While many Virginia Tech students traveled to Mexico or other countries for spring break last week, others have been going abroad for work instead of play to take international internships.
“So many companies, if they’re not already international, are thinking about going international. They’re all thinking globally. Someone who has had that international opportunity is an asset to the company,” said Reed Kennedy, director of international programs for the Pamplin College of Business.
“Employers realize that someone who was willing to take the risk of doing an international internship has had a growth experience and willing to take on a challenge.”
Kennedy, a supporter of international internships, said when students intern abroad they gain self-confidence and undergo much more of a growth experience than interning back home. He said employers want employees who are thinking outside the box and willing to stretch themselves.
“It’s a real stretching experience on top of the professional experience. It stretches someone to take that extra step and do it in spite of their fear or caution that might be there,” Kennedy said.
Carolyn Rader, director of the cooperative education and internship program and senior assistant director of Tech’s career services, said it could be a benefit for students to go to other countries and see how other industries work within their field.
However, the cost of interning abroad is definitely an issue. The general cost of interning abroad can range from $3,000 to $6,000 plus airfare.
“Depending on how much money you make, it may not monetarily offset what you put into it,” Rader said. “But, as far as developmentally, interning abroad is something you cannot put a price on in terms of the opportunity you had, the things you’ve seen, the networks you created, skills you have gained and an increase in knowledge.”
Nicole Sanderlin, director of international programs for the College of Engineering, understands the importance of interning abroad.
“International internships provide the opportunity to learn about different business cultures, improve foreign language skills, expand students’ global network, and gain transferable skills which can make students more marketable,” she said.
Sanderlin said interning abroad requires maturity and the ability to problem-solve in a new environment. Many college students do internships to gain relevant experience in a particular career field as well as to get exposure to determine if they have a genuine interest in the field.
Jane Wemhoener, coordinator of international programs in the department of English, is a faculty advisor of the “London Calling” program at Virginia Tech. London Calling is a four-week, six-credit hour experience for all majors in Edinburg and London beginning in May and ending June.
This summer will be the first summer that an internship will be integrated into the London Calling program. Twenty-five students will be part of the London Calling program and six of them will also partake in the internship. The interns will be participating in the program while working part-time and staying two weeks longer than everyone else in the program.
“The reason we’re doing it six weeks for the interns is because four isn’t enough. You want on your resume that you got to know these people. When they come home I want students to have mentors in London, people who will write them good letters,” Wemhoener said.
“If you are a person who wants an international dimension to your career, an international internship may be very much in your best interest and well worth the price,” she said.
While some students may find the cost of interning abroad high, many professors encourage interested students to pursue internships.
“From an academic prospective, a professional prospective and a personal perspective, interning abroad is deeper on all three levels,” Kennedy said.