What separates Crossroads Eurasia from other internship providers?
Vlad: There are six key differences:
- We provide a deeper cultural and language immersion. Our partner organizations are located in provincial centers, which have decidedly less foreign influence and English speakers than Moscow and St. Peteresburg, where most programs are. Moreover, our internships are structured such that the interns work side-by-side with Russians. This challenges the interns to push their language and cultural skills far beyond their existing boundaries.
- Our interns get more responsibility and acquire more professional skills. We partner with organizations for whom an intern's ability to speak English at a native level creates a competitive advantage. For example, language schools charge more for classes with native speakers. This motivates the partner organizations to give interns real responsibility and to work with them on improving their performance.
- Application to the program is competitive. Because our interns get real work, we do not take everyone who applies. While direct experience teaching/translating/etc. is not required, we look for strong evidence of potential. We aim for an acceptance rate of approximately 30%. This summer, it was around 40%.
- We have both a U.S. and local presence, which helps us make the travel logistics worry free. Before the interns travel, we link them with alumni to help them prepare for the experience, and we work with a visa agency to make sure that everyone gets the right type of visa on time the first time (a fairly complicated process). Once interns travel, we have a local coordinator meet them at the airport, take them to the host city, and help them settle in before they start work.
- Unlike most programs, we support our alumni. Our goal is to encourage alumni to help each other learn how they can use the Crossroads internship to make themselves more competitive in the job market and find next career step. We do this primarily through a closed Facebook group, where alumni interact with one another and where we share advice, job postings, etc. Our alumni have gotten jobs in Russia and the prestigious Boren Scholarship with their Crossroads experience playing a prominent role.
- Our program fee is much lower than comparable programs. Because our partners earn a profit from having our interns on staff, they cover housing and some other big costs. This allows us to keep the program fee to a minimum.
What are the core principles Crossroads Eurasia strives to achieve?
Vlad: Our goal is to enable and encourage people to immerse themselves deeper into Russian society/culture than they otherwise would think is possible.
How can an internship in Russia help interns prepare for the job market?
Vlad: For students who are interested in a career that involves Russia, which is most of our interns, the link is direct. Employers, graduate and even internship programs want students who understand Russia. For most students, that understanding remains on a superficial level. Even those that have done study abroad tend to be seen as not having gone deep enough. In this context, those interns who have done our program tend to stand out a lot.
For the few students who are not explicitly interested in a career involving Russia, the main benefit comes from the personal and professional skills that they pick up on the job. These are generally soft skills -- project management, relationship building, creativity, listening skills, etc. which can make one stand out on a resume and in-person. In general, taking part in our program, as is the case with other work-abroad programs, tends to make a person more mature, flexible, and introspective, which makes a big impression on interviewers.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in Russia?
Vlad: Like with universities, look not only at the program itself, but what happens after. The group of people who hold Russia-related careers in the U.S. (in the government and private sector) is not that big, and having access to an alumni network that gives you a foot in the door can be a worthwhile investment.
Anything else you would like to share?
Vlad: The Russian visa process (for anything other than a tourist visa), in particular, can be a major pain, and not all companies that offer work in Russia can guide you through it. Those located in Russia, in particular, don't have as good of a handle on the process and will leave you to work through it yourself. If you have to work through it yourself, start at least a couple of months ahead of your travel date and expect to make at least two to three trips to the consulate to fix mistakes in your application.