Consisting of over 17 million square miles and around 60% of the world's population, the continent of Asia is a remarkably diverse (and HUGE) collection of 49 countries. With so much cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity, it can be overwhelming. We'll break it down for you!
Home to some of the world's fastest-growing economies, business is booming in Asia. Business interns will have the opportunity to gain first-hand familiarity with Asian markets as well as international experience, which is all the more necessary in today's increasingly globalized society. Hands-on experience with business culture and etiquette in Asia is a great way to break into the world of business, not to mention having real-world practice with project pitches, development, and competitor analysis.
China is definitely one of the top destinations for business interns not just in Asia but world-wide. Whether you intern in Beijing or Shanghai, you'll have the chance to work in a cutting-edge environment, home to Fortune 500 companies as well as successful local corporations. Other Asian business centers are Japan, Tokyo in particular, where the first-class banking and marketing sectors help to drive business' success, and India, an entrepreneurship hot-spot.
From state-of-the-art research hospitals at top universities to free clinics in impoverished neighborhoods and developing countries, healthcare interns in Asia can have a wide variety of experiences. Whether you decide to intern in medical research or public health, an internship in Asia can help you to gain the skills necessary to improve people's health and quality of life. These internships are often offered through local universities, hospitals, and NGOs. Healthcare interns are often involved in patient intake, lab work, and some minor medical procedures. The type of work you do will depend on the institution at which you are placed, with universities being more research-focused, NGOs more focused on patient care and public health, and local hospitals often between these two.
A popular destination for health care interns is Taiwan, where first-class universities in Taipei have plenty of opportunities for grad students and those planning to pursue an advanced degree in the sciences to conduct biomedical and biotechnological research. Similarly, Qatar's capital Doha's Sidra project makes it a locus of medical innovation. India is another healthcare hotspot. The country's universal healthcare system, which provides broad access to hospitals, makes India a good location for people who want to gain clinical experience and mentorship from experienced doctors. Large cities like Delhi are particularly popular. Turkey is another great location for healthcare interns.
The tourism industry plays a large part in the economies of many smaller Asian nations. A tourism internship is also a great way to fully experience a country even if you don't speak the local language. As an intern in tourism, you'll work at a local hotel, restaurant, or tour company helping other visitors to your host country make the most of their stay. This means that part of your job will be figuring out the best things to do in your host country, meaning that you'll be an expert on what's happening in that corner of the globe. You'll also be getting international experience, which is extremely important in the tourism and hospitality fields.
Popular locations for tourist interns are Bali in Indonesia, where people have been coming from around the world to marvel at Bali's natural beauty and unique cultural atmosphere. Bali is particularly popular for interns in ecotourism, in addition to standard tourist positions. Turkey, particularly Istanbul, is another fantastic location for tourism interns. Located on the bridge between Europe and Asia, Istanbul draws people from both continents to experience its unique charms. Thailand, and Bangkok most of all, is another premier destination for tourists and tourism interns.
East Asia: Over one-fifth of the world's population lives in East Asia, which contains China, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, and Taiwan. The main languages in this region are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. In addition, many regional dialects and languages are also spoken. Culturally, Northern China has had a significant influence on the region, affecting written language in Japan and Korea. However, in modern times, cultural influence has become more reciprocal between countries. Many countries in the region have integrated Confucian and Buddhist philosophies into their culture, often mingling them with traditional cultural practices.
Although there has been much cultural exchange between countries in this region, they remain culturally diverse. The largest economy in the region is China, followed by Japan. Japan is the most expensive country to live in all of Asia, and Tokyo in particular is extremely costly. Other expensive areas include the major Chinese cities Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Hong Kong. However, these areas are also the region's cultural and economic centers.
Popular internships in these areas are media, business, fashion, engineering, and marketing. Mongolia and Taiwan have lower costs of living, and still offer plenty of opportunities for internships in journalism, engineering, medicine, and finance.
