Interning abroad vs studying abroad

Why Interning Abroad is the Better Investment for the Overeducated and Underemployed



When it comes down to it, being able to study abroad and then complement it with an international internship is by far the most ideal setup for your future career. But if you have to choose between the two programs, whether your reasoning be financial or personal, how do you decide which is the better fit for your profile? Well, let’s dive into the benefits of both and compare.

Pros of Interning Abroad:

Real-life Work Experience

Are you about to graduate? Do you already have most of your course credits that you need for your degree? Then, your focus should be on getting work experience to complement your academic background otherwise you’re going to end up just as over-educated as the 4 out of 5 college graduates that leave university without a job. What better way is there to prove resilience and stamina than to show that you can adapt to adversity in a foreign business environment abroad. The results of an internship abroad are tangible with practical application as opposed to the results of study abroad which are more theoretical.

Taken More Seriously by Future Employers

Unfortunately, study abroad has gained a reputation as a party scene more or less. It doesn’t really do much for professional experience on your resume. But when a potential employer sees that you stepped outside the box to get work experience abroad other than the typical study abroad student, they’ll know you are a motivated go-getter. Because interning abroad certainly takes a good deal of effort and planning (although going through a program such as The Intern Group simplifies the steps for you) and employers know this. They value that ambitious attitude.

Long-term Job Contacts and References

As you already know, it’s not always what you know but who you know that matters in the real world. Without contacts and references, your resume or CV doesn’t hold as much substance. Interning abroad provides supervisor and mentor references as well as company contacts. On top of that, the other interns are also professionally-driven international contacts that are going to open doors to countries you never thought possible, especially for those interested in working abroad post-graduation.

Diversity Among Fellow Interns

One of the biggest failures of study abroad is the lack of students mingling with peers outside their university or country bubble. It’s human nature to want to feel at home away from home and you obviously have a lot in common with someone from your home country who chose the same study abroad path you did. But is that what an international experience is really for?

At The Intern Group, the variations of countries applicants are applying from is astounding. You’re likely to meet interns from almost every continent. You’ll not only bond over a common passion for travel and ambition but you’ll have the opportunity to compare professional perspectives about each other’s economies, countries, and careers.

Transition into Working Abroad

Interning abroad has many attributes but the fact that it is possible to get a job out of it has to come out as one of the most desirable. After all, aren’t we all studying for that very reason? Studying abroad may get you closer to getting a job but interning abroad can actually turn into one based on several factors including your internship performance and your company’s need at that time.

Lack of Focus on Exams, Essays, and Homework

Study abroad is essentially supposed to be a time to study and learn through various methods. Exams and school work being the basis of them. Interning abroad has no focus on this aspect and therefore allows you time to get hands-on experience in, for example, Hong Kong Finance, as opposed to just reading about it.

Pros of Studying Abroad:

Academic Credit and International University Experience

Academic credit is easier to achieve through study abroad as long as you go about the process correctly. This includes reviewing your coursework with your academic advisor and getting your credits approved beforehand.

*But that does not mean that you can’t get academic credit through interning abroad. In fact, we have had a significant amount of interns get academic credit by participating in one of our programs. What it comes down to is if your university requirements allow for an international internship to fulfill credits. If so, The Intern Group will provide you with the documents that you need to get that credit. Find more information here:

Financial Aid


Federal financial aid tends to be easily transferable to study abroad programs as long as you speak to your financial aid department and provider to get it reviewed and approved. It may not cover the full program, depending on your choice of destination, but it usually will cover a good amount of it.

*It may take being a bit more creative for financial aid for interning abroad but it can certainly be done. There are several sites out there that provide grants, scholarships, and loans that can be used for interning abroad. Take a look at NAFSA, International scholarships, or the funding page of our website for more ideas how to finance your internship abroad.

More Free Time for Cultural Immersion

Study abroad, like any university schedule, will most certainly allow for several breaks throughout the day and week to spend exploring the city. You’ll have the ability to get a coffee with friends at 10 in the morning during the week, discover an art gallery in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, and most likely be able to sleep in now and again.

Solidarity with Fellow Students from your University and Country

Now although this can tend to be a con when it comes to really embracing the international culture of an abroad experience, it does allow for solidarity. Who is more comforting than a fellow student form your alma mater that is going to know exactly how you feel and what you miss?

Fulfilling a Foreign Language Minor

When it comes to studying abroad, you do in fact have more time to study a foreign language in the classroom. You’ll have exams and evaluations testing you on your mispronunciation and grammar. You’ll then be able to leave the classroom and use your Spanish at the supermarket in Madrid.

*For those looking for language immersion, what better way to pick up professional business language in Cantonese or Spanish than in the work environment where you have to interact with local employees and clients? Also, The Intern Group has a language study component for those that are interested. You can go a couple weeks early or implement it into your internship schedule in the morning.



The verdict

When it comes down to it, both are incredible opportunities that should be taken advantage of when possible by the majority of young adults. But if you have to choose, university graduates are being supplied at a far higher rate than the labor market demands. So you do the math. In order to make yourself a more competitive candidate, you don’t need more coursework abroad, you need more work experience with proven success at practical application. That is what is going to get your resume or CV the second glance that ends up with you in an interview for a job post-graduation; not the extra credits you picked up studying in Venice.


Photo 1 based on Samuel Mann, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2 based on Saint Louis University Madrid Campus, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3 based on JINX!, CC-by-2.0


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.


Bridget McAndrew

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