FAQs About Internships Abroad

By Founder Emlyn Lee

Happy Fall! This is probably my favorite time of year… the cooler weather, the foliage changing, pumpkin patch picking, and football season. Heck, even for the non-football fans, like me, you can’t beat running errands and not waiting in line during game weekends! But one of my most appreciative part of this season is that students are back at school, and I get to go back on the road, and meet, visit and speak at institutions about the benefits of going abroad. Although our programs are available for all types and ages of travelers, students and recent grads are a prime target market, as they have the time and invested interest to seek a global perspective that will enhance their academic, professional, and personal endeavors.

During these campus visits, I have noticed a lot more interest with internships, and wanted to share some of my insights and answers to commonly asked questions:

Q: What is the objective of an internship abroad, and how will it benefit me?
A: No doubt, we are living in an inter-connected world, and our dependence on each other for financial, political, and social purpose is ever present. Having the experience to intern abroad provides you with first-hand experience that no textbook, newspaper, GRE/GMAT/LSAT test, or CNN may teach you. It will improve your cultural competency, and build a strong foundation of international contacts. Combine this with personal development and growth, and there really isn’t any negative benefit from this experience.

Q: Who should intern abroad?
A: Interning abroad is ideal for students, recent grads, or professionals seeking firsthand experience and exposure of a particular field or industry. Once you send your application to our Austin office, our region-specific coordinator will have an in-depth phone interview with you, to learn more about your goals, interests, background, and such. Then, our Austin Coordinator will connect with our local Coordinators to organize the best mutually beneficial placement–matching the employer’s availability and needs, with the skills, background, interests, and goals of the interns.

Q: What type of positions will I be placed in?
A: Cultural Embrace pre-arranges and tailors internship placements in a wide variety of fields. Our Austin staff and in-country coordinators work closely together to fill the interests and goals of the intern with the needs and availabilities of international employers. Although it is ultimately the employers decision to select the candidates they want to receive, our connections and relationships with these companies prove to be positive and influential. Placements vary, however, popular requests are within the marketing, business, advertising, graphics, fashion, culinary, hospitality/tourism, sports management, education, social service, IT/computers, engineering, art, medical, and media fields. We have more success in making placements within small to medium sized companies, non profits, or NGOs, which allow our interns to be more involved within the workplace.

Q: What are my duties, and how will I know I’m not just making copies?
A: Duties and responsibilities vary depending on each placement and employer. We hope, prepare and expect our interns and employers to maximize the interns’ time abroad, so this is a mutually beneficial experience for all parties involved. You are a foreign guest that will be abroad for a limited time. Employers need to invest their time and energy to train and manage you. Take the initiative to learn, produce, and be of assistance, but be realistic of your expectations. You are there to be learning and helping the employer. The more you put in to something, the more you get out of it. You may not solve the economic recession, or discover a vaccination for cancer, or design the hottest trend for Dolce & Gabbana,..but an internship is a wonderful stepping stone for you to get experience and exposure in your specific field.

Q: Is my internship paid?
A: Due to visa regulations, most international internships are unpaid, and will typically last 10-24 weeks. The reason for this is because the local government wants the professional and technical jobs to go to their local citizens and improve their economy and unemployment. Thus, most internships are short-term and unpaid. However, there are some employers that may offer a stipend or other compensation (ie: meals, transportation remuneration, excursions, etc) to their intern, but this is up to the discretion of the employers. I recommend you going in with the mindset that you are joining this program without any compensation, except the ‘priceless’ experience.

Q: What type of visa do I have to get?
A: The duration of your placement and your nationality will determine what type of visa you need to obtain. For some countries, if your unpaid internship lasts for less than 90 days, a regular tourist visa may be fine. Some countries may require a student, cultural, or work visa. I recommend that you check with your local embassy or consulate’s website to see what your specific nationalities’ visa requirements are to intern abroad before applying. Cultural Embrace unfortunately does not have any control or say of visa regulations and immigration decisions of who gets approved of a visa or not. It is the responsibility of the intern to obtain the proper visa, however, our Austin and local coordinators are available to assist you with any questions, and will provide any necessary documents explaining that you will be abroad for an (unpaid) internship.

Q: What are the advantages of getting an international internship versus one at home?
A: The global recession has impacted the job market. Quality paid jobs are hard to come by, and more young professionals are using internships to be a productive stepping stone to gain exposure and enhance their resumes/CVs. The obvious advantages of an international internship are to: exemplify your leadership, initiation, and adaptability of the international world. Develop firsthand experience in your particular field, gain a network of global contacts, improve foreign language skills (English in Australia, Ireland, and South Africa are foreign too), improve interpersonal and intercultural skills.

Q: What are the requirements to get a successful internship?
A: Having some past work and/or course related experience is beneficial. Keep in mind that the employers want this to be advantageous to them as well. They are keen on having the most competent intern’s fresh perspective and ideas, yet want their invested time and energy to be worthwhile. In regards to foreign language component, this depends with each country and employer, so it may be placement specific, but the general advice is the more the better. It is preferred and recommended to have high intermediate/advanced level for most employers. For example, most Western European countries (ie: France, Spain, Italy, and Germany) require high intermediate/advanced level of their native language. Most of our internships include a four-week intensive language course prior to the internship start date. This course will improve your overall language skills- oral, written, reading, comprehension; however, you should have an intermediate foundation before you travel abroad. The rule of thumb is: if you don’t feel comfortable interacting on an every day conversation with the locals, a professional internship may not be the best program for you. Do not despair, we have other opportunities so you may volunteer, take cultural classes, or engage in a language exchange program. Or, if you want to add more language lessons prior to or during your internship placement, we are able to include that too.

Q: How will I be sure that this will be the best experience and program for me?
A: While CE strives for excellence in regards to safety, health, and customer service, the ‘perfect’ adventure has its joys and pains. The purpose of traveling abroad is to do, see, hear and taste things that are outside our comfort zone. Life is a constant roller coaster, and putting yourself in a foreign culture, will have its ups and downs…but isn’t that the most exhilarating part of the ride?

Hope this helps all of those who are curious!

Discover the Similarities… Share the Differences,
Emlyn
Founder of Cultural Embrace

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