If you’re a college student or just entering the job market, you probably know life as an intern all too well. But it doesn’t have to be just coffee runs and copy machines. I’ve made a point to seek out internships that would allow me to explore the world while also gaining work experience. Even if an opportunity seems random, I encourage you to just apply and see what happens!
I encourage you to just apply and see what happens!
North America: New York City
One of the best ways to save money during an internship is to work wherever you don’t have to pay rent! For me, that was home in New York. Of course opportunities vary by city, but now might be the time to reach out to your second cousin who lives near the location of your latest job offer. This is especially relevant for people working an unpaid internship. I was lucky enough to get a stipend from the nonprofit think tank I worked with, but it would not have been enough to cover housing. If you do end up working an unpaid internship, don’t be afraid to float the idea of getting a transportation stipend from the organization, or reach out to your university for funding options. The worst they can say is no!
While interning in Copenhagen, I learned that not all internships are created equally. This organization was not as organized as I would have liked, and I was misled about some of my responsibilities and compensation. That being said, learned how to rise to the occasion and get a job done even if I wasn’t prepared for it.
I also learned how to make the best of my experience and take advantage of the city despite a messy internship. My time here also made me question the idea that some countries are “safe” while others are “dangerous.” Denmark is the only place I’ve ever had something stolen from me. While it sucked at the time, I also learned that objects (even laptops, *sheds tear*) are replaceable while my health and well-being are not!
South America: Rio de Janeiro
Sometimes internships feel a little like school. I learned a lot while interning at a policy center in Rio, but it was also the first time I had an internship during an academic semester. The internship was very reading and research heavy which at times got in the way of my coursework. Aside from weekly meetings, most of the work was done remotely, so it did feel a bit like homework.
Before landing this position, I first interviewed at a refugee agency in Rio. It was my first time interviewing in another language. While I didn’t get the job, putting myself out there was a great experience. Shoot your shot and apply for jobs you might not be qualified for! You can always treat it like a practice interview.
Asia: Tokyo (and other cities)
This was my first time working 9-5, and let me tell you I need a lot more practice at this adulting thing. In Japan, being late is not an option! I learned to have a lot more respect for parents who work even longer hours only to come home to whining kids (i.e. me circa 2005).
I learned that while teaching is hard work, it’s also so fulfilling. Seeing my students form friendships in English when they were at first afraid to say a word was amazing.
When you intern in another country, you have to remember that it’s not a vacation.
Making an effort to see the Japanese cities I was in often meant being exhausted all the time. I was there to work, so sightseeing came second. Sleep sometimes came third, depending on what my priorities were. Just remember to take care of yourself, and stay hydrated if you find yourself in an East Asian summer. I can’t wait to see where my next job takes me!
What countries have you worked in?