By Sola Lawal
Studying abroad gives you the incredible opportunity to build and expand your intercultural competence in just about any country, but if you really want to push yourself, try interning abroad as well! When I first attended a peer advising session at the education abroad office I was given many options on features I wanted included in my program and interning was one that piqued my interest the most. I already needed internship credit to graduate and what better way to knock that out than in an exciting and new country? Through our office, there are many programs that offer internships for students studying abroad and I was easily able to find one that would supplement journalism credit that I needed. I had the fulfilling experience of studying and interning abroad in Prague, Czech Republic in the spring of 2016. The experience was incredibly enriching for me and I encourage everyone to look into their options for interning abroad as well! Here’s why:
- Build those intercultural competence skills!
Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures. When I studied abroad, I was expected to email and communicate with potential employers and navigate the streets of Prague to attend multiple interviews that I had set up with them. My interviews were within the first week of arriving in Prague and I was immediately pushed out of my comfort zone and into a work environment unfamiliar to me. I had to navigate this process in a professional and adaptable manner in order to impress possible employers and land an internship.
Interning abroad gives you a unique perspective on any given culture by allowing you to work directly with its people. You have the opportunity to be in a workplace environment different than your past work experiences at home and you’ll be working within a real life, hands-on setting and building new, dynamic relationships with your boss and coworkers. Through these relationships you’ll be able to further your immersion within the local community and adapt as you grow to understand cultural norms that can’t be taught in a classroom.
- Get recognized globally!
Interning abroad gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘networking’. Having connections all over the world is an advantage unique to working internationally. Whether or not you decide to choose an internship that is in the field of your major, you’ll have the opportunity to build strong relationships with people you cross paths with in the workplace.
Let’s face it: no one enjoys schmoozing, but it can be an important part of opening up new possibilities. For my internship, I worked at a coworking space for location-independent workers, which meant I was exposed to new and exciting people almost every day. That made the process of networking much more lively and fulfilling. Think about it this way: what other experience will give you the opportunity to create a global network of connections while still in college?
- Resume builder
Sure, all intern experience is a résumé builder, but interning abroad gives you a uniqueness that will definitely intrigue future employers. Instead of just saying that you aren’t afraid of a challenge and are able to work in situations unfamiliar to you, you’ll be able to show them by speaking from past experiences. Interning abroad proves that you’re adaptable, resilient, and responsible!
- Credits, credits, credits
Getting credits for interning abroad isn’t guaranteed, but it is very much possible. For my major it was required for me to fulfill internship hours and I was stressed about completing my those hours on time and finding a fulfilling work experience to do so. Interning abroad gave me the opportunity to satisfy necessary credits while working for a great company. Even if you don’t need an internship to graduate, work experience is always an enriching complement to your studies.
- The growing experience
At first, the idea of finding and completing an internship in a country completely unfamiliar to you may seem a bit daunting, but stepping outside of your comfort zone pushes you to grow and once you have this experience under your belt, you’ll be ready to take on so much more. Working abroad gave me the unique experience that challenged me differently than any previous work experience I’ve had. It will allow you to gain a unique expertise that you wouldn’t have expected possible. Taking on these new experiences will allow you to learn more about yourself as well as the world around you.
Take control of your education abroad experience! Think critically about what you’d like to gain from your experience abroad and what actions you need to take to ensure that. Check out your options for working abroad and come into our office to speak with an advisor about opportunities available to you.