Ask the Experts

International Itinerant

I want to intern this summer. Is an internship abroad a better option?

Studying abroad is becoming more popular among U.S. graduates, with one in ten now taking this option. There is no doubt that going abroad in today’s multinational and multicultural world is a good thing for students. The majority who venture overseas do so for short periods, such as one semester, and most of them go for studies only, not internships.

A large number of U.S. companies report lost business opportunities because they lack the expertise to conduct business overseas. However, foreign students still flock to U.S. colleges to learn and network. Some reciprocation is in order, and more U.S. students should be seeking study and internships abroad.

The Institute for International Education reports that study abroad programs have tripled in the past 20 years. Many students come from a STEM background, an area other countries seem to excel in. Pursuing an internship in a foreign country will benefit you in more ways than just through the qualifications you will receive. It is a life-changing decision that will give you experiences and knowledge to carry through life and build upon.

Living and working overseas looks great on your resume. It shows initiative, independence, adaptability and drive. You will have an advantage over other graduates that stay in the U.S. for their entire college degree. Traveling to a new country and culture will do wonders for your confidence, boost your professional talents and expand your network. It broadens the mind more than staying at home. You will also get an insight into foreign working environments and learn how to adapt to them, a vital skill in today’s international world. You quickly discover that learning Spanish is important for the U.S. domestic market, but it is not the language of business for Asia. Cultural awareness and the ability to communicate across language barriers is a major asset to show any potential employer.

One of life’s big lessons is independence, and there is no better way to gain it than living and working overseas. It is a daunting prospect, especially if you have never traveled before, but once you are out there, the sense of empowerment and increased confidence will stay with you forever.

Traveling abroad also makes you appreciate your American legal and banking systems. If you have a problem, you will be calling your U.S.-based bank or credit card, rather than trying to solve the problem locally. You will need to pay careful attention to your online credit card statement and understand what is a chargeback for incorrect or fraudulent charges.

Growing an international network of friends and colleagues will benefit any business you go into or any company you work for. You may even decide to branch out on your own after seeing how business is done in other countries. On your return, you will have far more insight and knowledge than your peers who have stayed put. You will have been immersed in different cultures, religions, work ethics, and ways of life and return a more rounded person.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page… Saint Augustine.

Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times.