Guidelines for Internships Abroad

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Internships abroad offer valuable and unique opportunities and challenges for students and the institutions and organizations that organize them. While internships abroad may seem similar to internships in a home country, there are additional considerations when they take place in another country.

For students, adjusting to a new setting and culture is common to all education abroad experiences. Interns abroad must also learn to navigate the intricacies of the culture of work at their internship site. Additionally, an internship abroad may represent a student’s first professional work experience, which is another challenging transition. Together, these factors require additional preparation, support, and reflection.

For institutions and organizations, there are many moving parts to manage. Students can go abroad with interning as the primary goal or as one part of their academic program. On home campuses, students may seek advising for international internship opportunities from either the education abroad office, the career services office, or their academic department. Generally, career services offices will have more expertise about the application process, challenges, and professional development associated with internships domestically, and education abroad offices are better equipped to navigate the logistics of experiences abroad and prepare students for the cross-cultural challenges that await them. For each, advising for internships abroad is qualitatively different from the advising they do for other types of programs. The best outcome results when these offices work together to ensure that colleagues across the institution, including faculty, are knowledgeable about internships abroad. Organizations coordinating internships can be instrumental in helping advisors understand how internships abroad have an added layer of complexity, and how to prepare and support students effectively.

In all cases, managing the expectations and relationships among the student, the internship site, the coordinating organization, and the multiple stakeholders at the home institution is key.

These guidelines can help stakeholders navigate those relationships by offering advice for addressing the specific needs and challenges presented by internships abroad. The Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad  apply to all education abroad opportunities. Use them together to develop and assess internships abroad.

For additional guidance for specific program types, we also encourage you to review the other offerings in The Forum’s series of Guidelines. 

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