What Majors Should Seriously Consider Interning Abroad?

by Jake Hanrahan

The internship. It’s practically a requirement of many undergraduate degrees these days. Even when an internship isn’t a necessity to graduate, it is still billed and valued as a fantastic opportunity for students to get an extended look at what working in their chosen field is like. However, far too many students limit themselves when searching for internships - many will resign themselves to looking for positions close to home or to their universities. Did you know there is both literally and figuratively a whole world of possibilities out there?

Internships abroad are becoming more and more prevalent, especially as students recognize the ease with which they can make such an experience happen, and as employers and businesses recognize the inherent  value of having international work experience. It can give you a boost academically, professionally, and personally. While all areas of study can benefit from interning abroad, here are 4 popular majors where international street cred is practically a must.

Business meeting

1. Business

Popular majors: Finance, Business Administration or Management, Communications, International Trade

Numbers are numbers, right? Well, not necessarily. Today’s finance students are preparing themselves to enter into a business world that is more globally connected than ever before. Even smaller businesses today are able to tap into enormous global markets where they can sell their goods or services to literally billions of people overseas. By interning abroad in finance, you are not only showing a future employer that you have the practical knowhow to perform the basic duties of the job (i.e. number crunching, financial analysis, etc.), but also that you are able to interact successfully with other business professionals working in overseas markets.

Given how few students take advantage of the opportunity, an experience interning abroad is highly likely to make you stand out among other applicants for future jobs. There is a global need of employees with finance educations, so you can have your pick of the litter when it comes to the enormous amount of international intern positions available abroad. Just pick a business and a country that interest you and go!


2. Conservation

Popular majors: Biology, Marine Science, Ecology

Students in conservation fields may have to travel far and wide to visit the ecosystem that delights them most. Start getting used to this necessity early on by taking part in an internship abroad. Overseas positions in conservation and biology can be found with private companies, research institutions, and even non-profit organizations. This means that there are always plenty of great opportunities and positions available for bio students to get their feet wet and work alongside established scientific professionals in a real world setting.

Because biology is such a large field, students hoping to specialize in a certain niche will be met with many positions available. Expanding your summer internship search to include the possibility of traveling abroad will likely drastically increase the number of positions you can apply for!

3. Political Science

Popular majors: International Relations, Human Rights, Criminal Justice

Did you think your country was the only one on Earth with laws? Established justice systems exist in almost every country in the world, providing countless opportunities to intern abroad. Laws and the methods by which they are enforced are as much a part of a country’s culture as language, food, and clothing. By interning abroad, students will be exposed to a legal system that is likely similar to their own in many ways, but fascinatingly different in others, and begin to learn about complex, convoluted issues from a new cultural lens.

Opinions on drug offences, capital punishment, and the best techniques for the correction of inmates all tend to be different depending on which country you are in. International interns will gain invaluable experience that their peers at home could never have by learning first-hand the how, what, and why behind the strengths and weakness of alternative types of legal systems (and gain a pretty sweet perspective on their own country’s politics, too).

4. Healthcare

Popular majors: Public Health, Medicine, Nursing

Diversify, diversify, diversify! It seems that undergraduate students hoping to one day get into medical school hear those words on an almost daily basis. They refer to a resume, of course, driving home the importance for students to make their resume stand out to selection committees. A great internship is always a plus, but an international internship experience is something that is likely to draw second looks for resume reviewers. International internships in medicine are available almost everywhere, and more focused and specialized positions are readily available as well. Simply put, completing healthcare internships abroad may be one of the best fields to intern abroad in today.

Yes, it will look great on a resume and yes, it will provide the student with real world experience in medicine and health care delivery, but the positives go far beyond that. Every day, people from all walks of life have issues with their health. Medical internships can allow students to work in environments ranging from the most advanced science laboratories in the world to the most remote villages in developing countries. Regardless of where your area of specialty in medicine is, someone, somewhere needs the help that you can provide. Traveling in order to bring help to these people can be both the educational and personal experience of a lifetime!


Tips for Ensuring Your Internship Abroad is Worth the Investment

You can choose to go abroad, have a really good time, and maybe roll into work prepared for the day ahead a handful of times. Or you can shine in the workplace and really take something of value from the experience. Here are ways to accomplish the latter rather than the former:

  • Check your expectations. You can’t save Rome in a day, or watch all of the Parks and Recreation seasons in week. Think realistically about what you can or cannot accomplish in the time frame you have committed to your international internship.
  • Be proactive. If you are feeling like your skills, time, and energy are not being effectively or sufficiently utilized, do not hesitate to speak with your supervisor, on-site director, or program advisor about your concerns. You might never become useful if you don’t speak up!
  • Ask for a recommendation letter. Before you head home, and provided you have done a satisfactory job in your role, ask your superiors for both online and in-print versions of a recommendation letter. It’s never too early to start collecting an army of supporters on LinkedIn!
  • Stay connected to your international employer. Just because you aren’t working there anymore doesn’t mean you can’t still benefit from maintaining relationships with the organization. Reach out to your colleagues to touch base regularly; if you are ever interested in returning as an intern or possibly a full-time employee, state your intentions clearly and express interest early.

Simply being abroad and working isn’t going to cut it; you have to consciously make the most of your work abroad experience. Interning can be another byline on your resume or an incredible professional development experience. The results of your internship abroad are ultimately up to YOU.