The name Oceania inspires whispering palms, rolling waves and the song of some tropical bird. In imagination, it looks like the sort of place where ‘work’ rarely happens, and every job is rewarded with surf breaks and coconut juice. Yet this geographic region – stretching from Australia, up and over the South Pacific islands, as far East as Chile’s Easter Island – covers one of the world’s largest and most unusual collection of countries, and is the scene for a unique and challenging catalog of internship experiences.
Whether it’s implementing microfinance measures in Tonga, or assisting with marine management at an aquarium in Palau, your opportunities are nearly as vast as Oceania, itself. And that’s before you start searching for work in Australia or New Zealand!
Due to recent tourism and infrastructural standardization in most of the Western World, this area is considered one of the last frontiers for global development. Learn about the grassroots of an industry, engage in indigenous culture, and be part of the future with an internship in Oceania.
- Environment/Conservation: The ecosystem of any island is an isolated haven for endemic animal and plant life. However, China’s growing demands for minerals and fish have created export-heavy economies in several Oceanic countries, which now threaten their native environments. Marine conservation and education interns should check out opportunities in Tonga and Fji; New Zealand and Australia, while at the opposite end of the conservation spectrum, also offer hundreds of cutting-edge placements in environmental awareness and protection.
- Journalism/Media: Aussie-born Rupert Murdoch may own a huge chunk of the press in Australia, the USA and the UK, but independent news is fighting back. Especially as the country has been quick to utilize and expand social media, interns will find themselves at the heart of a thriving digital and print industry. Melbourne and Sydney, where hipsters post news from the latest concert/exhibit/festival (and down here, there’s one every day of the week!), are especially good places to find internships.
- Art/Photography/Film: With the ever-growing popularity of Lord of The Rings, and Kiwi director Sir Peter Jackson, it’s no surprise that New Zealand’s capital city is nicknamed “Wellywood.” An increasing number of production companies are looking toward the country’s dramatic scenery for shooting-on-location, inspiring an increase in local design, costume, special effects and movie-related companies. Interns more interested in exhibition and performing arts should look for placements with theaters and museums in Sydney and Auckland.
- Hospitality: As traveler numbers increase on individual islands, many South Pacific countries are hoping to improve current tourism standards and benefit from the influx of foreign dollars. Interns can check directly with resorts, hotel chains and national tourism departments for opportunities in the hospitality industry.
Internships can be found in Australia and New Zealand at any time of the year. For the biggest number of opportunities, begin your search in population centers like Sydney and Melbourne, or Auckland and Wellington, where both established companies and start-ups are looking for help. While internships are more elusive in smaller countries, and may be arbitrarily determined by the employer, interns seeking placements in the tourism, service and conservation industries should be sure to apply outside of the tropical storm season (roughly May through November). During this period, visitor numbers shrink and dangerous weather slows down many daily aspects of life.
Cost of Living
Due to the discrepancy in living standards between modernized Australia and the under-developed Pacific nations, like Vanuatu, the cost of living in each place differs immensely. Interns in Australia and New Zealand will find higher costs on everything, from a $12 pint of beer to $150 a week for housing and rent. Share-flatting with other interns, taking public transport and dining in are budget-cutting options. Most big cities sponsor loads of free events, so take advantage of these.
Luckily, your temporary work visas in New Zealand and Australia will allow you to take on a side job, if needed. Use online job boards like Gumtree and Trade Me to find employment, cheap second-hand goods and deals on accommodation. That said, expect to spend significantly less in most other Pacific islands – simply because the local currency is worth less and there are fewer things to spend it on.
- Language: Around 30 languages are spoken in Oceania, though a majority of people can speak English. Because several countries in the region are, or were once, part of the British Commonwealth, you won’t have to worry about language, so much as slang and strong accents. Also, because most development-based jobs in non-English countries are organized through English-speaking aid organizations, any English proficiency will be seen as a benefit to the intern position.
- Networking: Most cultures in Oceania, especially Australia and New Zealand, emphasize experience and personality over degrees and well-written resumes. So any additional industry-related groups you participate in will benefit your internship. In New Zealand, each city has its own networking group such as the Auckland Young Professionals. For interns working in development-based fields, connect with the United Nations Australia Association Young Professionals Program. Wherever you go, be sure to check local listing boards and neighborhood newspapers for small group gatherings in your area.
Contributed by Kelli Mutchler
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