South America a continent of wonders, which you probably already know thanks to the infamous Amazon rainforest and those bazillion photos of Machu Picchu floating around the internet. But interning abroad in South America will allow you to dive deeper! You’ll learn about the mysteries of Easter Island, try cuy, master guaraní, play a quick game of "Tiny Person" in the Salt Flats, oh, and uh, have an incredible professional development experience, too. While backpacking may achieve the superficial satisfaction that comes from passing through a country, internships in South America will allow you to experience so much more.
While South America encompasses 12 countries, there are a couple nations that are particularly ideal for some very specific types of internships. One thing to keep in mind when looking for an internships in South america is whether you would like to have a big city experience, a small town lifestyle, or a more rural immersion. In the end, each South American country is very different from the next, so there is surely a perfect fit for everyone; you just have to take time to find it!
Brazil. The land of emotions that can’t be expressed in English, the land of soccer, the land of incredible beaches, and, perhaps most importantly to us, the land of a robust economy. Brazil’s largest cities, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador da Bahia, offer quite a few options in terms of internship placements. Due to its size and prominence in world politics, there are a plethora of international companies to choose from for internships in Brazil. If you speak Spanish, that is probably a good base to build your Portuguese language skills off of, although you’ll probably be able to find internships in brazil that don’t even have a Portuguese language requirement, as long as you’re a native English speaker.
Argentina. The second largest country in South America, Argentina is a country of adventure. From the capital of Buenos Aires to stark Patagonia, there is no shortage of things to do and natural wonders to explore in Argentina. As one of the most important cities in the world, interns will be able to find plenty of internship placements in Buenos Aires, many of which may not even require proficiency in the Spanish language. Something interesting that interns might be able to do in Argentina is get an internship with a cattle company, due to the significance of the Argentinian cattle industry. The other great thing about interning in Argentina is that it offers many amenities that European and American interns will be accustomed to, but at a more affordable price.
Peru. This coastal, mountainous country is full of such drastic biodiversity that it can actually be shocking to first time visitors. The two most common cities to intern in Peru are Cusco and the capital city of Lima. Cusco is the ancient capital of the Incan Empire and home to a booming tourism industry along with hundreds of archeological ruins. Most internship placements in Cusco are offered at tourism companies, language schools, or volunteer organizations. On the other hand, in Lima, interns can apply for more corporate style internship placements with a number of international companies and organizations.
Internships in South America
While there are an incredible number of internships in South America, spanning from finance to development to commerce, here are some specific types of internship placements that stand out as game changers:
Marine Conservation internships can be found all over coastal regions in South America, but some of the more well known placements are located in Peru. Interns often work with full-time staff to care for a variety of animals, including penguins, guano birds, and seals. A typical work day for a marine science intern could include recording and observing resident animal populations, researching specific animal diets, breeding habits, and even community conservation awareness work. Keep in mind that marine conservation internships, as a general rule, require a minimum one month commitment.
Graphic Design. With the abundance of metropolitan cities across the continent, graphic design internships in South America are numerous and easy to find. In most cases, interns can find a specialized type of graphic design placement, such as in web design, marketing, or logo design. Another great aspect of graphic design internships is that in most cases they are highly customizable. Graphic design internships in South America are especially great if you want to shadow a professional in a creative, international environment. A normal day in the life of a graphic design intern in South America might entail working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., assisting with various projects around the office and shadowing a professional graphic designer.
Social Work. There are street children across South America that are in need of social welfare assistance; thankfully, there are quite a few organizations scattered throughout the region devoted to helping disadvantaged children in various ways. A social work internship in South America in one of these organizations would likely focus on education and rehabilitation of children staying at a center specialized in caring for at-risk youth. Most of social work placements are located in big cities, where street children face a number of issues, such as teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and sexual assault. Considering the complex nature of social work placements, applicants should have an adequate level of Spanish language skills and be prepared for at least a one month commitment.
Salary & Costs
Depending on the country, South America can be quite an affordable place to intern abroad. Salaries, on the other hand, are a little harder to come by. Paid internships are available in South America, but it’s useful to maintain realistic expectations of what that will mean.
There are almost always program fees and costs associated with internships in South America. While it may seem a little strange to pay to intern abroad, placement providers in South America utilize program fees to provide housing, arrange airport pickups, organize internship placements, and offer 24/7 on-the-ground support should anything go awry. It is important that you do your due diligence when it comes to budgeting and clarifying program fees before departure though. Additional costs required to intern in South America may include flights to and from your internship site, visas/passports/all that jazz, and daily expenses, such as food, laundry, and transport.
Accommodation & Visas
With such a large number of internships in South America located across 12 different countries, accommodations and visa restrictions vary nation to nation. For example, in Brazil, a reciprocity policy is followed that makes it somewhat complicated for Americans to enter the country, while other nationalities can enter Brazil with ease. On the other hand, Peru has an incredibly easy visa policy that basically lets interns come and go as they please.
It’s important to coordinate everything with your internship program provider or employer in South America, as they will know what kind of visas you need to get and how to get them. GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory will also be useful to research visa requirements for interning in South America.
When it comes to housing in South America, it’s even more varied than visas. For the most part, housing arrangements will depend on your preference. If you’d like an experience that really amps up your language skills, look for a program that places interns with local host families. If you want a more corporate experience and consider yourself unequivocally independent, then a private or shared apartment would probably be the best living situation for you. In general, the quality of housing can differ quite a bit from place to place. In more developed cities, such as Buenos Aires, Lima, Bogota, and Sao Paulo, apartments are more likely to be of a higher standard. However, expect anything and be flexible if you’re looking for internships in South America outside the big, developed cities.
Benefits & Challenges
Overall, South America is a wonderful place to intern abroad. With a more bohemian and creative atmosphere than most incoming interns are used to, it allows interns to grow and develop their skills at a new pace.
Interns are encouraged, and will have plenty of time and opportunities, to perfect their language skills whilst interning in South America, which will only strengthen their resumes and broaden their skill sets!
One potential downfall of interning abroad in South America is the slower way of living. Even in major cities, some interns may find the lack of “go-go-go” to be frustrating, especially in the midst of big projects or deadlines. Lax attitudes toward timelines, work quality, or rules and regulations will take time and effort to acclimate to, but the realization that “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “better” cannot be undervalued.
Just remember: every experience abroad is what you make of it, so go forth, intern abroad in South America, and add that missing piece to your employability profile.