The Pros and Cons of Interning While Studying Abroad
Pro #1. It’s an extreme opportunity that sets you apart from the others.
Not many students can say that they’ve studied abroad, let alone rocked an internship there too. Interning abroad gives an entire new range of experience and opportunities that you just can’t get from a company in the United States. This gives you that extra boost in making you stand out as a prospective employee when you are applying for jobs. If nothing else, your potential employer is going to bring you in just to ask you about that experience, not just because it’s interesting but also because it can give them an upper-hand in how they train you and what you can bring to the table for their company.
Pro #2. You are exposed to an entirely different professional atmosphere.
They eat their food differently than we do, they drink their wine at different times than we do, they may even drive on the other side of the road, so why wouldn’t their workplace atmosphere differ from ours too? Professionalism is a very vast word, all relevant to where you are, and that has a lot to do with culture differences. The way they run things, their focus and goals, the work hours or workload- it all has the potential to be very different. But this set of differences is what can help you learn to be more flexible and adapt to responsibilities and tasks that you may end up having at a future job.
Pro #3. Interning abroad is a great resume booster.
Just like it sets you apart from the rest of the crowd that is applying for the same position as you, this makes your resume switch to goldenrod paper. The same way people buy brand-name items, people like seeing things on your resume that are brand-name, or elite. Interning abroad gives you a level of sophistication in proving that you can not only impress the professionals in your own country, but you can impress people in charge all over the world, and that goes a long way with a prospective employer.
Pro #4. You experience an entirely new circle of competition.
Student in the U.S. often struggle to land their dream internships because there is a long list of competition. Once you’re abroad, you become a more valuable asset to foreign companies that puts you ahead of local students competing for internships. Plus, when you get back to the states, if you decide to intern again, you have the experience and new things to offer that other students probably won’t.
All of the pros make interning during your study abroad trip seem like a great thing, but of course every situation has a positive and a negative. These next few points are things to consider before accepting an internship abroad.
Con #1. It’s very time consuming.
Just like an internship at home would be, you are putting in a lot of extra time- sometimes even upwards of 40 hours a week. As much as that might be to manage while at home, it’s even more to manage while abroad. You’re already out of your comfort zone and regular routine, but having that extra work to complete might take away from your free time to explore where you are, travel on the weekends, or even enjoy a coffee or gelato in between classes. Studying is just as important as the cultural experience while you’re abroad, so if you overload yourself, you might miss out on the culture, or your studies may suffer.
Con #2. You may not get full credit, or equal credit, with your university or future job.
Just like some classes don’t transfer credit if you transfer schools, some jobs or universities may not know how to give you all the credit you earned for doing an internship abroad. Because schools and companies abroad are different in how they operate, it’s hard to match requirements and know that you’re getting the minimum experience and doing the same tasks you need to fill your internship requirement at home. If you do choose to intern abroad, make sure your school will accept it with full credit.
Con #3. It might not be what you expected.
We are familiar with many companies here in the U.S. that make it easy to predict what interning there would be like, but interning abroad is much more unfamiliar. If you intern abroad, it might not be the chic, smooth, rewarding experience you imagined. Like I’ve already mentioned, companies could be very different in what they expect from you, how they want you to dress, and what kind of duties and responsibilities you will be expected to handle. You might not be fetching coffee and making small talk with important people in the elevators, but it could be a really great challenge to take on as a whole internship experience.
Con #4. You might not be as good as you think.
This "con" doesn’t mean that you aren’t as smart or as capable as you made yourself out to be, it means that in a foreign country, you don’t have the home court advantage. You haven’t lived in that town for most of your life, you don’t know the quickest or best place to grab lunch from while you’re working, and you haven’t worked with many, if any at all, of the people you will be interning for. You’re the away team playing the sport for the first time, and you have to be able to give yourself a bit of a break and some extra time to get the hang of things.
With all the pros and cons laid out, the decision still remains solely up to you. After all, you know yourself best, and you know what your goals are, what you’re capable of, and what will suit you best better than anyone else. Personally, I had the opportunity to intern for the university I studied at while I was in Rome, but I ultimately turned it down, and I’m glad I did. But again, if working hard and managing your time well is a strong suit for you, go for it. If having free time to get lost in European cities and to be on top of your classes while abroad is more your scoop of gelato, that is more than OK too. It all boils down to knowing yourself, your study habits, your goals, how much work you want to put in, and what you want to get out of your study abroad experience. In the end, I say any experience is a good experience, because you will learn from everything you do while you travel and study abroad.