9 reasons to intern abroad instead of studying abroad

Interning abroad is on the rise as more and more young people realize the value of international professional experience. As wonderful as study abroad programs can be, they just don’t prepare students for the real-world in the same way internships do. In a report, the New York Times said that from 2000 to 2011 some 7,000 US students traveled abroad to both work and earn college credit. From 2010 to 2011, the number grew to 16,400, with another 8,700 working without earning college credit. “Students want to study abroad (a record 274,000 did so for credit last year), but they also know that in a soft job market and increasingly global economy, they need an international work record and the connections that can bring,” the report said.


why intern abroad


So how do internship programs differ from study-abroad? Why intern abroad? Interns with The Intern Group program, are placed at world-class firms around the globe where interns spend their weekdays gaining work experience in their field of choice. The program is focused on professional development and preparing you for your career by offering the following:


1. Relevant work experience in your industry of choice

Though a study abroad experience will surely teach you important lessons, it won’t be able to give you that same kind of direct experience in your field. An internship abroad will give you the opportunity to work on important projects with other professionals in your field. It’s great experience to talk about in an interview process to show that even though you haven’t held a position full-time, you have work experience.


why intern abroad


2. Job references

Having a reference from a former internship supervisor will mean a lot more than a reference from a former study abroad professor. A manager that has seen you working in your field will be more likely to speak positively about your abilities and skills relevant to the position the employer is trying to fill. A study abroad professor can vouch for your character and soft skills, but that’s about it.


3. Knowledge about office expectations and culture

Office culture takes time getting used to, learning the expectations, protocol and codes. The best way to get adjusted is with experience in an office and you can’t get that with a study abroad experience. Once you’ve had to learn the ropes at an international office, you’ll have much more confidence at your next workplace in your home country.


4. Full cultural immersion

University life tends to be a bit different from the real world. With a study abroad experience you are more likely to stick to your university bubble, instead of venturing out into the real world in a foreign country. An internship abroad forces you to be more connected to the local society, since you’re waking up and going to work every day, just like everybody else.


5. A boost to your resume

After working at a foreign firm, you’ll have international office experience, which will look good on a resume whether you decide to stick with your field or not. Moreover, having international work experience on your resume can really help you get your foot in the door at top tier work places.


6. A career test drive

An international internship allows you to get the sense of what working in your field of choice is like without actually committing to a full-time position. Moreover, you will discover what you like and don’t like about your work, which will help guide future job searches.


7. A chance to mature and develop other necessary qualities for the workplace

Study abroad is surprisingly similar to a normal semester of classes back home. By taking on the challenge of an international workplace while living abroad, you’re really putting your courage, maturity and adaptability to the test. These are all important qualities employers look for in a job candidate.


why intern abroad


8. Global networking opportunities

“It’s not what you know but who you know”. A lot of opportunities in life arise from the connections you have. A study abroad experience isn’t going to offer the same kind of professional networking opportunities as an internship abroad. An international internship allows you the chance to get to know professionals in your field, establishing working relationships that will likely payoff in the long term.


9. Foreign language practice in a real-world setting

Learning a foreign language is a difficult endeavor. However, one of the best ways to learn is immersion. Though there are study abroad programs that set students up to live with locals, they still aren’t learning how to speak a foreign language in an office setting. Many of our internships in Madrid, Colombia and Hong Kong require interns to use their foreign language at the office in a work environment. It makes interns more comfortable using the language in a professional setting.



Sources: NYTimes

Photo 1. by The Intern Group

Photo 2. by The Intern Group

Photo 3. by The Intern Group


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

To learn how to apply to our internship programs, click here.


Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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