Today, many universities and faculties encourage and offer the opportunity for students to take a semester or a year studying abroad. However, slowly catching up and increasingly in higher-demand from students is the desire to intern abroad so they can apply their acquired knowledge in a real work setting.
Whether studying abroad or interning abroad, an international experience really does offer immeasurable value in the modern world. Today, thanks to the internet and technology, the world is becoming more interconnected and business is becoming more global, making the job market even more competitive. Therefore, it is very important and beneficial to be able to note some key benefits and competitive advantages students can obtain from doing an international internship that perhaps they don’t get from a semester or a year studying abroad. An internship abroad gives a student a different understanding of another country that they aren’t going to get in a classroom.
Standing out from the crowd
Going to a good university and graduating top of your class just doesn’t cut it anymore. What employers really want is hands-on experience and to see how potential new hires have challenged themselves.
Gaining professional experience in another country clearly distinguishes one applicant from another in an increasingly competitive global labour market
Gaining professional experience in another country clearly distinguishes one applicant from another in an increasingly competitive global labour market. Only a minority of students are undertaking internships abroad. It demonstrates a high-level of initiative, confidence, and interpersonal skills. These are three important attributes for employment in any career field.
Personal, academic and professional growth
Jumping into a new culture is not easy, but a challenge well-worth undertaking. Students will be able to work side-by-side with locals in their host country, and learn all about what daily life is really like in a completely different part of the world. Those who opt to do an internship during their semester or year abroad usually find themselves having a different perspective of the culture that surrounded them. These transformative inter-cultural learning experiences will lead to personal, academic, and professional development. Students will push the boundaries of what they are capable of and grow in independence, giving them confidence to take on even bigger challenges in the future.
It can be a daunting task to pick a clear career path. I remember throughout university it felt somewhat challenging to clearly identify an industry and profession that would give me concrete fulfilment and gratification for years to come.
An internship abroad is the perfect way for students to experience and experiment a career field without making a serious commitment. They can see what it would be like to work in an industry and personally evaluate themselves to see if they are a great fit. Whether they decide to continue in that field or not, they would have gained a whole range of transferrable skills that will leave a favourable impression on any potential future employer, and have a more defined idea about where and how they see themselves in the future.
Improving foreign language skills
Most employers now favour employees who possess foreign language skills over those who don’t. Whether students can become fluent or are just able to pick up the basics, language skills will make any graduate more marketable in the job market post-university.
Full cultural immersion is the best way to become fluent in a second language or to begin learning a new language. Unless students pick a very remote destination when studying abroad, it can be difficult to experience full cultural immersion. I remember this clearly from my year abroad in Spain at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid back in 2011-12, with a significant number of international students wanting to practice their English or using English as the common language to communicate amongst themselves. It was a similar story for many of my course mates at the University of Birmingham.
Doing an internship with a company or organization in another country, gives students little choice but to speak, practice, and master daily the language of their host country, and to fully immerse themselves in a foreign office.
Let’s create a Global Generation
To conclude, I would say whether students or universities prefer study abroad or intern abroad opportunities, these experiences are priceless and offer countless benefits. An experience abroad illustrates passion, drive, and a willingness to step outside of comfort zones, all qualities that will take any student far in the professional world. In an increasingly global world, we must encourage students to expand their cross-cultural understanding and increase their global awareness.
Going abroad as a student or as intern will always be a life-changing experience; they’ll meet like-minded people; they’ll be part of an entire community; they’ll expand their global network; they’ll experience something unique and personal; and they’ll feel confident knowing they were able to step out of their comfort zone.
Matthew Barfield is the Director & Founder of Intern Colombia. A third-party internship provider based in Bogotá, Colombia.