Holiday, work or study? An internship abroad could prove to be this and more!

If you had to describe the average student’s life in one word, then the word would most likely be — competitive. Be it the academic or professional arena, students are expected to stay ahead of the pack at all times. And internships seem to be the numero uno method of doing that. So if you’ve got a bee in your bonnet about interning abroad, then read on!

Know your internship

Depending on the nature of work, internships can broadly be classified as academic internships and professional internships. An academic internship entails a lot of theoretical and research work in a particular subject. It helps a student gain extensive knowledge on a chosen area of study. On the other hand, professional internships, like the name suggests, take place in a corporate organisation. These internships give students an understanding of the corporate work environment, the industry and their chosen profession.

You can also try out a new career and see if it suits you. Remember, nothing is set in stone and internships are huge on the flexibility factor.

Who can apply?

Generally, students are expected to get consistently good grades to be eligible for an internship abroad. Yes, no surprises there! However, you must remember that it all boils down to the nature of work your internship entails. For example, students with a good record of charitable work will be on the top of the preference list of international NGOs like Peace Corps. Although you may not get paid for such internships, you will gain immense knowledge in terms of the language, the people and the culture of the region. Most employers value these internships too as it shows flexibility and resilience of character.

It is also important to think about the cost of an internship abroad. Some internships might pay you a handsome stipend. Butsome might give you a stipend to only meet your boarding and lodging expenses. You also have unpaid internships that might equip you with good experience but may be heavy on the cost side. Be wise. Choose an internship opportunity that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket.

On the other hand, don’t just look for internships that pay well. Keep your academic and professional priorities in mind and find a middle ground when you hunt for an internship abroad. Some academic institutions and professional organisations offer scholarship programmes to students interested to intern in a particular field. See if you meet their criteria and apply for such scholarship programmes.

When can you apply?

It would be a good idea to start hunting for an internship opportunity of your choice from the third or fourth semester of your college. This would give you enough time to understand where your interests lie as you would have had basic exposure from your academic course. You would also have enough time to experiment with different internship opportunities and decide where your professional or higher academic passion lies.

If you’re just out of college, then it still isn’t too late to intern abroad. You can gain relevant exposure in a particular field and see if you are really passionate about working in that particular field. It is critical to remember that when it comes to applying for internships abroad, you need to keep track of deadlines. For example, if you want to intern in the US during the summer of next year, then you would have to apply for such an internship programme in November this year.

How to apply?

According to Mr. Sam George, Director, Extel Academy, a student counselling organisation in Chennai, it is critical for students to choose a medium before applying for an internship abroad. He says, “It is a good idea to take the assistance of a facilitator in order to apply for an internship abroad. Facilitators are organisations that act as middlemen between students and corporate houses. They charge a nominal amount for their services which ranges from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 15,000. Organisations like AIESEC and IAESTE, both of which are international exchange programme facilitators for students, are good places to start.”

Facilitators can instil confidence in you when you are applying for an internship programme abroad as you know you are going through the internship application procedure through a reputed organisation.

Also, if you’re seeking academic internships, then your university can be a good place to begin. Talk to your professors and find out if your department or university has any collaborations with international educational institutions. This will open internship opportunities to you. You can also get a professional internship through your college. If your college has tie-ups with corporate houses abroad, then you can qualify for the internship by clearing some technical and aptitude-based tests.

Several organisations online also allow you to apply for internships abroad. However, when applying for internships through an online medium, it is important for you to be conscientious with your research. Gain as much information as you can about the organisation you are applying to and the online medium you’re using for the same purpose. Most importantly, before you sign-up for an internship programme abroad, it is important that you fully understand the nature of your internship. If you have any queries feel free to shoot out e-mails to the professor in-charge (for an academic internship) or to the manager of your respective department (for a professional internship).

Talk to people. Build as many contacts as you can with peers and professors. Never shy away from an academic challenge. It may just open opportunities for you in the internship front.

