With a unique geographical position linking the Mediterranean to the Middle East, life and culture in Lebanon is a combination of the slower pace European life with all the traditional and conservative social aspects that are typical of predominantly Arab nations.
Although the majority of the population is Arab Muslim, there are many ethnic and religious minorities, making it a diverse country. The Lebanese people are known for their hospitality, and as a foreigner you will be treated warmly and respectfully as a guest throughout the country. Interning in Lebanon is great way to experience a new culture and society while also gaining valuable work experience in a field that you're interested in.
Interning in Lebanon is a great opportunity for a student or young professional who is looking to gain some work experience in their field of interest while also spending time living in a different part of the world. The refugee crisis in Lebanon is known worldwide, and refugee services is definitely an area in which internships are available. These are great opportunities for people looking to gain experience in human rights issues or education.
Interning at schools or for human rights nonprofit organizations is a common way for foreigners to gain work experience. Although this is the most common field for interns in Lebanon, it's also possible to find internships in a number of other fields, including business, finance, and engineering.
If you are interested in gaining teaching experience and helping to improve educational opportunities for youth in Lebanon, there are internship opportunities available for you. Schools are looking for interns to assist teachers or help with administrative tasks and there are actually programs, such as Amid East, that will place interns at schools. English language teaching is definitely in demand and a common opportunity for native-English speakers wanting to intern in Lebanon. There are also opportunities for interns to teach at schools in refugee camps, where there is a particular need for improved education services.
There are plenty of opportunities to intern for human rights-oriented organizations, most notably through UN branches, as well as through international nonprofits. Given the dire refugee situation in Lebanon with sizable Syrian and Palestine refugee populations, there are a number of organizations that focus on supporting and improving the lives of refugees living in Lebanon. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for example, works to improve services for refugees, such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and social services, specifically within refugee camps. This organization offers internships stationed at the agency's office in Beirut that can last anywhere from 3 to 11 months. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) offers internships in Lebanon focusing on the refugee crisis and other human rights issues as well, along with many other UN programs.
An internship in the financial industry of Lebanon is a great opportunity for recent graduates who studied finance. Deloitte, the international financial and consulting firm, offers a Middle East internship program, with internships available at their Lebanon office. Through this internship program, young professionals have the opportunity to gain experience in audit and assurance, consulting, risk advisory, financial advisory, or tax. Since Beirut is a bustling financial center, there are plenty of other opportunities for young people looking to gain experience in the financial industry.
Planning Your Internship
The main factors you'll want to consider when planning your internship in Lebanon are duration, location, housing, and your field of interest. Internship length can vary greatly from as little as two months to up to a year or more. You'll want to be sure you're committing to a position that has a length of time that matches your schedule and interest.
Location-wise, it's important to decide if you would rather be in a city or a more rural area. If you are working for an organization that deals with refugee camps, you'll likely be in a more rural area, while internships in finance, business, and engineering will be in cities, most likely Beirut. Housing will be a big part of planning your internship as some internships will not provide housing and you will have to find it on your own. Lastly, you'll of course want to be sure you're pursuing a field that interests you and will help advance you professionally.
Best Time to Get an Internship in Lebanon
If you are a student, the best time to get in internship will be during the summer, as some companies and programs will have summer-long internships specifically designed for students on summer break. If you are a young professional, it's possible to get an internship in Lebanon anytime of the year. June to August is the busiest tourist season in Lebanon and the weather is best between October to December and March to June.
If your internship involves working at a refugee camp in Lebanon, it is highly likely that housing will provided for you, as you will probably be outside of the city where housing is more difficult to find. However, most internship programs are in Beirut and will expect you to find housing on your own. Your internship program or company should be able to provide you with tips on how to find housing, and maybe even put you in touch with other interns who are looking for housing.
Otherwise, you can search for housing on many websites, such as Craigslist Beirut, similar to housing search websites in the US. Since it is very uncommon for Lebanese people to live outside of their family home until they are married, it is likely that you'll be living with another foreigner if you live with a roommate.
Cost of Living
Living in Lebanon is more affordable than living in most US cities. Beirut is the most expensive place to live in Lebanon, and even this capital city is comparable to the least expensive cities in the US. If you're anywhere outside of Beirut, you'll find an even lower cost of living. Overall, expats in this country find it to be an affordable place where they can live comfortably even if they are on a slim intern salary. You can expect to pay $700-$900 for a decent size one-bedroom apartment in Beirut's city center, $50 for a monthly public transportation pass, and $10-$20 per person for a nice meal at a restaurant.
Visas are required for all entry into Lebanon. If you are interning in Lebanon for two months or less, you may be able to apply for a one-month tourist visa and extend it for an extra month while in Lebanon. Otherwise, you will have to apply for a work visa once you're in-country. This requires submitting your passport to General Security, which may retain your passport for an extended period, meaning you should apply for your visa with plenty of time before you are planning on departing the country. You can find out more information from the State Department and Lebanese Embassy.
There are many aspects of work culture in Lebanon that vary from what Westerners are used to. While women in Lebanon have much more freedom than in some other Middle Eastern countries, it’s still rare to see women in powerful positions in business. Direct eye contact with a lot of physical contact is the cornerstone of Lebanese communication. It's particularly important to maintain eye contact throughout communication as this conveys trust. It's very common for a professional to hand you their business card when you meet, and it might be helpful for you to get some for yourself to hand out to people you meet in work settings as well.
Health & Safety
In Beirut and the surrounding areas, modern medical care and medication are widely available. Modern facilities are not always available in areas further away from Beirut, but no location in the country is more than a three hours drive from the capital. Most doctors and hospitals in Lebanon will expect a cash payment immediately and without it they may withhold medical services or refuse to release you. You should make sure to be up-to-date on all regular vaccines, but you don't need any special vaccinations before traveling to Lebanon. You should also be sure to bring enough of any medications you take regularly as you may not be able to find exactly what you need in Lebanon.
The US State Department currently has a travel advisory on Lebanon. However, tourists are still traveling there and doing so safely by taking the necessary safety precautions. It is advised that tourists avoid the borders with both Syria and Israel, as there have been outbreaks of violence along these borders over the last few years. The State Department also cautions against participation in, or even being in the vicinity of, any public demonstrations, as these can turn violent without warning. Kidnapping is also a safety concern in Lebanon. Despite all these warnings, it is absolutely possible to live a perfectly safe and normal life while interning in Beirut or elsewhere in the country.