Once you've returned home from your international internship, coped with reverse culture shock, shared a review of your program abroad, and re-adjusted to life as usual, your next, very real world challenge is to make your internship stand out on your resume. Many students study abroad, but few intern abroad, just as most students intern at some point in their college career, but much fewer go overseas to do so. An international internship is a double whammy, distinguishing you from your peers who intern domestically, as well as those who study or volunteer abroad. International internships show employers that you welcome the challenge of living and working in another country, are confident in your abilities, competent, adaptable, and able to work with diverse groups of people in diverse settings. How's that for a resume boost?
While an international internship might stand out all on its own, we've compiled a few tips to help you present it on your resume in the most effective way possible. Some tips will be more aesthetic, focusing on how to categorize your internship and where it should appear on your resume, while others will focus on buzzwords to include and how to describe your experience in a way that will really stand out to employers. Remember, as daunting as resume writing can be, the hard part is over; you’ve already had the incredible learning experience, now you just have to brag about it!
International internships show employers that you welcome the challenge of living and working in another country, are confident in your abilities, competent, adaptable, and able to work with diverse groups of people in diverse settings. How's that for a resume boost?
1. Consider how to best categorize your international internship
When potential employers look at your resume, it's not just what you write, but where you put it. Hiring managers read through scores of resumes, and often only skim resumes on the first read, so you always want your most important and relevant experiences in the top third of your resume. Chances are, your international internship falls into that category, so find a way to place it as close to the top as possible.
If you had an academic internship, or are applying to grad schools rather than jobs, it might make the most sense to list it under an "Education" heading. If it was a more professional internship and you're looking for paid employment, you may want to list it under a "Work Experience" header. Alternatively, if you're applying for an international job or international relations program, it might make more sense to have a separate "International Experience" section. If you're not sure where to list your internship, remember why you wanted the internship in the first place, and what you are applying for now. If you are applying for a variety of different jobs, you may even need to make a couple of different targeted resumes.
2. Brag, but don't exaggerate
Once you've decided where to list your internship, start thinking about how you want to describe it. Your resume is not the place to be humble, so don't shy away from bragging about what you did and learned, and talk up the international aspect of your experience. Your resume is your chance to show how awesome you are, and your international internship is one of the many places where you can stand out.
Not all internships are super amazing, so if you found yourself stuffing folders, don't lie about what you did - just find a creative way to spin it! Think about what made your experience unique, and talk it up. Describe the initiative it was for and how you helped them, or about the valuable experience you gained working alongside teammates with the company or organization.
Your resume is not the place to be humble, so don't shy away from bragging about what you did and learned, and talk up the international aspect of your experience.
At the same time, never exaggerate your experience; employers will be able to tell if you're inflating the importance of your role. Medical schools, for example, don't expect incoming students to have performed surgeries - that’s what med school will teach you. Rather, they want to see that you are willing to help where you’re needed, that you’re flexible and adaptable, and that you can work with diverse groups of people, which are all hallmarks of any international internship experience.
3. Get specific
No two internships are the same, and as awesome as an international internship is, you’ll need to get specific to make yours stand out. Always be sure to list the city and country you interned in, the company, organization, or government entity you interned with, and your position. Try to get more specific than “intern” and list your role, like “Marketing Intern” or “Intern for the Water for Children Initiative.”
When you write the description, remember that numbers are your friends. Did you supervise other interns? Cool! Instead of listing, “supervised interns,” write, “supervised 6 other interns.” Were you the only intern for a large team? Awesome! List how many people were on the team and how you helped them. Any time you can use numbers, do so. Also include other details, especially ones that illustrate the uniqueness of interning abroad. For example, “supported 50 clients from 7 different countries” stands out more than “supported clients.” If you used a foreign language in your internship, mention it, and take advantage of every opportunity to not only mention your skills, but actually connect them to the work you did.
4. Focus on transferable skills
Whether you interned in your desired field or did something completely different, tease out the skills you developed during your internship abroad that are directly applicable to whatever you’re applying to, whether it’s a job or school.
International internships stand apart from study abroad and volunteer abroad experiences in that they are usually directly related to the field you want to go into, and give you hands-on experience in that field. Focus on all of the skills you honed as an intern that will be useful in your next phase. Interning abroad rather than domestically will teach you new ideas and other ways of approaching and solving problems that could be valuable to your new school or company. Focus on any technology you learned to utilize and other field-specific skills that will be valuable in your new job or school.
Focus on all of the skills you honed as an intern that will be useful in your next phase.
If your international internship does not directly correlate to your next step, don’t worry! Think about what would be most valuable to your new school or employer, and focus on those skills. You can also use your cover letter to briefly explain why the two don’t relate. For example, if you had a health internship abroad and are now looking for jobs in the education field, you could explain how you were really drawn to the public health and educational aspect of your internship, so much so that you decided to switch focuses. Remember that one page is the standard length for an undergraduate resume, so leave any lengthy explanations for your cover letter, and focus in your resume on the transferable skills.
5. Don’t underestimate the “soft skills”
The previous tips focused a lot on how interning abroad stands out from other international experiences, but just as important is how your international experience is distinguished from your peers' domestic intern experiences. Employers want to know if you've improved your language and communication skills, so tell them about it! Try to highlight your increased cultural sensitivity, your flexibility and adaptability interning in a different country and culture, your ability to utilize diverse perspectives to problem solve, and how your experiences helped you to see current events in a global context. In an increasingly globalized society, your intern experience abroad will stand out and mark you as someone who is excited and able to meet the global challenges to come.
Just as important is how your international experience is distinguished from your peers' domestic intern experiences.
Remember, an international internship sets you apart from both your peers who interned domestically, and your peers whose travels abroad were less focused than yours. Once you’re back home, make sure you set aside some time to update your resume and use these tricks to make your international internship stand out even more. The extra work you put in now could help you land a job or grad school admission! Now go get writing, and use your intern abroad experience to help propel you to the next phase.