Accessibility to international internships, jobs, and volunteer opportunities is growing. There are many different avenues for gaining international experience, so it is important to consider why, where, what/how, with whom, and how long you want to intern, work, or volunteer abroad.
Consider these questions to honestly and thoroughly evaluate your decision to pursue an international experience:
- Why do I want to intern, work, or volunteer abroad? What is my motivation for seeking an opportunity overseas? What will I gain from an international experience that I couldn’t gain from a domestic experience? How does such an experience fit in to my career plans and goals?
- Where do I want to go? What region of the world is of interest? What language skills are required to be successful? Do I want to be in a rural or urban setting? Is it safe for me to work or volunteer there? What types of cultural barriers must I overcome?
- What type of work or volunteering do I want to perform? Do I want to work directly with people in a service setting? Do I want experience in a hospital, or in a corporate office? Which job or volunteer tasks will allow me to use and develop my skills? Do I prefer a structured or self-directed work/life setting?
- What type of program or organization do I want to work or volunteer for? Do I want a faith-based or a secular organization? Should the organization focus more on community, the individual, or the bottom-line? What benefits are provided that would help me be successful (stipend, insurance, housing, etc.)?
- How long do I want to be abroad (1 month, 6 months, 1 or 2 years, longer)? Can I afford to take time away from coursework or further education to pursue an international opportunity? What kinds of visa or work permit requirements are in place?
Additional Questions to Consider:
- How will going abroad impact my relationships with family, friends, or significant others?
- What impact will working or volunteering abroad have on my finances?
- What personal health issues do I need to consider?
- What preparations are needed before I can go abroad, and how long will they take (vaccinations, visa, passport)?
- See Full-Time Service Opportunities for more questions
Assessing International Opportunities
There are literally hundreds of different programs and potential opportunities to intern, work, or volunteer abroad. When you come across a program or an organization that sounds promising, be sure to ask these questions to make sure it is legitimate, and that it is a good fit for you.
Questions to ask a potential program or organization:
- Goals and Philosophy. What are the goals or components of the program or organization? Do they coincide with my values and lifestyle? Will I feel sufficiently challenged?
- Qualifications. Are there age or gender requirements? Do I need to be able to speak another language? What other skills will be required of me?
- Work. Are there choices concerning work opportunities within an organization or program and if so, who will be making the final decisions? Is the work described clearly by the organization and/or work site? Do I know what is expected of me?
- Living. Will I be living alone, with a family or with co-workers? What is the living situation (house, other building type, etc.)? Is the neighborhood safe? What kind of transportation is available?
- Finances. Will I be paid hourly, is there a stipend, or is the work unpaid? Will I have enough money to cover expenses such as housing, food and transportation?
- Loans. Can my student loans be deferred (check with your lending agency about this)? Will the program or organization help me with that paper work, if necessary?
- Health. What type of health insurance does the organization provide, if any? Before going abroad, what immunizations are required? Are there medical facilities nearby?
- Training. Is there a training and orientation program at the beginning? What does it consist of? Will job training be available? Will there be language training involved? Will there be closing activities at the end of the experience?
- Support. Will the program or organization provide support at the work site or in the form of site visits? Who can I contact if emergencies arise or just to discuss my experience?
- Dates. How long will I be abroad? When does my work start and end? What happens if I decide to end my experience early? Can my term be extended?
- Safety. What are the safety concerns regarding the area in which I will be working, traveling through, and living? Is the political situation stable?
- Former Volunteers. Will the organization provide me with names of former U.S. and/or college-aged employees or volunteers so I may contact them to discuss their experiences? Does the program have a history of working with college-aged students?
- Application Process. What is the start-to-finish process for applying? What are the deadlines? How long will the process take?
- Other Questions. Who pays for travel to and from the work site? If there is an emergency, can I take leave and travel back home? Do I get vacation time (how much)?
Additional Sites to Review: