If you find yourself drawn to study international relations, you likely have an interest in world affairs and helping improve the state of our global relations. Interning abroad in international relations offers you the chance to practice the academic skills and theories you've learned in real world situations -- making a positive impact in the lives of people directly affected by your work.
Internships abroad allow you to see how policies work outside the classroom, as well as gain valuable professional skills for your future career path.Photo credit: Falcon_33.
One of the most easily accessible and popular opportunities to intern abroad in international relations is through the government of your host country. While not all internships may be available to foreign students, working for a government or governing body (such as the United Nations or World Health Organization) gives students a chance to practice international relations on a truly global scale.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
NGOs are typically non-profit groups, usually comprised of volunteers or with minimally paid staff that can operate on anywhere from a local to global/international scale. There are countless NGOs throughout the world, and many of them welcome interns as a way to help advance their mission in a measurable way.
An internship with an NGO may not be the most highly paid opportunity in the world, but if you find one that you are passionate about, it may also be one of the most educational and fulfilling experiences you can have.
Similar to NGOs, non-profit companies that are not based on volunteer support may operate on the global stage and offer international relations interns a chance to learn valuable skills on a regular basis. These companies may offer more financial stability if paid internships are available, but ultimately allow interns to connect their passion for a cause to their daily work.
Private or Public Corporations
Even if a company doesn't operate as a non-profit, those that do business internationally may employ international relations experts and can offer internships in the same field. Given that international relations requires a seamless blend of so many other fields including economics, sociology, political science, and theology, any company hoping to do business in your host, home, or another country can create opportunities for interns to help advance the business goals and gain experience simultaneously.
Within reason, narrow the scope of your internship choices based more on the organization and their location rather than any political or economic pressures.
That being said, there are a few choice international hubs in the world that you may want to consider for your internship destination.
Naturally, the European continent is a good field of opportunity for interns looking for an international relations program. From the European Union in Brussels to the financial centers of London and recovering economies of Greece, Spain, and Italy; businesses in Europe behave on an international stage due primarily to their proximity to one another.
By first narrowing what type of company you'd like to intern at, then by the industry and mission, you will likely find many candidates in this region.
Both the US and Canada offer many opportunities for international relations interns to gain experience, especially as North America is (currently) the most powerful continent from an economic and business perspective.
Cities including New York, San Francisco, and Toronto offer interns plenty of companies doing international business to choose from; similarly, Ottawa and Washington D.C. have opportunities for those looking to intern or eventually work in the public sector.
Growing economies such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China each have unique nuances that international relations can play a crucial role in. It's possible to intern for both international companies doing business in these countries (such as an American company in China) or corporations run within the countries themselves.
Additionally, globally-minded interns would do well not to forget about Africa, which is seeing massive globalization, economic growth, and technology advances -- all of which are not likely to slow in coming decades, and will require African companies (and companies doing business in Africa) to increasingly navigate the international relations waters.
Applying to Programs
When narrowing the field of international relations internships you'd like to apply for, keep several factors in mind:
- In what part of the world and industry would you like to work?
- In what type of company would you like to gain experience for future work?
- How well does your educational background map to the needs of the company on an international scale?
Even if your degree is not in international relations, this doesn't necessarily preclude you from applying for internships in the field. Since the daily practice of managing international relationships requires knowledge of so many other fields, economics majors, political science majors, foreign language majors, and many other degrees may serve to not only qualify you but help you stand out in the pool of applicants.
In addition to pursuing the available resources here, consider which companies might not list their internships outside of their own site -- for example, government internships are going to be listed primarily on government websites.
Depending on the type of internship you pursue, you may have accommodation and other benefits included in your internship -- or you may have to find your own housing in your host country. Most programs should be explicit about this; be sure to review available materials before you apply, so you understand exactly what your living situation is like in the event your application is accepted.
In the field of international relations, expect that you will encounter a high level of professionalism, especially in government or large NGO/non-profit/other corporations. Being a representative of a company or government on a global scale -- even as an intern -- means committing yourself to professional behavior and appearance if it is asked of you. This is a great responsibility, and a great opportunity.