Hundreds of thousands of internship opportunities exist for U.S. college students. Our company, BRIC, has offered internships at our Shanghai and New York City offices the last four years, and interns have said the experience enhanced their lives immensely.
By doing an internship, you are setting yourself up for the future by distinguishing yourself from your peers in the eyes of employers. It’s a great experience and could be a means to snagging that first job. I cannot recommend strongly enough that every college student do at least one internship while at school.
There is, however, one thing more I would recommend: If you’re looking for something to do during the summer that will challenge you, get you out of your comfort zone, let you see the world and change your life, do an internship abroad. Here are four reasons why an internship abroad should be a priority.
Sure, you can get experience here in the United States; an internship stateside is definitely an option. However, the average internship at home doesn’t even begin to compare to living in a foreign city, learning new things and enjoying cultural differences while gaining invaluable career experience.
One experience that I will never forget was at a BEAN networking event in Shanghai. I never would have had a volunteer experience like it had I not gone to China: We were moving orphans with cleft palates from a home in Pudong to a new larger home. One of the sad realities of China’s One Child Policy has been that most children born with deformities are abandoned.
That’s why a wonderful couple from Texas, who started the orphanage, chose to do something about it. I got involved (trying to impress a girl, to be honest), and was rewarded . . . not by the girl, but by the experience. Those children truly needed help, and being a part of the group helping them was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Whether you choose to work for a non-profit, a government organization or a private business, getting that experience in a foreign country will allow you the opportunity to engage with and interact with people from all different walks of life. You learn patience, you learn to communicate in different ways and you learn to appreciate all the new opportunities that arise when you take such a chance.
The people who surround you, both here in the states and abroad, shape your life in one way or another. When you expose yourself to new cultures and new people, you tend to learn more about yourself than you do about them. You will encounter good people and people who aren’t so great, but it’s how you handle those situations and learn from them that really shows you who you are.
Once you find yourself among good people, keep surrounding yourself with them. Learn from them, become their friends, build and maintain friendships with them. They will become a big part of your “home away from home” and continue to impact your life long after you’ve parted ways.
As for the bad people, learn from them, as well. Learn how not to act. Learn to treat people with respect and to not let the bad influences in your life bring you down.
Having the opportunity to learn and work with such a diverse group of people while doing an internship abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Immerse yourself in their culture, become a part of their families, and learn how to live and work wherever you choose to go. Whether it’s China, Brazil, Paris or Dubai: Make the most of learning from your co-workers.
Make it your goal to travel while you’re doing your internship. Whether it’s a quick weekend trip to Paris or a long holiday to Thailand — you will most likely never have the opportunity to travel as much when you come back to the states. Working abroad and living in a different area gives you the opportunity to explore other countries and other cultures relatively cheaply and easily.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a program that recognizes the importance of travel, you may even get some Fridays off or half-days, to encourage you to travel. If that’s the case — do it! Every other weekend, go to a different destination and take in as much as you can. There are so many different places for you to stay, whether you take advantage of an AirBnB or a more traditional youth hostel, you can stay for a few bucks and meet some incredible new people.
My advice for the weeks that you do stay in the city: Become a local. Go where the locals go, eat where they eat and learn what it means to be a part of their culture.
Money: In the international business world, there is a lot of it. If you’re talented and brave enough to take the leap, you can definitely grab some of that cash. If you wind up living and working in a foreign country, and speaking the language, expect between 5 percent and 20 percent higher pay than your peers native to that country.
In addition, an internship is the easiest way into the expat economy. Good internships abroad offer young professionals events, social activities and charitable and volunteer opportunities which not only let you give back, but also introduce you to other like-minded expats. You’re introducing yourself to an entirely new network of individuals who can help shape your future career.
So, if one of your concerns about moving abroad and working there is a lack of the financial means to do so, don’t let that hold you back. Take that leap and know that it can pay off in the long run. You will not only have unique global job experience that looks extremely appealing on a resume, but a whole new network of people who can help you propel your career in the direction you want it to go.
Set yourself apart.
The experiences gained abroad are virtually unmatched by anything in the states. The people, the food, the culture are all so vastly different from what we are used to. If you’re smart and driven and want to set yourself apart from your compatriots, take the next step.
Research companies that offer internships, scout out different locations that you would like to live in and go for it. My advice: Stop wasting time trying to break through the clutter of your classmates, and go on an adventure to gain experience in a different country. It will transform your future.