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Interning locally or abroad: How do I know which is right for me?

6 min read
· Posted on
October 28, 2020
by Yvonne Jooste

The benefits of interning abroad

Credit: Leif Nimczik @ Unsplash

If you’re considering doing an internship, you’ve probably come across many an article talking about the benefits of travelling and completing an internship abroad. To be sure, there are indeed many real benefits.

If you choose to intern abroad, you will get the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, to broaden your horizons and possibly develop new language skills. These experiences usually also teach you things about yourself – about your capabilities and ability to adapt. You will undoubtedly gain a deeper understanding of the cultures that you’ll encounter, meet people from different countries, and become more confident in your ability to be independent. The times that you are not working will also allow you to travel to different destinations in your host country.  

Credit: Chris Lawton @Unsplash

Further, it will develop your ability to work and communicate with a culturally diverse team and contribute to you becoming a person that is culturally sensitive, non-judgmental and inclusive.

Importantly, you will also be able to showcase the fact that you have international work experience to potential employers and interning abroad will help you get a better understanding of your desired industry on a global scale. 

(Check out this helpful article on why employers value international experience.)

When living abroad, one will undoubtedly experience all sorts of challenges. Employers know that overcoming challenges strengthens your problem-solving skills. Living abroad also ensures self-sufficiency,gaining a larger perspective, it advances social skills, and demonstrates that you are driven and resourceful.

A internships study found that 97% of graduates with international experience found a job within 12 months of graduating, compared with only 49% of the general graduate population. It is clear that international experience signals to employers self-independence, tolerance, willingness to take risks, willingness to take initiative, and maturity.

These are of course highly desirable traits, and the benefits or positives of interning internationally can’t be denied. However, there might be some circumstances where an internship locally makes more sense. Let’s look at some possible reasons:

When should should you intern locally?

When the opportunity is on your doorstep

If you are clear about your desired path or career field and know about a company, organisation or institution locally that can help you develop the skills that you would like to develop, then it makes more sense to attempt to intern locally. A specific local institution, organisation or company might represent the best path to start your career or help you find a suitable direction. It might even be the place that you would ultimately like to work for. In this case, it is better to search for ways in which to start working for that institution or organisation.

When you are in the middle of the industry

Although interning abroad can expose you to your industry on a global scale, and, therefore, help you gain a deeper understanding of that industry; when your local town, city, or country represents the centre of a specific industry, or one of the most important locations for that industry, it might be better to search for a local internship. Locations that function as the hubs for specific industries disclose opportunities that might not be available anywhere else.

When learning comes first

Many articles that talk about the benefits of an internship abroad, highlight the benefit of travelling. It is important to remember that although travelling is a great positive, it shouldn’t be the only reason for wanting to do an international internship in a specific location. The goal is rather to also obtain a specific set of skills, to expand on your knowledge and to experience how an industry or profession operates. An internship should be a learning experience first and foremost, and you therefore have to weigh up the benefits according to how much you will be able to learn, grow, and experience.

When your personal needs require staying local

When considering an internship locally or abroad, you have to make a decision that is right for you. Some say that travelling abroad can help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable. However, this is not true for everyone. If you are a homebody and depend on support from your friends and family, interning locally might be a better option for you. It depends on your personality, personal needs, and the specific stage of your life. Remember, that you can always travel and explore later. It is more important to look after yourself psychologically than wanting to appear adventurous.

When your community needs you

Many people that intern abroad, especially those that choose developing countries, do so out of a desire to make a difference. Wanting to make an impact on the lives of others is noble and necessary in our modern world where many problems persist. However, making an impact or a difference doesn’t always require that you help people in other countries. Sometimes your local community and own country need active citizens to help with a variety of issues. Before deciding to intern abroad, get to know the issues in your own community, and consider why, where and how you would like to make a difference.

Ultimately, there are many factors to consider and weigh up. An internship, whether locally or abroad, can be life changing, and as such requires that you take some time to explore all your options. In this regard, using an internship provider can be extremely helpful. When you use a provider such as Bridging Gaps, we can help you objectively weigh different opportunities and organisations.

We work closely with interns to decide whether a specific opportunity is right for them.

We look at

  1. The role/position and the specific skills and experience an intern will gain;
  2. The organisation – the size, work environment, ethos, departments and the main focus and initiatives of the organisation;
  3. Time frame – the duration and timing of an internship and whether this is suitable to and desirable for a potential intern; and
  4. The academic credit requirements – we explore the possibility of obtaining academic credit for an internship, as well as possibly completing research and whether a specific organisation, locally or abroad, understand or prioritise these aspects.

Please contact us and we can provide you with detailed information and answer any questions that you may have. We will do our utmost to make your decision easier!

What should you do next?

Easy - there's only one thing for it - download this free 37-page PDF guide we wrote just for you. It'll give you an overview of everything you need to know and do to have a rewarding and unforgettable learning experience abroad.

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