An internship can give you opportunities to take on real responsibilities, proving that you can be an effective employee and perhaps even offering paid work at the end. Interning overseas offers all of this as well as the chance to stretch your comfort zone within a new country and culture, learn a new language and develop your network of contacts: all vital aspects of work in the modern world.
Because interning abroad isn’t always as simple as we might like it to be, we have come up with 5 key questions to help you prepare for your internship abroad:
How will I afford it?
As well as the up-front costs associated with travel you need to consider how you will support yourself when you are overseas. Does your employer offer a stipend to interns or will you be entirely unpaid? Will you be provided with accommodation and food or do you need to pay for this yourself? Are you eligible for any funding related to your course of study or from industry bodies? You should make a budget for the time you will be away taking these factors into account to ensure you can afford it.
Where should I go?
This should be one of your first considerations, even before looking at what internship opportunities are out there. Your motivation for interning might be to learn a new language, to experience a particular culture or to learn more about your chosen industry. Whatever your motivation is though, you should choose a country where you think you’ll be comfortable with the culture, including the lifestyle and food.
How long will it be?
Internships vary in length from a few months up to around two years. If you have lots of commitments at home you need to consider how an internship will affect these. Look for a shorter placement if you can’t handle being limited to Skype and Facebook communication with loved ones or being unable to return home on a regular basis.
What support will I have?
Living in a new country is a daunting experience for most people. The first few months in particular can be a time when culture shock and homesickness set in. Staying in touch with family and friends back home through social media can be helpful, but more important will be the links you develop with your new colleagues and friends. Take the time to research clubs, societies and other opportunities for developing your social network in the country.
What responsibilities will I have?
Your internship should offer real opportunities for you to prove your worth to any employer, but as an inexperienced member of the team, you shouldn’t be over-burdened. If there are particular areas in which you would like to develop your expertise, make sure you discuss these with the employer. Alongside this, make sure you understand how the employer intends to support you in taking up your role. As a minimum you should agree a job description and an outline plan for your internship. This needs to include the training you will receive, a named supervisor or manager and how your progress will be monitored and reviewed.
Ready to go
The personal, social and career benefits of interning abroad should make it a consideration for anyone heading into the world of work. Once you’ve made your decision, do as much research as possible into your chosen country and internship provider, then take the plunge!