Career Strategizing from a Land Far Far Away

By Claire Klieger

So you’re studying abroad (or plan to) in some place breathtakingly beautiful like Lyon, France or Dunedin, New Zealand and you think, “how am I going to look for an internship and stay connected from  here?” (Actually, what you’re probably thinking is “how am I supposed to concentrate on anything productive while I’m here?” but that’s a different blog).

Benefits of the Road Less Traveled
Benefits of the Road Less Traveled

Believe it or not, it is possible to conduct an internship search remotely. Thanks to the wonders of the modern age, unless you’re in some place like Antarctica (and let’s face it, probably even there), you should be able to search for and apply to opportunities online. The tricky part, of course, is interviews. While you clearly can’t be there to interview in person, you may be able to do a phone interview or video interview via Skype. Naturally, it helps if you clearly state the fact that you are abroad in a cover letter and include dates you would be able to work.

Here are some other ways to maximize your search.

1) Plan ahead. If you’re interested in interning in the US upon your return, before you go abroad, you should ideally identify some organizations of interest and check PACNet to see if there are Penn alums working there with whom you could arrange some informational interviews and network. It’s also worth making a stop by Career Services to meet with a counselor to have your resume and a sample cover letter critiqued and develop a strategy for your remote internship search. In addition, we offer special resources to students studying abroad spring semester who are still interested in OCR positions.

2) Make the most of your time abroad. If you feel inspired, get involved on the campus you’re visiting. Especially if you’re interested in working in the country in which you’re visiting, do as much networking as you can. Connect with Penn alumni via PACNet and the many Penn alumni clubs abroad (no, I’m sorry, there isn’t one in Antarctica—maybe that’s not the best destination after all). And check out our online presentation on finding work abroad.

3) Stay connected. Just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean you can’t touch base electronically or by phone with contacts (ahem, and Career Services!) from that chic café in Rome.

4) Embrace your experience. As someone who spent 11 years abroad as a child, I know full well how living abroad can change your life. Take time to be “present” and experience your new surroundings. There are skills you will acquire that will make you more marketable to employers—a more international perspective, the ability to see things from someone else’s point of view, the ability to work well with a diverse group of people, etc.

So, before you go you’ll want to pack your bags, make sure your passport and visa documents are in order, and also stop by Career Services! Oh, and if you feel like sending us a postcard, that would be pretty awesome, too (you know, so we can live vicariously through your travels).

Help Your Network Grow

by Shannon C. Kelly

Here is a great example of how volunteering abroad can expand your network, with some design food for thought thrown in for good measure.  Anthropologie, the more sophisticated sister of Philly-based Urban Outfitters, just opened its first overseas location on Regent Street in London.  What is unique about this store is its living wall.   A living wall, or green wall according to Wikipedia, is a wall covered with vegetation. It can help reduce energy consumption and can be quite aesthetically pleasing (in line with Anthropologie’s eclectic sense of fashion).

Where does volunteering abroad tie in to this?  My supervisor from volunteering in the UK installed the wall.  One day on a break from our duties at the festival, we got into a discussion of green walls and he told me about his upcoming job for Anthropologie.  The conversation allowed me to learn about his career installing these walls and his experiences in the industry.  We have kept in touch and I even saw pictures of the wall before the New York Times posted their article (their picture is below).  As our director, Pat Rose, recently posted, you should never pass an opportunity to learn from someone and build your network.  After all, they could end up in the New York Times…

Anthropologies Living Wall in London
Anthropologie's Living Wall in London

Volunteer Abroad

by Shannon C. Kelly

I would like to dispel a myth for those of you interested in gaining international work experience – it can be easy AND affordable.  How? By volunteering abroad.  There are a TON of programs out there which you can volunteer through – many vary in their fee structure and what is included in the fee, but I promise (cross my heart…stick a needle in my eye) it is possible to find one appropriate for your budget and areas of interest. has a Smörgåsbord of resources to jump start your search.

Why am I willing to potentially stick a needle in my eye? Because I know first-hand it’s possible since I volunteered abroad this past summer.  The whole trip cost me under $2,000 (air fare, spending $, room & board) and I KNOW I could have done it for even less.  I found my particular program through Volunteers for Peace ( thanks to our annual International Opportunities Fair.  VFP is an international volunteer exchange organization.  They have partners all over the world who help place volunteers at International Voluntary Service projects, also known as international workcamps.

I searched VFP’s directory for programs in the UK because I have always wanted to go. I found an opportunity to volunteer at a festival (Think: event management experience) outside of Bath, England – Monkton Combe in Avon. Which brings up another advantage of volunteering abroad – getting off the beaten tourist path.  I met university students and other young people from all over the world (Turkey, Italy, Poland, Japan, Greece, + more), but I also met fascinating individuals older than me who had great stories and advice to share for my own ambitions.  (Think: networking is not just for when you need a job).

So what’s the catch? When you volunteer abroad, you are not taking a traditional vacation.  You agree to work a certain number of hours in exchange for your room and board (of course specifics vary by program, location, etc).  I worked 6 hours a day and helped run the festival by setting up rooms for workshops, coordinating materials for the attendees and answering questions about specific events (Think: bullet points on a resume).  It’s not all work though. I had free time to attend workshops at the festival (lessons on Brazilian Forró) or to hang out with my new friends from Italy or Greece.  All in all, I gained valuable experience for my resume, extended my network, and got off the beaten path – even learned a new dance I know I would not have otherwise.

Whether you want to teach children, learn a foreign language, rebuild walls, help the environment, steward at a festival – there’s a program for that.  (Think: iPhone’s “there’s an app for that”).  And if you do your homework, you can find one appropriate for your budget.  I did and I can’t wait to volunteer abroad next summer.

I’ll be posting more about volunteering abroad as it relates to gaining work experience. And sharing stories from friends around the world.  If you’d like to share yours, leave a comment!