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 weekends, you can travel in any way and anywhere you wish, while during the week you live like a local. Internships are now, more than ever, a key tool for students and recent graduates to gain experience in their respective fields and earn credibility with future employers. An internship abroad 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 an educational desire to gain career experience, a number of organizations offer internships for students and recent graduates coming from all academic backgrounds.
AIESEC is an international non-profit, student-run organization present in more than 125 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.
The Intern Group
The Intern Group is an organization that offers internship programs worldwide, including cities and countries such as Australia, Berlin, Colombia, Dublin, Hong Kong, London, New York, Shanghai, and Spain. They will work with you collaboratively on setting up and organizing logistics for the internship desired. Internships are available in career fields such as architecture; art, photography, and design; business; consulting; engineering; entrepreneurship; fashion; finance; government and politics; hospitality, events and tourism; human resources; information technology; journalism and media; law; medical electives and public health; NGOs/non-profits; PR and marketing; real estate; science; and television and film.
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.
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.
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 25 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 of decent accommodations, flexibility, variety, safety, and fulfilling work.
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.
Asia Internship Program
AIP (Asia Internship Program) creates customized international internship placements across 9 destinations in Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The organization offers internship placements in over 20 different industries, ranging from multinational corporations, dynamic startups and charitable NGO’s. The program includes a customized internship, airport pickup, fully furnished accommodation, visa assistance, emergency assistance, local language and culture courses, networking events, and social activities.
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 on 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 on how determined you are in landing a career-oriented job.
The internship programs extend beyond traditional domestic internships or study abroad programs to provide expansive skills. The organization has an extensive network of business, non-profit, and non-governmental organization (NGO) contacts around the world allowing them to offer placements aligned to individual needs.
Internship placements made possible by local staff are available in Dublin, London, Prague, Paris, Florence, Rome, Barcelona, and Seville offer a combination of academic rigor and professional experience.
An organization that administers IAESTE United States and dedicated to providing a wide variety of cultural exchange programs for both inbound and outbound
students worldwide. Cultural Vistas offers programs offering a variety of personalized professional internships and training programs to Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland.
IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience)
An international non-profit organization, IAESTE has offices in more than 80 countries, and the U.S. office is administered by Cultural Vistas. 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.
While Idealist.org is a more time-tested and proven resource, is more a job board than an agency 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.
Offers Fall, Spring, and Summer Internships. Specializes in internship programs and sends hundreds of students abroad each summer to gain practical work experience and enhance their global experiences. Program are offered in great cities such as Barcelona, Dublin, Florence, London, Milan, Paris, Shanghai, Stockholm, and Sydney.
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 surge of websites
offering reviews of internship programs. Please be prudent and use the reviews as one
element in making up your mind, as reviews cannot
truly be independently audited and are sometimes positive in every
possible respect, e.g. 10 out of 10 ratings across the board,
or a bad review may 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 reviews
should be carefully scrutinized as with all information sources.
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.
Your University and Career Center Advisors
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 an extremely 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.