If you're the change-the-world type, an internship with a development organization could be the perfect fit for you.
Even though it might sound like you'll just be crunching numbers, "Development" is a huge umbrella, covering all kinds of different organizations, jobs, and initiatives from micro-loans to gender equality. You'll have a chance to get a firsthand look at how development projects are created, implemented, and how their success is measured, or interact with partners on the ground to make sure local communities are actually benefiting from those projects.
Whether you end up on-site with an ongoing development project or learning more about the inner workings of an international organization by interning at its headquarters, a development internship will open up a world of opportunity for you!
Here are some common types of internships you'll encounter in the development field.
One of the major sub-fields of development work, economic development projects focus on international concerns like poverty alleviation, microfinance and credit, trade, industrialization, inequality, and corporate social responsibility.
You'll have the chance to work in one of the most exciting and fastest-growing sectors of development, on projects that aim to reduce dependence on nonrenewable resources and foreign aid, in areas including health, the environment, agriculture, conservation, resource allocation, and extractive industries.
It might sound like babysitting, but interning with an organization focused on human development actually means you'll be working on issues like education, health and hygiene, gender equality, capacity building, governance, human rights, and poverty reduction.
As a policy intern, you might research current and past policies and programs, help draft new policy proposals, and monitor public policy in a particular country or around a specialized issue.
As you might imagine, there are more opportunities for development internships in countries and regions where the majority of development projects are being implemented, as well as in international organizational headquarters in North America and Europe.
Southeast Asia and India
Home to almost 2 billion people, Southeast Asia (and the Indian subcontinent) is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with projects springing up all over to try to meet the needs of all those people! There are development internship opportunities in almost every country throughout the region, including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and, of course, India.
From microfinance to sustainable agriculture, there are countless development projects and organizations working in Latin American countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
Like Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa's expanding population and resource concerns has made it a prime region for development projects. You can find internship opportunities all across the continent, including in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, and South Africa.
In addition to interning on the ground with development projects, you can also find internships at the headquarters of development organizations. This would be an office job rather than a field placement, but it'll also give you an opportunity to learn more about the structure and inner workings of these organizations.
You might be able to find an office placement even in the capital city of the country where the project is being carried out, or you could be in a major hub for development organizations like Washington, D.C, New York, London, Madrid, Brussels, or Paris.
Applying to Internships
Treat an internship application the same way you would any job application, especially if you're applying for a position with a major international organization. Make sure your resume is updated, triple-check your cover letter and other materials, and don't wait until the last minute to ask for recommendations.
If you have a chance, it's worth trying to contact someone at the organization or a previous intern to find out more specifics about the position and what you can do to make yourself a more competitive applicant.
If you're going to need a visa or any other special documents to enter the country where you'll be doing your internship, don't wait until you're accepted to begin the process. Visa applications can take months, depending on the country issuing the visa, and you don't want to miss out on an amazing internship opportunity because some paperwork didn't come through.
Where to Look
Obviously, you should start your internship search right here on Go Overseas! If you're looking to expand your search farther or want to intern in a particular country, look through that organization's website and try searching sites like Idealist, USAID's internships page (for US citizens), the OECD, the UNDP, the Foundation for Sustainable Development, and Devex.
Internships are not like study abroad programs, so don't expect that your organization will necessarily have housing ready and waiting for you. If your organization has a large internship program, it may have a system in place to help you find housing, but be prepared to find your own place to live, just in case.
Ask other interns or employees at the organization for housing advice, get in touch with any contacts you have in that city, and look for short-term housing groups on Facebook or through sites like EasyRoommate.
Just because you're an intern doesn't mean you need to dress like a freshman at a Friday morning discussion section. If you're working in a busy office or a major international city, you'll be expected to dress the part.
Plan for business casual, and then you can dress down if it turns out your workplace doesn't have such a strict dress code. If you're going to be spending more time out in the field, plan accordingly and bring comfortable, functional clothing.
And don't forget essentials like your passport and visas, ID, business cards (if you got 'em, bring 'em!), extra resumes (primarily if you plan to recruit while abroad), and chargers!