Posted: March 26, 2015, 1130 a.m.
by Sadie Schwarm.
Wanderlust job seekers may be at a disadvantage when seeking internships abroad if they do not conduct the proper research. Traveling has become a trend that many young, striving professionals expect to experience. What used to be merely a hobby has now become an expectation. Recently, greater emphasis placed on travel has sparked interest in living abroad rather than merely visiting for a week-long vacation.
One of the best solutions to satisfy this desire to not only travel and explore but to also live overseas, is through interning abroad. Gaining this highly coveted work experience gives young professionals a confidence and sense of cultural awareness they may not obtain by interning or working domestically.
According to the regional director of university relations for International Studies Abroad, Jessica Penny, “Students who take the initiative to intern abroad are putting themselves at a competitive advantage in the ever-globalizing job market.”
Although travel opportunities are heavily advertised, few students take on internships abroad, but that does not mean that students do not desire the experience.
“A very small percentage of students take part in international internships, so the investment in an internship now could lead to higher returns in the future,” Penny said.
Millennials as a whole make up a large portion of international travelers. According to an article by Forbes , “Young travelers of the millennial generation represent 20 percent of international travelers.”
Penny studied abroad with International Studies Abroad (ISA) in Valencia, Spain, in 2011. She stated this “fueled her passion” for spreading the word about how important it is to take advantage of international opportunities. Since then, Penny has worked with ISA in various capacities.
Penny began working as the regional director of university relations for International Studies Abroad in September of 2014. She is based in Austin, Texas and travels to universities throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee to spread the word about ISA’s programs, which include study abroad, internships, service-learning, Christian missions and research.
“I enjoy learning about each university’s unique campus culture and their global initiatives, and work to make students’ goals of partaking in a life-changing international program a reality,” Penny said.
However, both the fear of the unknown and the risk of a faulty provider program often hold young professionals back from committing to intern abroad, especially in fields such as public relations, communications and advertising where internships are crucial to professional development.
If individuals are not seeking an internship abroad through a provider program, there are plenty of global agencies that offer international opportunities. For example, the top 10 global PR agencies in 2013 were ranked in the annual World PR Report. In the report, Edelman was listed as the top global agency followed by Weber Shandwick and Fleishman Hillard.
Regardless of interning through an agency-specific program or a provider program, the cost of interning abroad is not cheap and the process of applying is not for the faint of heart. This makes using resources and conducting proper research all the more important. Potential interns must be sure they will gain the experience they expect and deserve.
Jessica Snyder is a prime example of an abroad internship gone right. Snyder, a senior at The University of Alabama majoring in advertising, marketing and management, had an “extremely positive” abroad experience. She interned as an account manager at Bashful Agency in Sydney, Australia, and found her internship through GlobaLinks, which has now merged with ISA as one company (GlobaLinks internships are now ISA internships).
“Since I knew what I was looking for, I went to the study abroad office and looked through the books for a reputable company. Then, I did the rest of the research and planning on my own,” Snyder said.
For Snyder, planning worked out to her advantage.
“I loved working in a boutique agency because I got to see the creative elements go into the ads instead of just creating a brief and passing it on. It was a very good, all-inclusive look into an agency in the fashion industry,” Snyder said.
Snyder also noted that a benefit of her internship was that instead of communicating with the client and the creative team via email, she got “hands-on” experience.
“I assisted with the outfit selections to be showcased in look books, online and in-store, as well as assisted with talent selection and attended a brand photo-shoot,” Snyder said.
In order to ensure a positive work abroad experience, like the one Snyder experienced, it is crucial to choose the best program for you and to be adequately informed.
“When looking for a placement abroad, students need to evaluate their goals for their internship,” Penny said. “Internships are meant for professional development, so finding a program that puts an emphasis on leveraging the global skills gained during the international internship experience is essential.”
Because various programs are structured differently, Penny advised that when students are researching programs they should “determine the level of support they may require during their time abroad.” She added, “The wide variety of support and resources ranges from 24/7 support, excursions, housing, health insurance and more.”
Snyder advised to be cautious of companies that do not have a high placement percentage. “Be sure to read the good and the bad of previous students’ experiences,” she said.
If the internship is through a provider program such as ISA, there will more than likely be a cost and the internship will be unpaid.
“Potential interns should also be cautious of cost. Not only is there a fee for the program, but you will also need money to live and potentially travel or participate in excursions while abroad,” Snyder said.
It’s important for job seekers to do the proper research on cost before making such a large financial commitment.
According to Penny, the Education Abroad Office found at universities is “the most valuable resource that you can use.” Here, there are advisers available to help find a program that will fit best for each individual looking to intern.
“Part of the purpose of interning abroad is the cultural immersion and learning how to navigate the office environments in different cultures,” Penny said.
If the proper resources are used and research is conducted, interning abroad can be extremely beneficial for a professional career.
“Interning abroad takes the international immersion experience one step further by showing future employers that you are not only capable of taking the initiative to immerse yourself in a new culture, but also learning the best business practices and strengthening your intercultural communication skills,” Penny said.
Snyder agreed and “whole-heartedly recommends it” to other students considering working abroad through provider programs. “It’s not all about work; it’s also about finding yourself,” Snyder added.