In addition to studying abroad, students may choose to intern abroad for academic credit. More universities are approving international internships, in addition to domestic ones, and some are even offering academic credit for volunteer experiences and service learning. There is a broad range of options from working full-time or part-time while taking regular courses abroad. If you are required to complete an internship or a service-learning component as part of your degree, then consider something international for a variety of reasons. Doing an international internship is not easy, but there are many rewards.
International internship opportunities exist in just about every field. There are plenty of positions with a challenging level of responsibility. Plus, you get the benefit of obtaining hands-on experience in another part of the world. The downside of doing an internship abroad is that it’s hard to find positions that are paid, mainly because of visa restrictions. In this case, you have to cover costs associated with airfare, housing, food, and daily transportation, among other things. If you’re having trouble finding something through your study abroad office, ask your professors if they have any ideas. Sometimes professors have contacts in organizations or companies that could use a helping hand.
If you are unable to find something on your own, or through your college or university, and/or you don’t have the time and energy to make all the arrangements, then think about going through an agency and paying for an internship or volunteer program. An agency (third-party provider) offers professional coordination services, saving you time and frustration in the process. Such coordination may include interview assistance, job placement, accommodations, visa/permit help, customer support, and language lessons. It is nice to have this level of assistance when arranging an internship experience abroad, but doing it all by yourself is not impossible either. It depends on what you want and need, and the time you’re willing to spend to realize your goals.
In order for you to obtain credit for an internship, it should be career-related and you will need to have it pre-approved. Academic credit can be obtained and validated with an official transcript from your program provider, or by pre-arranging an evaluation with a professor who is willing to work with you and/or your internship coordinator. Make all arrangements BEFORE you select an experience, as you may find there are restrictions and hurdles to unravel and manage.
If you are determined to save money, and you want to find something on your own, then look for volunteer opportunities with NGOs and see if you can work out academic credit on your campus. Look online and consult with your department/faculty because they may have contacts with NGOs already, from their own experiences in the field. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s easier to get somewhere when you know somebody. This seems to be true across all cultures.
If you’re interested in South America, then visit the South American Explorers Club. They have a wealth of information and resources for travelers, and a section for volunteer listings. You have to be member to access this section of the website, so if you’re sure that you’re going to South America, then it’s worth the investment. One thing I like about Latin America in general is that the cost of living tends to be low, and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to fly there either.
An alternative to going abroad is to work with a company or organization that has an international focus or branch. This is a good option if you’re looking for an international career such as foreign policy. Look at the websites of big NGOs, the US Department of State, and the Foreign Policy Association. The federal, state, and city governments may also have internships in their international trade offices. The opportunities are vast; all you have to do is search.
Regardless of your interests, you can begin online. There are many directories, placement organizations, and third party providers that post listings and valuable information on the Internet, but the best place to start is the Global Edge International Internship Directory (published by Michigan State), mainly because it’s not-for-profit and you’ll get a wide variety of good options.