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Most Popular Types of International Internships (and Where to Find Them)

So you’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone and make the best of your time abroad by doing an internship in another country. Interning abroad can be a great way to build your network, improve language skills and gain a deeper understanding of your field, especially if you work in an area like NGO management or international development.

Internships outlined in this article
  • Business and Finance
  • Engineering
  • Tourism
  • Marketing and PR
  • Development and NGOs
  • Law and Human Rights
  • Youth and Community Development
  • Environmental and Conservation Work
  • Medicine and Global Health
  • Fashion
  • Architecture

But before you run off to apply for every single internship in Europe, there are a few important details to consider. Location, culture (both social and workplace), travel expenses, networking opportunities and expectations will all affect the success and value of your internship experience. It’s also wise to think about the skills you want to develop, and how your sponsoring organization can help you down this path (you know, the one you pay big bucks for).

More than anything, you should take language skills into consideration when applying. Maybe you want to do an internship abroad specifically to improve those skills, but it’s going to be pretty hard to understand a business meeting in France if your French is limited to types of cheese and asking for directions to the bathroom. Some internship programs offer language classes as part of the package, while others may just place you at an organization and hope you figure it out.

But don’t worry, even after you’ve narrowed down your restrictions and preferences, there will still be plenty of opportunities across the globe. Here are a few of the most popular global internship fields and a few countries where you might have the best luck.

Internships Abroad in Business and Finance

With increasingly globalized economies and rapid growth in many developing nations, there are plenty of opportunities for anyone interested in studying international business development, trade, finance and all of those other things involving numbers that are so deeply frightening to us journalism majors. You can hardly go wrong in terms of placement if you’re looking for a business internship – the only question is what kind of economy you want to enter. Popular locations for business internships are major growing economies (China, Turkey, Chile, Brazil), strong established markets (Japan, England, Israel), and most of the turmoil-stricken EU (Germany, Italy and the unpredictable Spain, among others).

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Business

Internships Abroad in Engineering

Engineers are in demand across the globe, particularly in developing regions, so why not put your skills to use in a different context? If you want to stay within the English-language comfort zone (and we don't blame you - who wants to risk creating machines that will fall on people?) Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada all have excellent, well-regarded engineering internship opportunities. For the language-skilled among you, it's impossible to ignore the huge growth happening to the east - China, Japan and Thailand are great places to improve your skills in an international context. If your preferences tend more toward helping developing nations, take a look at Ecuador, Nicaragua and especially Haiti, where you know your knowledge can help make a difference.

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Engineering

Tourism Internships Abroad

Why get a summer job working at Dairy Queen when you can spend it at a beachfront hotel in Italy or a ranch in Australia? With more tourists visiting locations around the world, the need for foreign (especially English-speaking) tourism and hospitality workers is greater than ever. Take advantage of your marketable language skills in exotic travel-friendly locales like Thailand, New Zealand or Turkey, or stay in this hemisphere and help out at snow-capped peaks in Canada or beaches in Mexico or Costa Rica. This is the perfect opportunity to see another country (maybe more) and make money while you are there! Learn the hidden spots and live like a local.

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Tourism

Internships Abroad for Marketing and Public Relations

With so many brands going global - and doing most of their marketing online - there's a huge need for marketing and PR professionals to help out with multilingual campaigns and reaching out to new audiences. Add your expertise to firms across the globe that are looking for a fresh, young voice to help them connect with more people. Most marketing internships opportunities are concentrated in the Western region where language barriers won't be as much of an issue, but keep in mind that there's more competition for positions in places like England, France and Canada. Another option is India, which has plenty of opportunities if you're willing to venture a bit farther afield. Ireland and Spain have excellent options for marketing internships and are also great places to look into if you're interested in graphic design.

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Marketing/PR

Development and NGO Management Internships Abroad

Sometimes it seems like NGOs are a dime a dozen these days - which is great news if you're looking to intern at one! The best place for you depends on what your specific area of interest is - if you tend toward the academic end of things or want to get a sense of how NGOs work within the international community, you should take a look at nations like England, France, Japan, Turkey and Switzerland, which are often bases for major organizations. If you'd rather get your hands dirty working on the ground level and seeing day-to-day operations, you're better off seeking out organizations in places like India. Latin America is a veritable treasure trove of NGOs seeking interns - take your pick from almost any country. There are a particularly large number of options in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru, but don't rule out less popular places like Colombia or Honduras.

