by Claudia Acha, CAS ’15
Finding an internship abroad can be difficult, but with the right approach you can make your search easier and more effective. First you have to figure out why you want to intern abroad. Is it to travel to a specific country, work for a specific organization, or get experience in a specific field? Once you figure out your objective, you can focus your search and start looking for opportunities that match your objective. Even though finding an internship abroad is harder than finding one in the US, the extra work is well worth it.
I wanted to spend this summer exploring my interests in marketing, Latin America, and the non-profit sector. Although there are opportunities to do this at in the US, the best option seemed like interning abroad. I began my search on goingglobal.com, devex.com, Pennlink, iNet, and idealist.org. I submitted more than 30 applications. I didn’t hear back from any positions I applied to until late April. Despite this setback, I was determined to spend my summer abroad so I looked for alternate sources. I met with the staff from career services for guidance, and with their help I was able to narrow and focus my search.
At Penn we are constantly reminded how important it is to utilize our networks, and this was my next step. I knew someone who worked at the Oxfam office in Washington DC and was able to get in touch with Oxfam’s offices in Latin America through him. I reached out directly to the Oxfam office in Nicaragua and was able to secure a communications internship this way. Securing this internship took much effort and time, but it was definitely worth it. I was able to get everything I had hoped out of my internship. I got to work at an international NGO, explore my interest in marketing, and travel throughout Nicaragua.
Tips on Interning Abroad
The biggest difference I have noticed with internships abroad and in the US are the cultural differences in the work place. During my internship at Korea Leadership Center there was an unspoken rule that employees should not leave until the boss leaves the office. In Nicaragua the workplace was a lot more casual than in most US offices. Employees are not required to be in their office from 8 to 5, instead, they are given much freedom and are each responsible for finishing their work by the deadline. Make sure to do some research about the country you will be working in to avoid any misunderstandings.
Some students rule out an internship abroad due to financial constraints. However, there are numerous resources to find funding for internships abroad. Like some students at Penn, I did not have the luxury of being able to have a non-paid internship. I tried looking for research opportunities, scholarships, and other sources for funds to pay for my internship abroad. Luckily, during my scholarship search I stumbled upon the Steven Alloy Global Internship Grant sponsored by the International Relations Department at Penn. Thanks to the generous support from the International Relations Department, I was able to spend my summer just the way I envisioned it.
My advice for students searching for opportunities abroad would be: start early, be creative with your search, tap into all of the resources you have access to, and persevere. This investment will be well worth the effort.