Internships have their fair share of benefits regardless of the physical location of the placement. It is a way for students to gain beginner’s experience within their chosen field of study, to hone relevant skills, and to further their knowledge. As such, as internship could be considered the first step of a student’s trek on their path to a career. There are additional benefits to this experience when the internship takes place outside of the United States. I will highlight only a few key areas of development that I find important, but know that the list is quite large overall.
First, interns that have chosen to go abroad have the capacity to develop personally, as well as academically and professionally. The novelty of the host culture offers plenty of prime opportunities for personal growth whether via leisure travel, casual encounters with the host culture, or work. A person’s belief systems will inevitably be reaffirmed, challenged, or seen in a different light as a direct result of cultural differences. In my time abroad, I’ve found myself with a lot of time to reflect on my values and have been able to integrate new experiences into my day-to-day ways of thinking.
Next, there is the development of soft skills like communication and networking. Regardless of whether an intern’s host country is English speaking, an intern must learn to appropriately and effectively communicate with locals. This includes the ability to learn and utilize the country’s colloquial language. In turn, it is subsequently possible to establish local connections with co-workers and organizations of interest. It only took a few days in Dublin for me to recognize that when my supervisor says “fair play to you”, she means “well done”.
Most importantly, students are able to develop intercultural competence and sensitivity. Being fully immersed in a host culture enables interns to learn about their field of study in the context of a different culture. In doing so, it is possible to learn alternate approaches to similar practices. An intern will also learn what it is like to live within and interact with the host culture. This enables the intern to learn to have appropriate interactions with people of the host culture and gives the intern a better understanding of how to be sensitive to the needs of people from all walks of life.
The benefits of interning abroad are practically endless. Doing so offers unique opportunities to develop as an individual, a student, and a prospective employee. However, it isn’t exclusively about what an intern learns while abroad that makes the experience worthwhile. The most beneficial piece to interning abroad comes from what skills and knowledge the intern chooses to bring home with them to put into practice and share with others.
The world awaits…discover it.