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Development and/or NGO Management

Internships Abroad for Law and Human Rights Studies Majors

Most human rights programs strongly encourage international experience, so if you're looking to go into any field of international law, especially related to refugees or human rights, an internship abroad is a great way to build your resume. Again, these internships tend to fall into two related categories: overall law studies and specific human rights concentrations. For law studies, you're best off looking at countries with established programs like England, France or Israel. There are also some unique opportunities in African nations like Ghana and Morocco. If you want to get involved in human rights studies directly, post-dictatorship countries and nations with large indigenous populations often have a large number of organizations devoted to that kind of work - think Guatemala, Ecuador and Argentina.

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Law and Human Rights

Journalism Internships Abroad

Since it's so hard to find any journalism jobs in the US right now, why not go abroad to brush up on your reporting chops? Plenty of countries offer journalism internships at organizations ranging from established newspapers to tiny indie radio stations. Reporting on issues in another country can be a thrilling and educational experience, but do remember to do your research on the laws and safety before you go. Most nations don't have First Amendment protections, and some can be less-than-friendly to members of the press. Your safest bets are countries with strict laws protecting the media, like France or New Zealand. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, there are some interesting opportunities in countries like Thailand, Jamaica and Chile. For the daredevils out there, there are also programs in Mexico and African nations like Kenya and Tanzania - but again, remember to do your homework.

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Journalism

Internships Abroad in Youth or Community Development

The more relevant question in this field is, where can't you go? Almost all countries across the developing (and even the developed) world are in need of support staff for programs focused on helping disadvantaged groups within the community. Whether you want to work with youth, disabled individuals, indigenous groups, ethnic minorities or communities living in poverty, there are opportunities for you across the globe. The two most popular regions for this kind of work are Africa (particularly countries like South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda and Uganda) and Latin America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina are all good places to look). Of course, there are plenty of opportunities in other regions as well, so if your heart is set on finding a community development program in Cambodia, go for it!

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Youth or Community Development

Internships Abroad for Conservation and Environmental Work

Like the previous category, the options here are almost endless. Practically every country with any kind of natural life (and that's basically all of them) has opportunities for environmental and conservation work. The world can never have too many people working on reforestation or marine animal rescue, so figure out what regions or fields of work interest you and go from there. If you're the aquatic type, countries in Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji) and the (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Belize, Mexico) are the first place you should look. For animal-related work, Australia, Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar) and Central America (Guatemala, Panama) have you covered. Other countries like Thailand, Ireland, Italy and many South American nations (including Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru) also have tons of opportunities for environmental and conservation work.

Suggested Programs for Internships in Conservation/Ecological/Environmental Work

Internships Abroad in Medicine and Global Health

Last, but most certainly not least, opportunities in medical fields and global health programs are popping up all over the world. Whether you want to help provide vaccines for children in sub-Saharan Africa or work with marginalized communities in the poor villas of Argentina, there is a need for your skills. Since global health initiatives tend to concentrate on populations in developing nations, the most popular locations for these types of internships are regions like Africa (Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, South Africa), the Caribbean (Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras) and South Asia (India and Thailand in particular). Nations with well-respected medical industries, such as Ireland, Brazil and Argentina, also offer plenty of internships in health- and medical-related fields.

Suggested Programs for International Internships in Medicine/Global Health

Honorable Mentions

Fashion: If you’re looking for a fashion internship, you already know where to go. France and Italy are generally considered fashion capitals of the world, although other regions like India and Argentina are making upward moves. Still, fashionistas are best-advised to seek out internships in Paris or Milan – but just remember, the fashion industry isn’t known for its friendliness.

Architecture: Those who say everything worth inventing has already been created obviously never studied architecture. With cities popping up across the world, the need for skilled architects has never been greater. Focus on classical architecture in historic locations like France, Italy and the Netherlands, or branch out and journey to exciting new spots like India, Japan or Brazil.

No matter what career path is calling your name, an internship abroad would be an undoubtedly valuable experience, both from your perspective and your future employer's. Beef up that resume, grab your passport, and head abroad for your internship of a lifetime!

Photo credits: API Study Abroad alumni Michael Pitts and Madi Alexander.

Photo of Natalie Southwick

Natalie has made appearances in 16 different countries to date. Her favorite is definitely Colombia, where she spent 3.5 years ogling mountains on a daily basis, eating an overwhelming amount of arepas and working with human rights organizations. She's currently finishing up a master's degree in Denver, where her main activities are trying not to get in fights about Boston sports teams and attempting to convince herself that the Rocky Mountains are just as good as the Andes, even though we all know that's not true.