Interning Abroad: The Ideal Balance of Work and Travel

By Lexie Kadlec posted 03-19-2019 08:18


Thanks to advancements in technology, transportation, and international communication, traveling abroad is easier than it’s ever been. And as international travel and exchange becomes becomes increasingly accessible, there’s more and more of a demand for internships abroad. Instead of a short vacation or a study abroad experience, interning abroad offers something else—the chance to live and work in a different country. You can grow professionally while experiencing a foreign culture and exploring a new city. It’s the excitement of travel with the pragmatic benefits of an internship—the perfect combination. 

As demand for international internships soars, international internship programs open up new destination cities each year. Opportunities are available in most major international cities like London, New York City, Madrid, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Chicago, Toronto, Dublin, Shanghai, and Barcelona. If you’re looking for opportunities more off the beaten track, there are also international internships in cities like Medellín, Colombia, Santiago, Chile, Bangkok, Thailand, and Melbourne, Australia. There are several reliable resources for seeing which international internship program might be right for you. 

Fluency in English is an absolute must for most international internship programs, especially in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Beyond that, it really depends on which kind of internship you’re looking to do. Internships that require strong language skills, like a journalism internship, would be difficult to do without knowing the native language—especially in Spanish-speaking cities like Madrid or Medellín, for example. Most programs in Asia, however, do not require the native language; English is sufficient. In general, a lot of workplaces around the world like to host native English speakers, being the global language of business and commerce. But if you speak some of the local language, you’ll be able to do more, communicate more, and make stronger connections to the culture. 

Even if you’re speaking some English at work, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn the local language at your internship abroad. In fact, interning abroad is the ideal situation for picking up another tongue. It’s an immersive experience, so the intern is constantly hearing and relying on their language skills to get around town, make friends, order food, buy groceries, and more. Most of the time, interns abroad are also exposed to a foreign language at the office. Even if you don’t become completely fluent, you’ll have a foreign language on your resume that you learned in a professional setting. 

Beyond picking up another language, interning abroad offers a long list of professional and personal benefits. You get to engage with another culture in a more authentic way, spending time in an international office and living in a local neighborhood. You learn about your industry from another country’s perspective and get real-world professional experience in your field. You get an extended stay in a fascinating international city, with loads of sightseeing opportunities. You meet interesting people from all over the planet, making friends from various backgrounds that will open your eyes up to different ways of seeing the world. You learn to be independent. You learn that there are many ways to live life and measure success. You also learn to be patient with others and with yourself, as mundane tasks that would be easy to do back home are more challenging in a completely foreign context.

All of this is to say, the upsides of doing an internship abroad are plentiful. It truly is the ideal balance of work and travel—something to sate your wanderlust while you turn a new leaf in your career.