In today’s world, there’s no denying that you’re more than likely going to be facing some stiff competition for whatever job field you’re venturing into. It’s become all too common that applicants fall into that “catch 22” scenario when job hunting that you need prior experience but can’t get prior experience because no one will hire you.
That’s where internships come in to the picture. Getting an internship allows you to make inroads into your field, oftentimes before even graduating from college, build connections and get that oh-so-desirable experience. Having an international internship really adds the cherry on top of the whole thing. If you want to stand out, taking advantage of this type of opportunity and actively seeking out not just an internship but also an adventure this fall is what might make all the difference in your future endeavors.
While it seems safe to assume that the type of internship that you’re seeking is directly related to your degree program, this should not so much seem limiting to you, but hopeful. In such a globalized society, the market for your chosen field is likely open in more than just the United States. That means that, whether or not your degree requires an internship, there is likely an opportunity to do an internship abroad that is related to your passions and future career endeavors. It may or may not count for academic credit along the way, but having a career-minded international work experience under your belt when applying for jobs is something that definitely cannot hurt.
Do keep in mind, however, that completing an internship that’s not specifically endorsed by your school for something like academic credit or a degree requirement may affect the type of funding and loans you can receive to help pay for it. Doing it during a normal academic semester may even require you to take a semester off of school, whereas something like a summer internship may not. This is not something to defer you at all; it’s just another important consideration depending on your circumstances.
Some popular fields that are often geared perfectly for international internships are the medical field, education, business, and humanities. Medical internships can cover anything from nursing, pre-med, health services, etc. and often come in the form of applying your skills in developing countries in need of health care. These may be organized through a university program or may be applied for separately.
Many future teachers complete their mandatory student-teaching experience in another country. These are often set up through the education department at your home institution that may partner with various countries to send student teachers. Sometimes, the entire semester may be spent in another country, sometimes just a few weeks. This is an excellent way to not only expand your global perspective, but also learn new teaching methods that work in different cultures.
The vast business field, including things like accounting, marketing, finance, etc., is a great way to immerse yourself in the global business world. As the world continues to shrink, engaging in an internship in a foreign business is a great way to expand your own marketability.
If you’re interested in the field of humanities there are also a large variety of internship opportunities available abroad. From health care to human rights, working with NGOs (non-government organizations) or other such groups are a great way to gain incredibly useful experience in an area that you are passionate about while also learning about some of the more logistical components that these organizations usually entail. Some universities even have a program as a part of some of their master’s programs. This enables you to earn internship credit towards a master’s degree by completing the 27-month Peace Corps program.
Based on some of the popular types of internships mentioned above, here are a couple of hot spots that may tickle your fancy...
Hong Kong: Where East meets West. This buzzing city of approximately 7 million people offers a unique blend of cultures and opportunities. Perhaps most importantly for you, it is deeply engrossed in the international business scene. If you’re getting into any aspect of business, then maybe you should check out this Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China as a place to delve into the international business world as it hosts offices of some of the world’s biggest organizations.
Africa: While the specific country in Africa that you go to really depends on your program and interests, there are many countries in Africa that are popular for students seeking international internships in education, the humanities, and many other fields. For example, you could student teach in a school in Ghana to experience teaching in a different environment. Or perhaps you could work with a human rights organization in the Gambia to expand your knowledge of international policy and humanitarianism.
Costa Rica: While finding a medical related internship in any region of the world would be an undoubtedly valuable and educational experience, Costa Rica is definitely not a bad place to start. There are tons of places throughout Central and South America that make ideal locations for medical internships, but you can’t go wrong with a place like Costa Rica as a destination. As one of the closer countries to the US, its booming ecotourism industry and laidback “Pura Vida” lifestyle will definitely make your internship experience an enjoyable one.
The biggest problem that people seem to run into when it comes to internships, particularly ones that may include some extra costs such as moving to a foreign country, is that a lot of internships aren’t paid. Yes, we know this sucks. However, that’s going to be true in a large chunk of the internships you’d find back in the US; you can’t blame it on going abroad. Just keep in mind that the experience and all the social, emotional, cultural and career growth that will come of it will make you a hot commodity when you start applying for real jobs, and that should start to really pay dividends in the long run.
That being said, funding your fall internship may not be as daunting of a task as it may seem - in fact, there are many ways to intern abroad for free! Many times, scholarships offered by an institution, college, or university are applicable to students the whole time they’re enrolled in school. If your internship is part of working towards your degree, than you may still be eligible for your existing scholarships or ones for which you’d otherwise be able to apply. In fact, there are oftentimes scholarships specifically geared for students who are completing their internships. These may be offered by your school, institutions supporting higher education and training, or even the specific organization with which you’ll be completing your internship.
And do not forget that many student loans and/or grants that you’d otherwise be qualified for during your education can also be used to help fund living expenses associated with an unpaid internship. Once again, internship experiences are many times non-negotiable components of your degree requirements and, as part of that, are usually eligible for the same funding. The cost of living in the country of your choice can be calculated and the amount you may be eligible to receive in this type of aid can often be adjusted to help accommodate the new cost of living and things like the college tuition you may still have to pay while completing your internship. Since you’re still technically enrolled in college during your internship, your repayment requirements of your loans will still be put off until graduation. Yay! So make sure you enjoy this time and make the most of it since you’ll, hopefully, have that awesome new job you earned with your international internship to help pay back your loans when they come due in the future.
The most important thing to do before embarking on that international internship of your dreams is to budget it all out. If it’s an established program through your home institution or the group/company with which you’ll be working, they may have a sample budget in place that worked for their previous recruits. That’s a great place to start figuring out just how much money you’ll need for your stay abroad and how to get it. If you’re going to be working in an unpaid internship, then chances are that you won’t be in that country on a work visa. That means you most likely won’t be able to work in that country in a separate, paid position while completing your internship. However, the perks of a fall internship, as mentioned above, is that you can potentially work and create these saving throughout the prior school year and the summer preceding your internship. Depending on your particular internship, some organizations and companies that hire interns may provide housing or offer up subsidized or recommended housing that could be very helpful when budgeting for this experience.