It’s officially internship season! In the next few weeks, students will be accepting and announcing internship positions for the summer in order to apply what they learned in the classroom to real-world experiences. As an engineer, internships are required to graduate in our department, and employers are looking for internship experience when they hire. If you are from a state that doesn’t hold many opportunities for your chosen field, you’ll often find yourself applying to internships that are anywhere from 30 minutes to over 12 hours away. As a West Virginia resident, I have held two out-of-state internships: one in Northern Virginia and the other in upstate New York. Northern Virginia is only about a five hour drive from my hometown, but upstate New York was over ten hours away. Whether you’re from Iowa and are applying for a Hill internship or are from Massachusetts and are applying for an oilfield internship in Texas, here are my “Things to Know” about taking an internship away from home.

1) Budget + plan everything

Regardless of whether you accept a paid or unpaid internship, money is something that you can easily lose track of in the summer. I’ve been lucky to have a stipend for the last two years, so I sit down at the beginning of the summer and write reminders to pay rent and other bills when my paychecks come in. Since most of those costs are fixed, I have a good estimate ahead of time in regard to how much money I have on hand. Since you’re probably in a new part of the country, you’re going to want to explore, and having the money to do so will allow you to create more memories. Consider reading these FFL articles before you sit down to start your budget.

2) Be comfortable with eating by yourself and cooking

The first summer I interned, I didn’t know anyone in the area I was in. I was lucky to be reasonably close to DC to meet up with Hill friends during the weekend, but I was by myself on the weekends. I sat down the week before I left and took pictures of easy recipes to follow that would provide dinner for 2-3 nights.

RELATED READ: A College Girl’s Guide to Grocery Shopping

If I wasn’t cooking (I got very comfortable with a skillet since I didn’t have an oven), I ate out and ordered larger entrees so I could take half of it home for the next day. This made me get very comfortable with eating by myself. I frequented restaurants with bars that would allow me to  make appropriate small talk with the bartender and watch TV. I have always been someone that was anxious about stuff like this (I would always text my friends and ask if they wanted to go eat together during my first year of college), but taking an internship in a new city helped me grow beyond that.

3) Invest in a good pair of walking shoes

I come from a state that doesn’t do a lot of long-distance walking due to our mountains. If you’re like me and took an internship in a flat part of the United States, and especially if you’re a Hill intern, please invest in a good pair of walking shoes. You WILL be doing more walking than you’re used to. Your feet will thank you for it.

4) Buy rolls of quarters

Public laundry machines take quarters. Meters, if you’re driving, will always take quarters. Emergency pads and liners in bathrooms take quarters. You know what they won’t always take? Credit and debit cards. You will thank me when you have to do an emergency load of laundry and have just enough quarters for a wash and dry cycle.

5) Brush up on your safety tips

As a female that is living alone, make sure to freshen up on your safety tips. Make sure your front door is dead bolted when you’re home and your windows are locked. Keep your keys on you at all times. If you are comfortable and after checking all the applicable laws, carry a concealed firearm. If you’re not, have pepper spray. Don’t walk alone at night. We know all of them like the back of our hand, but a quick refresher wouldn’t hurt before you leave.

Taking an internship away from home is both liberating and nerve-wracking. For many, it is the first real taste of freedom and the working world beyond college. With a little bit of careful planning, you can make the most out of your time away from home and come out empowered.

If you are a student that is exploring internship options, I highly encourage you to check out Isabel’s How She Got That Internship series. She has featured many high-achieving ladies in a range of internships.

Jillian K