Southeast Asia: Southeast Asia contains the countries Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Due to cultural exchange along trade routes, many countries in this region show influences of Chinese or Indian culture, or both, as well as their indigenous cultures and, in some instances, influence from European colonial powers. However, countries in this region tend to be heterogenous, so that different regions of a given country will have markedly different religious and cultural practices.
For example, although Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, the island of Bali is a majority Hindu. Cost of living in Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei is relatively high, particularly in cities, but still considerably less than in Japan. Cambodia and East Timor have extremely low costs of living. Indonesia is the largest economy in the region, while the Port of Singapore is the busiest transshipment and container port in the world.
Tourism is a popular internship field in the region as a whole. In Indonesia and Singapore, interns gravitate towards education and hospitality in Bali and banking, electronics, and biomedical sciences in Singapore. In Cambodia and the Philippines, healthcare is a popular internship choice.
South Asia: This region includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. South Asia is the most populous and most densely populated region in the world. With so many people, it's no wonder that the region is ethnically and culturally diverse. The main religions in the area are Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism, though the religious make-up of individual countries varies greatly. Cost of living in this region is low.
Although the region is one of the worlds poorest, countries like Sri Lanka and India have strong economies. In India, popular cities for interns are Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Popular internship fields are healthcare, NGO work, and business. Nepal, although it is not the economic leader that India and Sri Lanka are, is also a popular destination for interns in education and public health.
Central Asia: This region is composed of 5 countries all ending in the Persian suffix -stan, meaning “land of”. These five countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, were are republics of the former Soviet union. Russian is the lingua franca in the region, though most countries have a local language as their official one. This region shows Iranian, Islamic, and Russian influences on its culture and architecture in addition to local cultures predating these influences.
One such tradition is the improvisational oral poetry practiced by akyns, which is over 1000 years old. Cost of living in Central Asia tends to be fairly low, and much lower than in the United States and Europe. The region's largest economy is Kazakhstan, which in addition to having vast oil reserves has developed space infrastructure and performs all launches to the International Space Station. Major cultural and economic centers are the cities of Astana and Almaty in Kazakhstan, Bishkek and Osh in Kyrgystan, Dushanbe in Tajikistan, Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, and Kokand, Samarkand, and Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
Internships in this region may be more difficult to find if you aren't already familiar with the area; since there are fewer programs that match interns in this region, you will probably have to do all the legwork yourself.
West Asia: Often associated with the Middle East, the UN definition of West Asia contains these countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Though Arabic is the predominant language and Islam the most common religion, the region is culturally and religiously diverse.
The region has a long history of scientific and cultural development, starting from early cities in the Mesopotamian region, and is the origin of the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Turkey has the largest economy in the region, followed by Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Cost of living in major cities in this region can be higher than some other parts of Asia, but is generally not extravagant. Turkey is the most popular country in the region for interns, particularly in tourism and business; Israel is another popular choice for interns. The United Arab Emirates is a well-paying choice for people looking for an education or teaching internship. However, in general, finding internships in this region can be tricky due to political and economic tensions.
Over 200 languages are spoken in China alone, so to say that Asia is linguistically varied is an understatement. However, English is a common second language in many Asian countries and many internship programs provide some language training.
Work culture and environment will vary between countries and between types of internships. The best bet is to observe the behavior of coworkers in similar positions. In general, workplaces in Asia tend to have a more firmly established hierarchy and more formal business practices. So, it is probably best to err on the side of more formal at first until you get a feel for the culture at your specific workplace.
Cost of Living:
Cost of living varies widely by country and location. The Global Property guide has a comparison of the costs of living in various Asian countries. For more specific cost of living information, check out Numbeo for the country or city of your choice.
Labor laws and visa requirements differ from country to country. Check out the US State Department's travel section or the consulate of the country you're considering for more specific information.
Contributed by Robin Goralka
Internship Programs in Asia
View the latest intern placement postings on our job board.