Students lucky enough to land overseas internships add an impressive, “take-notice” dimension to their resumes and work experience. But the overseas experience generally isn’t easy to make happen, and it doesn’t come without significant costs.
Like university-sponsored study abroad programs, some overseas internships can result in academic credit but that further drives up the cost of the experience. Finding overseas internships (mostly unpaid) isn’t easy, even with great contacts. The oversupply of potential intern talent isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Readers of this blog know I am not a fan of paid-for internship firms, but such services will place you in an internship for a hefty price. Adding the job placement fee to costs of living abroad quickly drives up the price of a summer/semester internship to $10,000 or more. Study abroad programs aren’t much cheaper, but the programs are more balanced and aren’t confined to one office and location.
I normally advise students to focus on study abroad programs through their universities rather than pursue difficult-to-land internships. The New York Times’ Workstation column by Phyllis Korkki provides additional insights about the pros and cons of overseas internships. She quotes Lauren Berger, author of “All Work, No Pay” and the CEO of InternQueen.com, who is an advocate of overseas internships. But Lauren also is a big fan of studying abroad. Observing that “people have internships on their brains” these days, Lauren says working adds stress to the overseas experience. For students studying abroad, she suggests arranging 10 or more informational interviews with professionals. This is far easier to make happen, and demonstrates that you went the extra mile while studying overseas.
Whatever your decision, just make sure you weigh the pros, cons and costs–both financial and human. Gaining the overseas experience is a plus for your resume and future career, but don’t limit the potential of your experience by getting tied down to a desk when you should be absorbing as much as possible during your time abroad.