Showing an interest in the company you are applying to will help create a good impression. They may ask you questions about them or you could ask them a question that interests you based on what you have found - but don't try to be 'clever'. If you have experiences that are directly associated in their work this can be a good topic to talk about at some point - you should be more comfortable talking on a familiar subject - but again, don't force the conversation to it and don't appear arrogant knowing all the answers (unless you do of course).
About the company
Who will you be working for? What can you find out about them and the work they do before you start?
Learn something about the company and the industry sector. What are their main products? What is their Mission Statement? How are they doing financially and competitively? Who are their main competitors? How are their products perceived by their customers? Try looking at the company’s website, trade journals, press releases, etc.
About your practical matters
Where will you live?
How will you get from where you live to where you work and back each day?
How will you get your stuff to your accommodation at the start of your internship?
How soon before you start work can you move in?
Do you need to get your mail forwarded or redirected to ensure you don’t miss anything important such as bills or letters from your company or academic institution.
Is the company taking on other interns who are starting around the same time as you? Ask the company if they will connect you with them and get to know them before you start. Can you share accommodation? Can you travel to and from work together? If the company does not insist on it try to synchronise start dates so you can all be inducted together – the company will appreciate this efficiency move if they have not already thought of it.
Holidays – if you already have holidays or personal/family commitments during the internship period let your internship company know as early as you can.
Clarify your objectives for the internship – try to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound) – this includes your skills development.
Why do I want this internship?
What do I want it to give me?
What will I give the company?
What skills do I want to develop during the internship?
Preparing for work
Find out what you will be working on if you can. Ask if there is anything you can read before you arrive. Not only does this show initiative, interest and eagerness, it is good to understand so you can prepare, read up about relevant technologies or tools/techniques you are likely to be using. If the response is “we will sort this out when you get here” this may indicate lack of preparation. Be positive about an answer but do not be too over-demanding. Discuss this with your academic supervisor.
On the subject of training, smaller companies may not have a well established training programme – you may need to discuss this with your supervisors to agree a more personally tailored/blended approach.
Dress code – if you cannot find out what the dress code is plan to arrive smart on the first day. You can always dress down on day 2 but recovering from a poor first impression takes a lot longer!
If you plan to take your own car check with the company on its parking policy. Where can you park (if you can)? Is there a daily/periodic parking charge? Explore alternative, public transport options.
Declare any special needs you have be they mobility, dyslexia, dietary, etc.. It will be wrong (and an illegal one in some legal systems) if the company rejects you on this basis, but they may need to make some adjustments to accommodate your needs and this may take some time for them to work out and put in place.
Check out how long it takes to get from your accommodation to the place the company has asked you to report to on the first day. Check the route out on Google Earth and, if you can, have a dummy run at the same time of day as you will need to travel. Are there any alternative routes you can take if a problem arises? Check local websites to see if there is any special event taking place on your first day that could affect the volume of traffic or put at risk your arrival. Arriving on time and not stressed is part of your crucial first impression.