Interning abroad costs money – a lot of money. Most international internships are unpaid, airfare is generally not included, and students often have to arrange for their own housing.
Not to mention the cost of living in a foreign country and taking advantage of the opportunity to travel on weekends. Considering how much money it costs to intern abroad, you might think it’s not worth it. But this article isn’t meant to discourage you. Instead, this list of the top 10 benefits of interning abroad will reassure you that pursuing an international internship is a worthwhile investment in your future.
1. Cross-cultural skills and sensitivity:
Because you will be working with local employees (and quite possibly employees who don’t speak English), you have the opportunity to learn from the people you meet in the workplace and outside it. Almost every job posting, regardless of industry, highlights cross-cultural skills and sensitivity as a key requirement.
2. Escaping the American bubble:
Not only will you be living in a foreign country, you will also be working in an office that could be entirely different from the typical American office environment. Adapting to a new office environment shows flexibility on your part and a willingness to learn.
3. Transferable skills:
Even if your internship has little do to with the career path you choose to follow in the future, odds are that you will learn and refine transferable skills to help you in your job search, such as: flexibility, written and oral communication skills, and critical thinking and analysis (just to name a few).
4. A lesson in independence:
Much like studying abroad, interning abroad requires (and helps you develop) a certain level of independence. Depending on how you find an internship – on your own or through a program provider – there will be things to arrange before your internship, like housing, a work or internship visa, and academic credit at your home university. Program providers like AIFS guide you through this process and help you navigate foreign bureaucracy. Either way, navigating your host country and city will be up to you; think of it as the personal development that comes along with the professional development of your internship.
Through your internship you’ll be able to build an international network of contacts. The people you develop relationships with could help you secure a lead on a job in your field or host country, or perhaps even a job offer at the end of your internship. At the very least, you can ask your boss for a recommendation for future job applications.
6. Gaining experience in your field:
If you know what field you’re interested in, you can gain the practical experience you need to get ahead in the field. Employers are much more likely to hire someone who already has at least some experience in the field than someone who does not have any experience at all.
7. Gaining new skills:
If you’re unsure about what you want to do after graduation, interning abroad gives you the opportunity to test something out. You may decide it’s the perfect career field for you. But you might also decide you would rather pursue something else, and that’s OK too. But, you will be glad you had the opportunity to try it out first.
8. Earning academic credit:
A lot of universities allow you to earn academic credit for your internship experience, and some even require international or domestic internships to fulfill graduation requirements. Interning abroad is a way to earn credit and gain experience, all while having the weekends free to travel and experience the local culture.
9. Increased language proficiency:
Even if you have been studying a language for years and studied abroad in that language, interning abroad in your country of choice enables you to learn a new set of vocabulary. Whether it’s learning the right words to communicate with customers, discussing work specifics with your colleagues, or learning technical vocabulary related to your industry, you will only increase your language proficiency!
10. Standing out:
According to Open Doors data from the Institute of International Education, only 273,996 students studied abroad in the 2010-2011 academic year. Even fewer students complete international internships every year. This means you will stand out to future employers, especially if you convey what a meaningful experience your international internship was, both personally and professionally.
About the author:
Emily Caskey is the Web Content Coordinator at Study Abroad Spotlight (studyabroadspotlight.com), a website dedicated to inspiring students to study abroad. After studying abroad in Rostock, Germany, from 2008 – 2009, she returned to Germany to intern at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin in the summer of 2010 and as a German language instructor in the summer of 2011. In 2012, she graduated with an M.A. in German Literature and is currently pursing a career in international education.