We know what you’re thinking. Internships are just going on coffee runs, taking notes at meetings, and doing all the grunt work no one else wants to do. Well, maybe it’s time you look beyond your borders for intern programs.
Interning abroad is all getting that coveted work experience for your resume, with an extra shine that comes with braving a new country, work culture, and possibly a new language! You’ll really earn those few bullets on your resume, no doubt it— and no coffee runs required. Though, if you wanted to run and grab a latte to go for your supervisor, I’m sure they’d never say no…
Really, when it comes to rocking an internship abroad, the ball is totally in your court. You have to take the steps to make it an AMAZING experience. Take the time before, during, and after your internship to read up, listen, learn, and dive headfirst into every opportunity. You definitely won’t regret it. At least, that’s what our travel experts are telling us. Don’t want to take our word for it? Okay, take theirs.
Choose an [internship] you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
How to make any internship abroad an awesome experience
Hi, my name is Mariel Tavakoli. Hi, I’m Dana Guymon. I’m Steph Dyson. My name is Liz. My name is Dominic Fusco and I interned abroad for GoAbroad, actually, in 2014, in Tacloban, in the Philippines.
What makes interning abroad SO awesome?
I actually started my career with an internship abroad in Kenya. I really feel like that was the kickstart and the boost that helped secure my first permanent position. It’s going to look fantastic on a resume. It’s become beyond important these days to have professional experience before you enter into the workplace. You get to gain a really amazing worldview. You get to work in a brand new culture.
Why not use this time in your life when you either have just graduated, or just wanting to enter into the workforce, to travel while you’re at it. It’s a really great way of combining a love of travel with getting that tangible experience. So, it’s pretty much the best of both worlds.
One of the coolest parts my internship was that I got to work in an 18th century flour mill, that had been flipped and turned into an office building. So, you never know what kind of quirky, awesome things you’re going to get to do with an internship abroad.
Set yourself up for success before you even go
Before you even start booking your flights and applying to internships, think what you really want out of this experience.
Set Your Own Goals
Set yourself some goals. If it’s all work, then you definitely want to focus on what is the field that you want to get experience in? What type of skills do you want to develop? Is this an opportunity to learn a new language? Is it because you want to move abroad and have the opportunity to live abroad? Whatever those goals are, you need to make sure that they are concrete and clearly defined before you leave.
Choose a Location
I know the benefits of going to a place that really challenges you to come to know yourself. It’s all very well to go to another country that speaks your language, but maybe you want to go to where they speak a different language. If you want to learn Spanish, then Latin America or Spain might be a pretty obvious option. If you want to eat thai food all day, then Thailand is probably the place for you. You need to go there prepared that it’s not going to be all roses.
Remember the Bigger Picture
It’s hard to say with internships whether they’re going to turn into a full time position, or whether they’re just one step on a long path, but all you can do is put your best foot forward and show everyone that you want to be there, and that you’re going to do your best to learn. Having that mindset before you get there is going to make all the difference, to help you be the best intern that you can be.
Make the most of your internship... on the job
When you arrive on that first day, it’s going to be pretty scary. Just go all in! You want to be intentional with your internship.
Soak it All in. Learn.
It’s really important that you view yourself as a bit of a sponge. You need to be absorbing every opportunity that comes your way. You are going to have to work really hard, and what you put in is what you will get out of the experience. So, that means volunteering for different projects, working and learning from all of your colleagues who have experiences that you don’t have.
Utilize All Your Resources
Really use the resources at your company. Get to know your supervisor— they’re going to be your number one resource and number one mentor at your job, and when you’re abroad in general. So, make the most of those relationships.
Spend time with your new coworkers, mingling with them and local people. And, if they invite you to come and do something outside of work go with them! Go to events, meet people’s families, meet their friends, go on trips with them! These are the opportunities that you won’t get otherwise.
Understand Differences in Work Culture
Understand the different work atmosphere from country to country. Patience is going to be absolutely essential. There might be a lot of differences with how you would normally work at home. You might not have that much work experience already, and in a foreign culture – in a foreign office culture – is definitely going to be a whole different kind of culture shock.
