Top Programs Offering Internships Abroad
|Caleb, a tourism intern in the Ireland Internship Program.
Photo courtesy of ELI.
Participating in an international internship offers a travel experience like no other. On the weekends, you can be a traveler and a foreigner, but throughout the week you live the life of a local, day in and day out. Internships are key tools for students and recent graduates to gain experience in their respective fields and to earn credibility with future employers. Participating in an international internship almost guarantees that you will stand out among stacks of resumes and in interviews due to your ability to overcome the challenges of living and working in a different culture. Fortunately, for those wishing to combine their travel dreams with their educational obligation to gain career experience, a number of organizations offer thousands of internships abroad for students and recent graduates of all academic backgrounds.
AIESEC is an international non-profit, student-run organization present in more than 100 countries. Each local chapter focuses on creating internship opportunities for foreign students and assists incoming interns in cultural integration and finding housing. AIESEC offers thousands of volunteer and paid internship opportunities at any given moment.
The program was started after World War II to promote peace and cultural understanding. It is designed for college students and recent graduates under the age of 30. Some of AIESEC’s top partners include Sony Ericson, Microsoft, Electrolux, ING, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Artemisia, and Facebook.
IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience)
An international non-profit organization, IAESTE has offices in more than 80 countries. If you are a student or recent graduate with a technical degree in fields like engineering, science or applied arts, IAESTE works to provide you with paid training opportunities that will help you jump-start your career in a technical field.
Experiential Learning International
ELI works with a variety of private companies, NGOs, and governmental organizations in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America to create individualized internships. As ELI says "The global economy needs global talent, people who understand how to work and communicate in other cultures. Those who stay at home, never testing their comfort zone, have cut themselves off from the astounding possibilities awaiting the global citizen." Working in another country challenges interns to develop cross-cultural competencies, independence, self assurance, and flexibility—all traits desired by employers. While an internship may not automatically land you a job, it can make your resume stand out and help you get your foot in the door.
|Laura and Kristin, interns with the Human Rights Program in Nepal.
Photo courtesy of ELI.
GEOVISIONS is an organization that prides itself on providing a responsible pathway to global citizenship through its various programs, including internships. The goal is to foster great understanding among people and nations across the globe while developing the skills you need for the 21st century. Participants are treated with respect and their personal goals are a primary focus, whether it be in China (paid), Chile, Dublin, Malta, Nicaragua, Thailand, Turkey, or Malta. Skills developed include a wide range of career fields, from health, teaching, engineering, fashion, marketing, publishing, law, accounting, and hotel management—depending upon the country selected.
Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS)
CCS offers internships for students in 10 different countries worldwide, offering a combination of a volunteer program with a one-of-a-kind intern experience abroad. CCS allows you to do your volunteering in the morning while allowing you to study in an accredited internship program in the evening under the supervision of an Intern Supervisor. Students have received credit in social work, public health, political science, and other fields through this customized program. CCS works with you to work with your college or university to arrange for internship credit. See the website for more details.
Gain invaluable skills in business to journalism to film to economic development to medicine to human rights in countries including Barcelona, Spain, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Cape Town, South Africa, Dublin, Ireland, and Shanghai, China. The program sees to it that you find the internship which suits your needs and goals.
Global Vision International (GVI)
GVI offers international internships in a variety of countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Central and Latin America. The program involves either a 12-week placement as a volunteer followed by a 12-week internship placement with a partner organization, or optionally consists only an internship without the volunteering. There are a variety of exciting options to choose from, so check them out their website.
The organization offers personalized internship programs supporting communities in more than 50 countries, learning a variety of skills while participating in international work projects, picking up new language(s), and including the option to gain academic credit or to work closely with a supervisor towards long-term career goals.
This organization has been around for 20 years and sends 10,000 people overseas to complete volunteer projects and internships every year. Each Projects Abroad location has a full-time professional staff that offers participants support in every aspect of international living. Participants can choose from programs in 28 countries in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, North America, and South America. The website has online chat support to answer your questions, and Projects Abroad offers a guarantee on things like decent accommodation, flexibility, variety, safety, and fulfilling work.
Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD)
FSD Interns gain invaluable experience by working directly on grassroots initiatives with local communities around the globe. Their unique network of over 300 NGO partners is a respected resource for those seeking hands-on involvement in community development to address health, social, environmental, and economic issues. With ongoing support from FSD Site Teams, you will receive comprehensive training, experience in project development, and a seed grant to mobilize your project.
With its slogan, "Working Adventures Worldwide," BUNAC is dedicated to just that: getting you abroad to work in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland. They are dedicated to offering an affordable and enriching alternative to what they refer to as package tourism. You can work in the country of your choice for up to six months or a year, and BUNAC even offers some special travel bargains to their participants.
What is unique about BUNAC is that you are responsible for finding your own job upon arrival, and they are the ones that help you get there. You can work any type of position from a restaurant waiter to a computer programmer—depending upon how determined you are in landing a career-oriented job.
Primarily a study abroad company, CISabroad also offers internship opportunities overseas for one to 12 months in every continent besides Antarctica. Furthermore, CISabroad promises to customize your internship to your own individual personal and professional goals, allowing you to work in any capacity from tropical rain forests to museums to the fashion industry.
|Group of medical students in the Medical Internship Program in Uganda.
Photo courtesy of ELI.
Idealist.org and iHipo
While Idealist.org is a more time-tested and proven resource, both are more job boards than agencies offering international internship opportunities exclusively. However, thousands of postings made by employers on the websites are specifically for companies looking for international individuals to fill internships and job positions. Although they both offer less hand-holding through the placement process than other agencies, they do have informational sections on CV/resume and cover letter writing, interview tips, and internship resources for advice on matching yourself with the best opportunity possible.
Research, Research, Research...
The programs cited above are just a sampling of the many fine internships available, and there are many more you should examine that are country-specific. Go to our section on internships for more region and country options. Do not hesitate to search the web and dedicated web database sites, but always do your due diligence. Try to contact as many alumni as are made available by the internship provider. Respectfully ask probing and unexpected questions to see if the participants' answers jive.
There has been a sudden surge of websites offering reviews of internship programs. Use the reviews as one element in making up your mind, as most reviews cannot truly be independently audited and are often positive in every respect, e.g. 10 out of 10 ratings across the board, or the review may conversely be the result of a mismatch or malcontent. We all know that food or hotel rating sites are often not dependable in all cases, and as part of such a huge decision, such opinions should be carefully scrutinized.
Internships vs Volunteering
Keep in mind that the distinction between internships and volunteering is often fuzzy, and sometimes that is inescapable. But do try to ensure that you come out of your experience with some skills relating to what you may wish to do later in life keeping in mind the potential program cost, especially given the nature of the economic times in which we find ourselves.
Most universities have connections with schools or programs in other countries. Talk to your academic advisor to find out what your university has to offer, and how well they fit your education and career goals. Also, respectfully discuss with your advisor any private organizations you are contemplating attending for their feedback. Advisors often have heard direct reports from students who have participated in internship organizations or may contact their peers on academic forums and bulletin boards regarding reputation and other questions you may have.
Choosing the right internship is a very important decision, often involving a substantial fee covering preparation, housing, placement, etc., and should be made with the life-changing consequences in mind. Fortunately, the impact of an internship for students and graduates—as with those surveyed who studied abroad—generally is rewarding personally and in terms of future professional job prospects.
Chelsea Baldwin is a freelance writer and world traveler. She completed two internships abroad: one in community development and another in web content development. She currently works as a freelance writer looking forward to starting her life as an expatriate.