face.

Any advice will be appreciated.

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    What's in your contract ? Unless stated otherwise, internship contracts rarely include 'vacations'. – lcrmorin Feb 16 at 11:15
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    @joe-strazzere It is supposed to be finished before july but if i continue at the rate I'm doing now I think it will be finished around mid-may. So thats one and a half months in advance. – Fred Feb 16 at 11:40
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    @lcrmorin Unfortunately I didn't. I think that's my biggest mistake. So I guess that puts me in the corner meaning I can't go on vacation. – Fred Feb 16 at 11:50
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    @Fred: it would have been easier if you had documented it beforehand. All hope is not lost as I understand you meet him tomorrow. You need to prepare for that meeting and show confidence that you will meet your deadline (build a planning in Excel, show what you did, show what is left to be done), show you put extra work (without cornering him). – lcrmorin Feb 16 at 12:05
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    What are you hoping to get from this internship? If you want a job with this company or a good reference, confronting your supervisor in this way is a big mistake. If you don't, what kind of consequences are you concerned about? In any case, an internship is not exactly a job, it's supposed to be a learning experience. The company should not depend on you completing any task on a tight schedule, there is no reason to work extra long hours. On the flip side, you typically do not get any vacation or any way to compensate for extra time. – Relaxed Feb 16 at 21:55
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Stop telling him where you're going.

He doesn't need to know that. You just need a vacation. That's it. If he asks, say that you haven't decided on all the particulars yet. That being said, don't make him any promise either. Your vacation is your vacation. You won't be available by phone, or by email.

If he wants to play hardball and not even acknowledge the extra week and extra weekends that you've put into the project, then maybe you should play hardball too and make sure that the project never gets finished.

With that said, do not wait until the last month to take your vacation. If you wait until the very last month, you will have lost all your leverage and he can bully you as much he wants since he won't be afraid of the repercussions.

And the next time he doesn't show up. Just text him and say you equated his absence at the meeting with the approval of your vacation time.

If the conversation escalates, write "I've been making great progress on this project. I came to work for you a week in advance and I've also worked weekends. I'm going to take that vacation starting on [date]. I'll be back in the office on [date]. If you want to fire me for doing that, that is certainly your prerogative. But I'll be taking that vacation either way."

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You're no longer in the first World, do not expect the same privileges and other stuff. On top of that you are a minority.

Pushing against this guy too much will explode. He couldn't care less about you or your plans. Just that his agenda is satisfied. You making meetings is incredibly disrespectful to some people, you're just an intern.

Having said that it's too late for diplomacy, so you need to sit tight and see what happens. I suggest you tough it out and insist on your holiday and prepare for repercussions. The good thing is that you can write the whole experience off if you must. The bad thing is you may make an enemy.

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