There’s no doubt that carrying out an internship before or after university is fantastic. And there’s a bunch of compelling reasons why: you get work experience in your chosen field, you meet people and, if you’re lucky, you have fun at the same time.
But you could go one step further and do all this outside of your home country, as part of a gap year spent travelling the world. Sounds frightening, I know, but the benefits of interning abroad are endless. Here are just a few…
1. You’ll Improve Your Soft Skills
An internship abroad will equip you with soft skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership and interpersonal skills, which cannot be taught in a classroom.
According to GlobaLinks Learning Abroad, employers often comment that graduates who have come straight from school or university lack these skills, whereas those who have taken it upon themselves to work overseas show a lot more promise.
2. Expand Your Global Network
When building your career, it’s important to build up a network of people who can provide support and advice, as well as connect you with others in your industry.
According to this article by King's College London, 60% of those with overseas experience now liaise with international colleagues, suppliers and customers in their working life.
By interning in a foreign country, you’ll develop this network on a global scale, which may even mean that one day, you’ll get to move abroad as part of your job. Treasure these contacts, as you never know when they might come in handy.
3. You Get to Travel
My personal favourite reason for interning abroad is that you get the chance to travel and explore a new part of the world. Be sure to make the most of your weekends and time off by visiting new cities or even countries, if time and finances allow it, with your housemates and colleagues.
Seeing the world is an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life and it’ll make your internship experience all the more enjoyable.
4. It Looks Good on Your CV
In today’s competitive job market, you will need to find a way to stand out from the crowd which, according to Life After Study Abroad, can be achieved through setting one’s sights internationally rather than locally.
Internships abroad take you out of your comfort zone and show that you are willing to take on a challenge, which is bound to impress future employers. Just take a look at some gap year statistics I shared last week to see just how beneficial a gap year can be for your future employment.
In an interview situation, your guts to embark on a journey overseas for several months will distinguish you from other potential employees, so be sure to highlight this in your CV. Last week I looked at just how you can explain the value of your gap year during an interview, which is definitely worth a look if you're still not sure.
5. And Your Personal Statement
Equally, including details of your internship abroad on your personal statement will increase your chances of getting a place at the university of your choice – just remember to focus on the skills you’ll gained and make them relevant to your degree.
This will not only demonstrate your passion and commitment for the subject you’ve chosen, but it will also give you a taster of what’s to come.
6. You’ll Develop a Global Perspective
As Henry Miller once said “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of seeing things.” [source]
Getting work experience in an international setting will enable you to gain a much broader view of its culture, as well as the industry you’re working in, which will give you a variety of different perspectives.
For example, the business you’re interning for may employ different practices to those back in your home country. Upon returning home, you’ll bring these perspectives back with you and they will prove highly valuable.
The American Psychological Association have a great article which looks in to the value of developing a global perspective"> along with tips to help you get the most out of your work abroad.
My old university, the University of Exeter, claims that working abroad dramatically boosts confidence. Adapting to a new culture and taking on new challenges will spur you on to accept greater challenges in your future career.
Once home, you’ll find that you’re able to take more risks and dream bigger than you did before beginning your internship, which I wrote about at length in my How Travelling Boosts Personal Development article.
Just successfully travelling to another country and living and working with unfamiliar people will make other challenges seem so simple.
8. It Gives You the Chance to Learn a New Language
Perhaps you already have another language under your belt and want the chance to practice speaking it, or perhaps you’re looking to learn a new one.
Either way, knowing a foreign language, particularly one like Spanish or Mandarin, can be extremely valuable in today’s globalised society and make you more marketable as a potential employee.
The British Council have put together a great report of the most useful languages to learn, so perhaps you can decide your destination based on where will be most useful for your future prospects.
9. It’ll Be an Unforgettable Experience
Ultimately, interning abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as you will learn new things, meet new people and see new sights.
Chances are that once you’re back home, you will want to tell the world and its wife about your time abroad and, trust me, your enthusiasm won’t fade in a hurry.
Still deciding where to go? The Leap currently offer four internships as part of a Gap Year In Tanzania. There are four to choose from - Teaching, Law, Business and Care, which give you the opportunity to work for local businesses.
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10. One Final Thing…
Bear in mind that, whereas you can contact overseas companies directly to ask for work experience, it’s highly competitive and tricky to organise a worthwhile experience.
For that reason, you should use the services of a gap year company such as The Leap, who can grant you access to great firms and experiences in interesting parts of the world.
on 07 / 04 / 2016