Picking a major like civil engineering is as rewarding as it is challenging, especially for the internationally minded. Civil engineering has a hand in the design of major cities everywhere, from the construction of massive buildings to the design of road systems. Therefore, civil engineering internships abroad can expose you to the wonders of existing structures and cities, or present you with the unique opportunity to improve the lives of others. Engineering in the twenty first century is a global field, so interning abroad can be invaluable experience, for yourself and your resume.
Why Intern Abroad in Civil Engineering
Most civil engineering curriculum requires an internship for degree completion. But even if your program doesn’t, a civil engineering internship is a precious experience to have under your belt by the time you graduate and start looking for a permanent engineering job, as it shows you not only have the technical knowledge learned in school but also real-life practice as a civil engineer.
The additional benefits of interning in civil engineering abroad are limitless: companies are looking for employees that have been put outside their comfort zone and flourished, for those who are willing to take calculated risk for substantial benefits, and for someone with foreign language skills. Civil engineering internships abroad can do all these things, and more.
Civil engineering is a broad science that enables you to build things to new heights, or to ensure the safety and smooth running of everyday life; fortunately, this means you have several options when it comes to interning abroad. A civil engineering student like you could take advantage of the experience of interning abroad by going to places with great structural feats to inspire your studies or pick an underdeveloped area where it is possible to make a true difference with your knowledge of engineering.
Engineering is a worldly science, meaning that it is practiced every day, in every country. South American countries, such as Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, are typically at the top of the list. Major cities in South America have expanded greatly over the past 20 years, a boom that existing infrastructure has had to respond to, and future infrastructure must plan for. These challenges have a broader scope and complexity than many domestic civil engineering internships. Keep in mind that Spanish-speaking capabilities are typically required for South American based civil engineering internships.
Various countries in Africa, such as Kenya, South Africa, and Ethiopia, also seek out international engineering interns. Many firms in these countries are just beginning formal layouts of cities, meaning that a civil engineering internship could be an experience that affects every person in the town, by making their life easier with more accessible roads or more environmentally friendly city infrastructure.
Europe is another popular choice for interning in civil engineering abroad, especially because traveling to Europe can be inspiring for almost any civil engineer, with structural landmarks and beautifully kept cities and buildings. England, Spain, and Germany are prevalent options, since who wouldn’t like to learn about civil engineering near the Big Ben clock tower, the Puente Nuevo bridge, or the Neuschwanstein Castle?
Wherever you choose to travel for your civil engineering internship abroad, your work with senior engineering staff will provide insight into how engineering science is applied all over the world, as you are learning about the business culture of a different country. Even if you don’t know the language, you’ll be happy to know that math is a language understood by all engineers, regardless of location.
Civil Engineering Internships Abroad
The internship placement process can vary greatly depending on your school’s study abroad office (yes, they can help you intern abroad, too!) and your school’s connections to host schools and engineering internship or co-op programs overseas.
The main thing to consider, aside from location, when pursuing a civil engineering internship abroad is the time frame of your internship. Typically, internships are selected for the summer months, during your school’s break, but semester-long engineering internships are also available. Make sure to speak with your academic advisor if considering a semester-long (or year-long) civil engineering internship abroad; some programs have built in co-op credits, which allow you to work in the professional world as an engineer while receiving course credit, while others have stricter academic coursework laid out in a four year plan, that only allow internships during the summer break.
Finding and landing a civil engineering internship in another country is a similar process to doing it domestically. Applying directly to companies that work in a country of your interest is a straightforward way of finding a position. If you’re looking to work with a specific company, this is the way to go. However, there are also companies and host schools that can connect you directly to a civil engineering firm in the location of your choice.
Its important to note that, while most international internships are unpaid, due to a variety of international visa regulations, engineering firms around the world are one of the few employers that are able to fully compensate their employees, interns included. This, however, means that more coordination is required ahead of time. A civil engineering firm interested in you as an intern will have to officially sponsor you for a work visa, a somewhat arduous process, yet extremely rewarding in the long-run.
All civil engineers will graduate with hours upon hours of classroom experience, but some will set themselves apart with practical, first-hand internship experience. Those who choose to complete their engineering internship abroad, rather than close-to-home, possess even more of what all engineering employers are looking for: communication skills and cross-cultural competency. Moreover, few engineers will ever get the chance to feel the global impact of civil engineering: buildings, bridges, roads to important attractions, or roads to nowhere at all, that enable people from all over to live their lives and see incredible things.
Aside from professional experience, interning in civil engineering abroad is guaranteed to be a life-changing experience. Immersing yourself in a different culture, a different language, and a different way of studying and practicing civil engineering concepts you’re passionate about, all while making important business connections and lifelong friends, will be a summer or a semester you're not soon to forget.