It’s the old catch 22, isn’t it? You can’t get the job without experience, and you can’t get experience without the job. Taking an internship is a great way to break the deadlock and taking an internship abroad, though initially more challenging, brings with it a range of additional benefits.
The old cliché about travel broadening the mind is true. Travel gives you a fresh perspective and an awareness of how different cultures operate. In a world where business is global this is an extremely useful grounding. Travel fosters self-development and self-reliance and any employer worth working for will recognise that a well-travelled candidate is someone prepared to put themselves into challenging situations and deal with them. Let’s not forget that travel is also a lot of fun and will give you memories that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
The opportunity to learn a new language
Multilingualism is a tremendous asset, whatever career you are heading for, and total immersion in a new culture is the fastest and most effective way to learn a new language. Learning the language of the country in which you are living enables you to make the transition from tourist to traveller. You are unlikely to become as fluent as a native speaker, but you will have a much better understanding of the culture in which you are immersed.
You’ll make lifelong friendships and contacts
It’s inevitable that as an intern working abroad you will meet people who will become your lifelong friends. Some of the people that you meet will go on to become successful and influential individuals and those contacts that you make as an intern may later help you in your career. Business contacts with people outside of your country are always going to be an impressive asset to present to a prospective employer.
Working abroad will give you an experience of a different work culture, again an extremely useful experience with which to impress potential employers. You will sharpen the technical skills specific to your line of business and you will develop your communication skills. As a successful intern you will also garner a useful range of recommendations and references.
As an intern you are always going to be short of cash, so it makes sense to look for locations where you can live as cheaply as possible. New York, Paris, and London all have vibrant business communities but for an intern they are unfeasibly expensive places to live. When you are searching for a possible location, you should consider the local cost of living and particularly the cost of accommodation. For example, Porto in Portugal and Seville in Spain both have thriving business communities, but they are far less expensive than say Berlin or Geneva.
Quality of life
You’ll be working hard as an intern, you’ll be working in an unfamiliar culture with an unfamiliar language, and you will experience stress, loneliness, and doubt. If you are paid at all, it won’t be very much, so your leisure pursuits will be constrained. It is therefore important that you choose somewhere in which you can enjoy a good quality of life. Somewhere sunny and warm all year round, somewhere near a beach or open country. Somewhere that you don’t need lots of money to have a good time.