By Kendra Gravelle
While many programs through the St. Michael’s study abroad office offer the opportunity to participate in an international internship, very few students decide to intern abroad.
A great opportunity
Of the 150 to 170 students who go abroad each year, fewer than a half dozen opt to do an internship program, said Peggy Imai, study abroad director at St. Michael’s.
“It is a great opportunity to show that you are able to take on the responsibility and to get deeper into an area of study,” Imai said. “I think that a lot of people just don’t realize that the opportunity exists.”
Students who are interested can apply to study with Boston University, Arcadia University, or American University, all of which offer internship programs.
“We can place students in any field, from A to Z,” said Chris Russell, associate director of international programs at Boston University. “We guarantee that we will get a student an international internship that is unique.”
Internship programs generally match a student with a job based on the student’s desired career field, educational background, and interests, Imai said.
Students who apply through Boston University can get jobs in a variety of fields, including advertising, business and economics, law, journalism, and health and human resources, among many others, Russell said.
“You tell us the project you want to do and the setting you want and we’ll help you follow your passion,” Russell said. “Sometimes students find their calling, or sometimes they might realize that this isn’t what they want to do.”
Emersed in a new culture
Junior Shannon Fergus had an internship through Boston University working with the event venue of a media and interdisciplinary arts center in Auckland, New Zealand in the fall of 2009. The work was somewhat tedious, but the experience was ultimately satisfying, Fergus said.
“In the end I know it really helped the company I was working for and gave me a better understanding of the business world,” Fergus said. “They trusted me with all different types of work and they were so unbelievably grateful I was there.”
Internships are a very American concept, so employees abroad will generally see American interns as enthusiastic and helpful, not as just a college student, Russell said.
Interning abroad provides an opportunity to work in a much different environment, Fergus said.
“I wanted to be fully immersed in a new culture, and by working with native Kiwis, I was able to get a better understanding of their work ethic and lifestyles,” Fergus said.
An international internship looks great on a resume implying that a student was able to integrate themselves into the workplace, Imai said.
“If you can say that you went outside of your comfort zone and actually worked abroad on a project, that really makes you exceptional,” Russell said.
The " marketable student"
Some students have even been offered jobs in the United States because of connections they made working abroad, Russell said.
The St. Michael’s application process for interning abroad is the same as it is for studying abroad, Imai said. However, internship programs are typically more competitive than traditional study abroad programs and generally require a higher GPA, a resume, and an interview, Imai said.
“St. Michael’s has plenty of students who would easily qualify,” Imai said.
“Students need to think of themselves as marketable,” Russell said. “They need to prioritize their goals and expectations, and think about where they want to be in five to ten years and how this can help to get you there.”
During most internship semesters abroad, the student will take three classes at four credits each, and complete a four credit internship, Russell said. Students may also choose to study in the U.S., in cities such as Los Angeles or Washington D.C.
“The feedback I get from everyone is that it changed their life,” Russell said.
“I really wish that more St. Michael’s students would do it. If they don’t they’re missing out on a great opportunity available to them,” he said.