Part of French Indochina until its independence in 1953 then in 1975, the Pathet Lao achieved total control, and a communist republic was established. However, by the end of the 1990s, Laos saw a gradual return to free enterprise and capitalism. Due to its rich history, Laos offers interns a unique opportunity to intern in one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, and help boost the local economy at the same time. Luckily, interns can find a diverse amount internships in Laos, ranging from teaching English to working in development.
Vientiane, is both the political and economic center of the country. Chosen to host the Southeast Asian Games in 2009, Vientiane (pronounced wee-eng chan), is the largest city in Laos. Contrary to what most would believe, Vientiane reminds visitors of a more quaint and somewhat sleepy town as opposed to an emerging capital city. However, in recent years, Laos’ capital has seen some changes in terms of economic growth and increased tourism that is gradually transforming it from a sleepy town into a more stereotypical capital city.
In north-central Laos, there is the city of Luang Prabang that is most well known for its plethora of Buddhist temples. Located on a peninsula in the northern mountains of Laos, Luang Prabang is in between two rivers housing both historical, gold-domed temples and colonial French mansions. Since it is a UNESCO Heritage Site, the city is kept clean, orderly and peaceful. The feature that sets this Laotian city apart from the others is its unique atmosphere that combines two completely different histories, French colonialism and rich Buddhist tradition. Add a thriving cafe culture to the mix and you have a picturesque town perfect for anyone to explore. This tiny town, hidden away deep in the northern jungles of Laos, provides interns with an unique opportunity to not only enhance their resumé but live in a truly breathtaking city.
Vang Vieng represents the tremendous potential of Laos. Endowed with a breathtaking natural landscape and fertile soil, Vang Vieng is holding onto its historical agricultural background while being open to being a future international tourist destination. The local government has taken important steps to manage growth in a way that benefits the poor and contributes to the conservation of the environment. However, limited resources and high levels of poverty mean that significant challenges remain.
Internships in Laos
Education & Teaching. Among the many diverse countries in SouthEast Asia, Laos is quaint, beautiful nation with a rich tradition and is one of the most unaffected countries by Western culture and tourism. However, because of the gradual increase in tourism in recent years, since the country’s return to free enterprise, English has become a more and more important skill for Laotians to learn. Laotians that can speak English have better access to jobs working with foreign companies and in the tourism industry, an industry that is rapidly increasing in Laos. With English language skills, many locals can change their socio-economic status and provide better opportunities for their families.
Additionally, the children in Laos need English language skills to improve their chances of higher education and a future job. Coupled with the growth of tourism and English being the most popular subject in school, the demand to learn English by far outweighs the number of teachers available in Laos. As a result, most internships in Laos involve some form of teaching English as a second language.
Teaching internships in Laos can be found in most areas of the country, including the three big cities described above, as well as in the countryside. International teachers are critical to educational development, and as they become part of the community, they will also become leaders and respected role models.
Agriculture & Construction. Along with teaching English, two popular fields for internships in Laos are agriculture and construction. With about 80 percent of Laos’ GDP tied up in agriculture, interns can expect to make a difference contributing to the largest part of the Laotian economy. In Vang Vieng, where there is a lack of secondary schools, interns may have the chance to help build new schools, dually contributing to increased access to education in the country as well as infrastructural development.
Marketing. Interns can also participate in a marketing internships in laos, that will give them the chance to work in developing businesses to help them establish stability and future goals. Usually marketing interns also assist with promotion of the company, whether locally or online.
Requirements. Typically internships in Laos last anywhere from two weeks to two years. Generally, most internships in Laos do not have any requirements, except that applicants speak fluent English and have a flexible and open personality.
Salary & Costs
While most internships in Laos are unpaid, programs tend to be very affordable. Along with being affordable, internship program fees typically include not only housing and food, but also training and in country staff support. However, some internships in Laos do provide stipends, depending on your experience and the capacity of your specific internship provider.
Laos, in general, is a very affordable destination. A typical meal will cost about $2.00, a coke $.90, and a one bedroom apartment about $360. Just be mindful of where the locals eat and most interns will be able to spend a minimal amount of money during their internship in Laos.
Accommodation & Visas
Most internship programs in Laos will provide housing for the interns. Typically these are dorms or guesthouses that interns will share with each other. Sometimes rooms are shared, while other times, only the bathrooms are shared. Usually interns will have free purified water, flush toilets, and showers, all of which are a luxury for locals. Finally, accommodations are most often centrally located and within walking distance of wherever you need to go, and of course near to your internship placement in Laos.
Visas are a necessity to intern in Laos, and should be looked into and applied for within 60 days of your travel to Laos. Most of the time, your internship provider will help you apply and obtain your Laotian visa prior to arrival. Just make sure to cover the visa process during your application and internship preparations. In general, Laotian visas are valid for up to 60 days from the date of issue.
Benefits & Challenges
Interning in Laos provides participants with a once in a lifetime opportunity to work in a traditional Buddhist society with a rich, though at times violent, history. The less professional benefits of internships in Laos include amazing food and a culture that is open yet untainted by most outside influences. Some interns embark on an internship in Laos looking for a traditional “internship” experience, but instead are met with more of a volunteer type placement. Just remember that Laos is still a very poor country that is developing, so most internships in Laos are aimed toward bettering the country and helping its people.
All in all, if you have an open mind and a flexible personality, your internship in Laos will be unforgettable and incredibly unique.