As most graduates are surely now aware, the likelihood of walking straight into employment after graduating from university is slim. This is especially true in industries like media and the arts, where the competition for paid work is cut-throat. Interning in your field of interest, like it or not, has become a reality if you want your CV to get noticed and be able to stand out in an interview for any potential jobs.
The big idea
Applying for internships abroad is neither difficult nor fruitless. In fact, there are so many options to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The reality is, many countries are crying out for young, ambitious, English language speaking graduates to come and intern for a set period of time. Unlike volunteering abroad, most internships are office-based and are usually slightly less exciting than typical volunteer trips, pretty much like the UK. Many foreign organisations that work using English are happy to take on interns from the UK, even though they might not necessarily advertise it on their websites. Depending on what you are interested in, there are opportunities out there to intern in areas as diverse as a reporter in local court cases, or take part in the running of an international magazine or publication.
As I mentioned above, internships look great on a CV, and unfortunately, the graduate market is getting so bad it’s now almost compulsory to have a good internship under your belt before you can even be considered for a paid graduate job. One of the biggest benefits of doing an internship in a foreign country is that it really stands out on a CV; it makes you look particularly go getting and brilliant (which of course you are anyway).
Another benefit is living costs. Doing an internship in a country with a lower living cost means you can manage to live without a salary much longer than you would in the UK. For example, if you were to find an internship in an Eastern European country, it’s likely you would be looking at a living cost of a couple of hundred pounds a month. Far more affordable than central London, where you would be lucky to cover basic rent for the same amount of money.
One of the biggest benefits of interning in a different country is the unforgettable and unusual experiences you will have. Unlike travelling, where you tend to stick to your own kind and only pass through places, actually living and working with locals will give you an entirely different experience. You may be the only International in your office, which means you will get to know people and places very few people do.
Finally, living abroad will give you the chance to improve your language skills and maybe even to travel off the beaten track. Picking up even a basic working knowledge of a foreign language is a great skill to have, and of course looks brilliant on your CV. And everyone likes to travel to weird places! Right!?
How to do it
Google is about to become your best friend. Look up charities, organisations, magazines, journals, companies, ANYTHING you are interested in, ideally in a country you have always wanted to travel to. Find a website. Find a general email address. Email them about your interest and ask do they take interns. Tada! You have started applying. Some places may be surprised to hear from you, and others may already have an internship scheme in place.
Having to intern before you work is not as common abroad as it is in the UK (in my experience) so you might be surprised at how pleased people will be if you are willing to work for free. This is especially true for developing countries, where people are often very grateful that you want to come and work with them, not in a volunteer organisation with other International people.
To a search engine with you! You never know, this time in three months you might be sitting in a cafeé with new friends and a new language, working in a dream internship that you could never have landed in the cold and rainy UK. There is nothing to stop you going. Maybe this current economic climate might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.