Internships Abroad: Benefits, Opportunities & Tips

In today’s competitive economy, getting your foot in the door and landing a job in your dream field can feel like an uphill battle, especially for recent graduates with very little work experience. You may have heard the advice to consider an internship in order to get some practical experience, and this can be a great idea, especially before you graduate.

A person takes notes on top of a world map with passports and plane tickets nearby

One of the best ways to build up your resume is through an internship abroad. Internships abroad can open you up to new experiences, get you out of your comfort zone, and put you on the path toward a satisfying career. Here’s what you need to know about the benefits, tips, and opportunities that can help you have a great experience working abroad.

Benefits of Interning Abroad

You might be wondering why it’s a good idea to consider working abroad when there are lots of great internships close to home. Here are some of the best reasons to take your practical experience overseas:

  • Earn credit – Taking an internship abroad is a good way to maximize any of the time you have left in school. If you wait until after you’ve graduated to take on an internship, you won’t be getting credit for it. Since internships are typically unpaid, it makes sense to take on an internship before the bills start coming and you want to find a paid position.  
  • Gain new perspectives and experience – If you’re getting ready to start your professional life, then you may only have a vague idea of what it’s like to work in an office or where you’d like to start your job search after graduation. Internships abroad can help you gain new perspectives and experience that may make you more confident about the path you’re on or lead you in a different direction entirely! By taking yourself out of your comfort zone, you’ll get to know yourself better and allow you to shape your future.
  • Add value to your resume – Because most college students stick with internships in the United States, taking an internship abroad adds a lot of value to your resume. You’ll stand out for all the right reasons, as international work experience often indicates maturity, initiative, and the ability to follow through. You’ll also gain skills you can add to your qualifications—skills that may include a second language.
  • Make international connections – Even if you’ve never considered moving abroad permanently, having international connections can be very helpful for getting your foot in the door. You never know who might be able to help you get a job or build a business in the future, and in today’s global economy it pays to have some international connections.
  • Gain skills for the global economy – These days, many employers are disappointed by how unprepared graduates are for the global marketplace. Adaptability, communication, problem-solving, and autonomy are all key skills that students can learn by working abroad, and they’re the most in-demand skills of the global economy. Large companies often have locations in several countries or make partnerships with international businesses, and someone with the skills and experience gained from interning abroad gain a significant competitive advantage in the job market.
API interns smiling Cliffs of Moher in Dublin

Tips for Internships Abroad

When you intern overseas, you are suddenly the one with the strange customs and expectations. If you go into the experience with the right mindset and a willingness to adapt to your host country’s culture, you’ll have a much better experience. Nervous? Here are some tips for helping to make your internship a success.

  • Go with an open mind – This is the most important tip for any study abroad program or internships abroad. If you do not go into the experience with an open mind, you are likely to be uncomfortable throughout your stay and you won’t make a good impression on your hosts. Be the blank slate. Unless something is dangerous or truly inappropriate, remember that it’s your job to adapt to the culture—the point isn’t to Americanize the experience for you. Being able to accept new cultures and experiences will help enhance your emotional intelligence and allow you to get the most that you can out of your internship.
  • Be prepared to learn a lot—and sort through a few failures – The first few weeks at internships abroad can be pretty rough. Information will be flying at you, there may be language barriers, and miscommunications will probably happen. That’s okay! It’s an internship, and you should treat it as the learning experience that it is. Be prepared for a few failures, and keep moving forward.
  • Expect some hard times – Living abroad can make you feel scared and isolated at times. Even though this is a common experience, it can be tough to prepare for. However, the more you engage with the culture and find positive experiences like new friendships, exploring the area, and building skills at your internship, the less isolated you’re likely to feel.
  • Choose your placement carefully – There are lots of factors that go into finding the right fit for an internship abroad. Take your time, do some research and talk to your advisor before you make a decision. Choosing your placement can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your experience.
  • Remember, not everything will translate – Although internships abroad offer a lot of benefits and skill-building opportunities, it’s important to remember that not everything you gain from the experience will transfer neatly to a job in the States. Work cultures are very different from country to country, so be prepared for an adjustment when you do seek work back home after graduation.

Available Opportunities

If you’re interested in exploring internships abroad, it’s important to connect with an organization like API that arranges study and work abroad programs. They can help you to navigate the challenges and decisions that go along with working abroad. Check out their Intern Abroad information page to learn more about getting started.

When you work with a reputable organization, you’ll have access to a network of companies in different countries that offer these kinds of opportunities. Your school may also have some options for interning while gaining credit.

An internship abroad can be a life-changing experience. Although there may be more logistics and cost involved with an international internship than a domestic opportunity, the rewards are well worth the effort. Seeing the world and discovering a new culture through living and working in a different country could positively benefit you for the rest of your life.

Sources:

The Balance Careers

NAFSA

API Internships Abroad

Verge Magazine

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