11 benefits of overseas internships

If you’re thinking of doing an internship abroad, there’s a few things to consider. After all, most international internships are unpaid, and it will cost you money to travel there, pay for accommodation and meals, and so forth.

If you’re nervous about interning abroad because of the costs and time involved, as well as concerns about working and living in a developing country such as South Africa, be reassured that pursuing an international internship is a worthwhile investment in your future! Take a look at our article for tips about travelling in Africa.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why interning overseas is a great idea – for your personal growth AND your future career.

  1. Internships abroad encourage cross-cultural skills and sensitivity

You’ll be working with local employees - quite possibly employees who don’t speak much English. This is a unique opportunity to learn many things about communication, about how other cultures handle different situations, and about differing work styles and ethics. These are things you won’t experience as profoundly from interning in your home country.

In the modern working world, with ever-increasing opportunities worldwide and a growing sense of a “borderless” universal society, most industries highlight cross-cultural skills and sensitivity as a key requirement for prospective employees.

  1. Interning overseas helps you to break out of the Western working bubble

Not only will you be living in a foreign country, you will also be working in an office that could be entirely different from the typical European or American office environment. For example, South Africans have a more unhurried and relaxed approach to work than the typical European rushed and often stressful approach!

A prospective employee who has shown a willingness to adapt to an entirely new working environment will have an advantage over other prospects without such demonstrated flexibility and learning ability.

  1. Internships overseas promote independence and self-sufficiency

Much like studying or volunteering abroad, interning overseas requires and develops a level of independence you won’t find so easily in your comfortable home town, close to family and friends.

Depending on how you find an internship – on your own or through an internship program provider – there will be things to arrange before your trip, like accommodation and a basic knowledge of your host country. Efficient internship program providers like Khaya Volunteer Projects will help you navigate your new environment – but some of your research and preparations will be entirely up to you. Your personal and career development are enhanced by these experiences – learning to be proactive, thorough and flexible are invaluable in most working environments.

  1. Working in a new environment promotes transferable skills

Even if your internship isn’t directly related to the career path you may eventually choose to follow in the future, the odds are that you will learn and refine transferable skills to help you in your job search.

Flexibility, written and oral communication skills, and critical thinking and analysis are things that come from overcoming challenges. Employers worldwide will be far more likely to consider your application when you demonstrate these abilities.

  1. Internships abroad are great for career (and personal) networking

Through your internship, you’ll meet people from all over the world as well as locals. You’ll have a ready-made international network of contacts – and, hopefully, great friends.

The people you develop relationships with could help you secure a lead on a job in your field or host country, or perhaps even a job offer at the end of your internship. A well-managed internship organization in your country of choice will be able to offer a recommendation for future job applications.

  1. Overseas internships allow you to gain experience in your field

If you know what field you’re interested in, you can gain the practical experience you need to get ahead in the field. Employers are much more likely to hire someone who already has at least some experience in the field than someone who does not have any experience at all.

  1. Interning abroad fosters new skills development

If you’re unsure about what you want to do after graduation, interning abroad gives you the opportunity to test something out. You may decide it’s the perfect career field for you. But you might also decide you would rather pursue something else, and that’s OK too. Getting the opportunity to try something out before you make a hard-and-fast choice can be very valuable.

Many people at the top of their career field started out in another field. Interning overseas gives you a unique setting to decide if – for example – social work is something you really want to pursue.

  1. Internships overseas help your language proficiency – which makes you smarter!

Even if languages aren’t necessarily a skill you’ll need in your future career, interning abroad in your host country of choice helps you to learn a new way of communicating. In an environment where people don’t speak your first language, you’ll have to be able to find the right words to communicate with work colleagues, children, or your fellow interns from other countries.

Brain scientists have discovered that even a small level of proficiency in a second or third language can help form new neural pathways in your brain – in other words, knowing different languages makes you smarter.

  1. Internships often allow you to earn academic credit

A lot of universities allow you to earn academic credit for your internship experience, and some even require international experience to fulfill the graduation requirements. Interning abroad is a fantastic way to earn this credit and gain experience - all while having the weekends free to travel and experience the local culture in your beautiful host country!

  1. Internships abroad make you stand out from the crowd

Not that many students seek out international internships every year. This means you will stand out to future employers, especially if you can convey what a meaningful experience your international internship was, both personally and professionally.

  1. Internships overseas are fun!

If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to study and work overseas, learning new cultures, seeing amazing things and meeting new people – it will be the adventure of a lifetime!


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