Many young travellers are returning from their backpacking adventures to be faced with a job market more fiercely competitive than ever. We’ve already covered how a gap year can make you more appealing to employers, but travelling also gives you the opportunity to directly build your professional profile by doing international internships.
Whatever career you’re interested in pursuing, there are internships all over the world that will give you a chance to get hands-on experience in your chosen field. Here’s why you should consider taking on some work experience abroad.
1. It gives you unique job experience
These days, even the most basic entry-level job asks you to have previous experience on your CV. An internship is one of the best ways to actually get that experience, to prove that you can do the work, and to get references who will back you up on that fact.
A relevant internship is always likely to make your CV stand out from the crowd when you’re applying for a job. International internships stand out even more. They mean you’re likely to have different experience than anybody else applying (and probably some people they employ already), and also demonstrates the independence and maturity that comes with travelling and living abroad. Those are attractive qualities to any employer.
2. It’s a chance to sample different careers
There are so many different kinds of international internships to choose from! Animal care, teaching, physiotherapy, PR and marketing, midwifery… check out our internships page for a complete list. If you’ve decided what career you want in the future, you get that relevant experience. If you’re not sure yet, internships abroad are a chance to sample a career and find out if it’s right for you.
That’s not to say you should take an internship abroad lightly. Once you’ve committed, you should always give your best and work hard until the end of your placement. By the end, you should have a better idea if you really want to be a marine biologist, or a chef, or a… well, you get the idea.
3. It gives you professional connections
As well as gaining stand-out experience, international internships are a great way to make a wide range of professional connections that could lead to big things in the future. Impress the right people and they might want to employ you further down the line, or recommend you to others. Once you’re working somewhere, you’ll be able to impress your new boss with your professional contacts in Spain or Kenya or China.
An internship abroad is also a brilliant way to make new friends. Travel friendships are often short-lived, but this way you’ll be working every day with local people who can show you the sights and immerse you in their culture. Once you’ve made friends overseas, you’ll always have somewhere to stay if you fancy a visit. Plus they can keep their eyes peeled for job opportunities for you.
4. It can make you some money
Most international internships are unpaid, and many require you to pay a fee to join them. However, that fee will often cover your travel expenses and accommodation. If a placement lasts a few months, that can add up to quite a saving. And if you’re lucky you’ll land a paid internship!
If your internship abroad does turn into paid work, English-speaking non-native professionals are often paid 10-20% more than their colleagues. That’s a pretty decent bump to your pay cheque.
5. It’s a great chance to travel
Obviously, going overseas for an internship is an excellent opportunity to see more of the world. Although you’ll spend a lot of your time working, your evenings and weekends will be free to spend however you like. That gives you plenty of time to explore your chosen destination – and probably see more of it than you would if you visited on holiday.
You’ll also have the advantage of local colleagues who can help you organise any excursions and recommend all the lesser-known spots.
6. It lets you truly live like a local
Backpackers talk a lot about living like a local, but few ever manage to actually do it. Visiting a city for a week or two is never going to be the same as living there. Without any responsibilities, it’s difficult to get a sense of what real life is like for the locals.
Doing an international internship means getting up and travelling to work with everybody else, doing your shopping, finding a favourite restaurant, and carving out all of those personal habits we inevitably develop when living somewhere. That’s what living like a local is really about. By the time your internship finishes, the country might feel like a second home.