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Should I Intern Abroad?

Sun, Feb 12, 2012

Internship Information

As your college experience draws to a close, it’s time to start thinking about future employment, and how to present yourself as the best, most well-rounded candidate for your preferred position. Many students choose to work as unpaid interns, to gain valuable experience and make connections. But are some internships better than others? The choice to intern abroad may make a huge impact in the strength of your resume, helping you push your application to the top of the pile. In this crowded job market, it could be the different between you getting that career-launching position, or spending another year waiting tables. So what are some of the possible benefits to an international internship?

Immersion in a new culture. Many American students have limited experience in international cultures. Life in Europe is quite different that North America, as it is in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, each in their own way. If your future career requires an expanded worldview, getting an early start on addressing issues with a global perspective could be invaluable.

Mastery of a new language. The challenges of interning in a non-english speaking country are clear enough. But there is no better way to learn a language than experiencing it in your daily life, and the addition of languages to your skillset will make you hugely valuable to a company with an international presence. Many jobs in finance, the government, engineering and travel services require knowledge of multiple languages, and having the opportunity to learn a new language will make you exponentially more attractive to your future employment.

Adapting to new experiences. There can be nothing scarier than leaving the society you know and understand for one that’s completely alien to you. But succeeding in an internship on foreign soil will prove to your future employer that you are highly adaptable, and that you can thrive in an environment that takes you out of your comfort zone. The most successful companies will want to know that you can think on your feet, that you won’t be discouraged by difficult situations, and that you can coexist with people from many different cultures and walks of life. Fulfilling an internship abroad, faced with new experiences and challenges on a daily basis, will give you plenty of examples of your adaptability to discuss with the recruiter at your dream company.

Gaining field experience. Unlike local internships, which will mimic a traditional job environment and leave you at home on nights and weekends, many international internships will help you gain invaluable experience in the field. Removed from your home environment, you will have no choice but to immerse yourself in your field of study. Additionally, if you choose an active internship that specifically includes field experience, you’ll gain a wealth of experience that may not have been in the description, but will certainly give you exciting things to speak about in your upcoming interviews.

International networking opportunities. Making an impact in your chosen career will depend on large part on your successful ability to network. And if your career could place you at a company with an international presence, having a pre-existing network of friends, mentors and associates internationally will bring you far. Recommendations from those with high standing in your industry could make the difference between landing that dream job and driving an ice cream truck. Connections in the real world will do much more for you than slaving over some top online masters in human resources program, or a human resources MBA. Keep your eyes and ears open, and do all you can to make an impression on those in positions of authority around your internship.

Any internship will assist you in landing the job you want, but an international internship may make you a more attractive candidate in a highly competitive environment. Just make sure you pick the right internship based on the job experience, not the sexy locale. You’ve got your whole life to visit Rio, but only one shot at picking the best internship for your career.

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