Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! With a science as applicable as zoology and wildlife science, the opportunities to practice your field of study all over the world are expansive and wide reaching. If you’re interested in studying abroad, there is no better way to do so than to combine your love of animals and your love of travel than completing an internship abroad. International wildlife internships present a unique opportunity to apply your technical knowledge in hands on wildlife situations, which may not be possible at home.
Completing an internship abroad is a practical way to get field experience, network with potential employers, and develop your leadership skills. Interning in a foreign country will not only expand your resume, it will leave you with lasting memories of meaningful travel experiences, increase your cultural competency, and improve your language and communication skills immensely, which are things not easily gained within your home country.
Zoology and wildlife sciences specifically is a field of study that can take you anywhere in the world, researching or caring for exotic animals in delicate ecosystems. Beginning your professional career with an internship abroad shows employers you’re willing and excited to pursue career opportunities and learning experiences wherever they may be. For those concerned about studying abroad during their undergraduate career, due to credit procurement issues or scheduling credits toward graduation, interning abroad is the perfect option, as it allows for international travel and cultural growth while developing your professional profile and earning transferable academic credits.
Fortunately, a career in zoology and wildlife sciences can start anywhere there are animals, which is to say: anywhere! Opting for warmer climates, where the variety of animal species tend to be greater, the top contenders are typically Australia, Africa, South America, and Asia.
Australia and New Zealand offer fantastic opportunities to experience different customs and places in the comfort of an English speaking country. Sydney, Australia is home to several large zoos, most of which offer wildlife internships working directly with all types of animals in a tropical environment. Interning at a veterinary center in New Zealand or Australia can provide far ranging opportunities too, including aiding in the treatment of pets, livestock, and exotic animals. Both Australia and New Zealand boast tropical climates containing hundreds of animals you likely have been unable to interact with in your studies back at home.
Certain countries in Africa, including South Africa, Tanzania, and Madagascar offer extraordinary views, expansive environments, and unfamiliar wildlife to get to know. A myriad of conservation organizations do work all over this vast and beautiful continent. Some countries offer exclusive internships with tropical and marine wildlife, involving the preservation and management of some of earth’s most untouched spaces and species.
Internships for zoology in South America can open doors to some of the most mysterious and wonderful places on the planet. State of the art research in wildlife and natural resources is ongoing in many South American countries, such as Argentina, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Explore the Amazon rainforest, the endangered animals within its reach, and work to make an area of South America safe and healthy for all wildlife, while getting a taste of amazing food, vibrant culture, and friendly peoples.
Various countries in Asia, such as Thailand, Borneo, and Malaysia, can offer you unfettered access to beautiful elephants, majestic tigers, and interesting birds, as well as a dose of culture shock. Island countries and coastal regions are mostly under government protection, and interns in Asia can aid in the important work of keeping these natural areas and the encompassed wildlife protected and healthy. Interning in Asia will not only expose you to important conservation work, but also to new languages, new customs, and new experiences.
When looking for the perfect fit for your internship abroad, there are several important things to consider. First, you should consider whether you want a research position in the laboratory or in the field. Many wildlife and zoology internships combine both, but make sure to ask about how your time will be allotted if you’re particularly interested in field work, especially.
Depending on the type of wildlife science internship you are pursuing, your time abroad will look very different. If you’re interested in animal internships at a sanctuary or a zoo, your internship experience will involve a lot of field time in the facility, spent interacting with animals, assisting in their daily feedings and exercises, and likely monitoring and recording these activities. However, if you would prefer to work with an animal conservation group, you should expect to have a much more flexible schedule; internships with natural conservation groups typically involve tracking and observing animals in the wild, with minimal personal interaction.
If you are interested in interning with a veterinary hospital, there will be less hands-on activity, as much of the first hand care of animals will be completed by trained professionals. Veterinary interns commonly spend their time assisting with office tasks and basic animal care, and are allowed to observe and record more complicated procedures. Animal clinics or rehabilitation centers are an interesting alternative to veterinary hospitals; while veterinary offices see many animals throughout the course of the day, clinics and rehabilitation centers have long-term residents and specialized types of care; expect to perform similar tasks daily.
Another facet to consider is the timing; the most popular option when completing an internship in wildlife science is to go abroad for the summer months, so as not to interfere with scheduled coursework, however, semester-long internships are also an option.
While participating in animal internships abroad can be more rewarding work experiences than completing internships domestically, these are also more difficult to arrange typically. Internships abroad need to be applied for early on, because before travel plans are made or visas are obtained you must know that you have been accepted in the program. Some internship program providers will offer to match you with a company or government organization abroad, which will take time to get approved. Your university’s study abroad or international office can often help you arrange internships abroad through vetted program providers with programs that offer transferable academic credits or help you to seek out international internships. These offices will often help you through the application process too, sometimes even if you are a recent graduate and not a current student.
Zoology and wildlife sciences is a passion that sees few rewards in the classroom; sure, learning about animals in far-off places is fun and exciting, but actually seeing, touching, and caring for these animals is a vastly different experience and infinitely more rewarding. The benefits of interning abroad in wildlife sciences and zoology are hardly quantifiable. Not only will you be exposed to a new world of food, people, and culture while having eye-opening travel experiences and making life-long friends, but you will gain respected international experience to put on your resume.
Employers of the twenty-first century recognize that world travelers are more ept in communications, leadership, and self-motivation. Take your research outside of the classroom and the lab and into the field, where your passion for animals will take on new dimensions in new coordinates.