Enjoy Your New Life Abroad
Go, and make sure you travel. When else are you going to be living in that country? Take the same mentality to actually living abroad, you know, you want to really not hold anything back at this point. Make the most of the chances that they give you to explore your new country.
You’re meeting people and creating a network around the world, which is awesome! Don’t let any opportunities pass you by. Because, later on in your career you’re not going to have an opportunity like this. It can be tiring, but it’s going to be a really rewarding experience as well.
Make the most of your internship... once you’re home
Once your internship is finished it doesn’t really end there.
Stay Connected & Get Recommendations
Don’t let those connections fade away. Get a recommendation letter, get a LinkedIn recommendation, and keep in touch because you never know where those connections you made abroad are going to lead down the line. And, let’s face it, you’ll probably have an incredible experience with them anyway. So, you’re probably going to want to stay in touch with them. If you are just finished and that’s all that you were hoping for – that’s fine – but if you do want to stay out in the field, then talk to them and see if there are any opportunities to do so.
Reflect on the experience. Reflect on: what you enjoyed, what you learned, what you didn’t enjoy. All of those things are important. You’re going to be going through this really incredible experience of self-discovery and learning what you want to do, you know, in your career and what you want to do with your life.
Boil down the key takeaways, that both have shaped your professional career and where you see yourself.
Sell it on Your Resume!
Make sure you sell that experience on your resume. What experiences now make you stand out for whatever career step you take next? It’s like gold dust for employers— to see that you’ve done work abroad. They want people that can prove that they have the confidence to move around the world, and to have to be adaptable, to learn to communicate with people, to learn to understand a new culture. These are all skills that a lot of the population don’t have.
Focus on getting those two, or three, even four, bullet points. Talk exactly the things that you learned, things that you enjoyed, things you learned yourself— these are all skills and experiences that employers are desperate for.
Interning abroad is amazing, but you need to take steps before, during, and after your internship to really make it worth your while.
Final words of intern abroad advice from our pros
My final advice if you’re thinking of interning abroad is to not be scared. Have confidence in yourself. Just, enjoy the experience! It’s a challenge, it’s a scary prospect, and that’s one of the reasons there aren’t many people who do it. And, that’s all the more reason why you should do it!
This is your chance to really grow and learn. These opportunities don’t come around all the time, and as you get older you might not have the chance to do it again. You’ll want to be looking back knowing that you did everything you possibly could. So, it’s one of those things that you need to seize, right now, don’t be scared, jump in, and make the most of it— and you will have an incredible time.
Next steps to interning abroad
Now that you’re all up to date on how exactly to make the most of any internship abroad, we want to connect you with one of the thousands of companies worldwide looking for bright young minds to round out their international intern programs. You’ll be burning the midnight oil overseas in no time, but first you should check out these additional resources:
- Make a MyGoAbroad account to save and compare your fave internships abroad
- Get The 411 (and Then Some!) on Internship Programs
- Check out these Top 10 Destinations for Internships Abroad in 2018
- Take a peek at the 7 Best Internships for College Students
- Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Paid International Internships
You can always comb through our expert articles directory for more ways to prep for your internship abroad. Now it’s time to take your resume to the next level!
Intern programs abroad we HIGHLY recommend
You’re sure to have a meaningful experience with any one of these top internship programs abroad.
- Asia Internship Program
- Marketing internships with the Institute for Global Studies
- Worldwide internship programs with BUNAC
Other International Internship Providers Worth Considering
Kicking a$% and taking names at your internship abroad
Now you’re ready to go totally rock your internship abroad. You’ve got everything you need to guarantee it is a meaningful experience, that you’ll learn a lot, and open a ton of new doors for your future. Go get ‘em, tiger!
A big THANK YOU to our video contributors for sharing their wonderful words of wisdom — Steph Dyson, Dominic Fusco, Dana Guymon, Mariel Tavakoli, and Elisabeth Tuck.