Once you get in…

Your journey does not end once you land yourself as an intern abroad; it only begins. Be mentally prepared to face the challenges of a foreign land. On a concluding note, opting for an internship abroad does not guarantee you a job in your dream organisation. If you get a worthwhile internship opportunity in India, then go ahead! After all, it all boils down to the learning you bring back from your internship.

Beyond the borders

I was a Research Intern with Prof. Gerard Quinn at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (National University of Ireland, Galway). I was recommended for this internship by Dr. Jaya Sagade (Vice-Principal of ILS Law College) and Dr. Soumitra Pathare, a consulting psychiatrist in Pune. My research interest was Legal Capacity and Mental Health in India. Under that, I took up a literature review and also analysed the draft Mental Health Care Bill 2012 of India in the light of its compliance with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). I initiated work on the section-wise appreciation and critiquing of the Bill, which I hope would be complete over the month.

This was my first rendezvous with work in disability law. The internship has helped me understand the tenets of mental health and the legal aspects of the issue. I was working under the guidance of Prof. Quinn and Dr. Eilionoir Flynn who helped me expand my scope of thinking with regard to disability and the law. My co-interns were working on various different projects and often discussions with them would lead to interesting learning and observations in the same field. During this tenure, there were various conferences that I attended, including policy meetings at the EU level, diplomatic meetings and educational seminars on issues relating to disability law and other matters that are consequential to the study of disability law. Knowledge from these events also helped in my understanding of this field of human rights and aided me in my analysis of the Bill, which was my primary area of focus. - Rudraneel Chattopadhyay, IV Year, LLB, ILS Law College, Pune

I was an Intern Trainee in the IT Department of the Bank of Muscat. My two-week internship opportunity gave me a lot of practical exposure in areas like networking, databases, information security, risk and compliance, development and maintenance, and data centre. I gained relevant training in a dynamic corporate environment. I could apply my theoretical knowledge and I got to learn a lot from the multicultural employees of the organisation. I think students should intern at least once during their academic course as it is a good way to gain knowledge, skills and experience while studying. It also enables students to make the right career choices in future. - Liz Sara Mathews, Final Year, B.E in Computer Science and Engineering, Panimalar Institute of Technology, Chennai

I underwent an academic internship at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. As a visiting research student, I was able to conduct research at a whole new level. I was able to apply my classroom learning in a practical environment, and this helped me immensely in gaining further knowledge. I also got first-hand understanding of how research works in the West, and this helped me bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and the practical environment. While it does take you a while to adapt to the new environment, the internship experience was worthwhile as it is a considerable value addition to your resume. - Stephen Ipe Varghese, III Year, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT-M

I was an intern at the Nippon Electric Company (NEC) in Japan. I got selected after clearing a couple of exams in my university. I was a part of the Cloud Computing team in the Networking field of the organisation. I was able to conduct extensive research on ‘Wi-fi Direct’ as NEC was working towards implementing this Wi-fi standard in its tablets. I found that during my internship, what I learnt in class did not help me at all. My interest in my field of internship helped me immensely in what I did. For my three-month internship, I was paid a stipend of 50,000 Yen per month. It was a fulfilling experience as I was able to intern in an amazing organisation like NEC. Even though I was just an intern, they took my ideas and suggestions seriously and actually implemented them. - Surya A., III Year, Electronics and Communications Engineering, SRM University, Chennai

I’m a huge animal lover. So, when I heard about Lanta Animal Welfare’s (LAW) volunteer programme, I knew I would have to go there and see it for myself. LAW is located in Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand. At first, I was a little nervous as this was the first time I was travelling on my own. However, all that disappeared in an instant as soon I was shown around and introduced to the people and animals in the centre. It was great to be in a common forum where I was interacting with people who shared the same love and passion for the animals as me. My duties included assisting the veterinarians in surgery, cleaning kennels and cat houses, bathing and walking the dogs, and taking visitors on educational tours around the centre. Along with this, we also focused on raising funds through donations and promoting the adoption of animals. My time at LAW is something I will treasure forever, as it has also taught me to survive by myself and face situations on my own. The friends I have made, both human and animal, the memories and the fun that it all offered are something that have changed my life. - Rachna Ramanathan, I Year, Media Student, M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai