When you think of your child’s future career, what do you see? What profession are they in? Are they happy? Perhaps as a parent, the focus is too much on the long-term goal. As important, the focus should be - how can you advise and support your child to get there?
I’m sure you’ve heard the “I” word before. Internships are quickly becoming a college credit requirement. But have you ever heard of completing one internationally?
You might be wondering how an international internship could have more benefits than a domestic one. How does it stack up? To name a few, industry standards are different abroad, career fields have different levels of importance, and rules and regulations can vary. Believe it or not, exposure to this is a good thing!
Don’t take our word for it though; hear firsthand from a mom who sent both her children abroad for a Global Experiences international internship.
First Hand Parent Experience
Anne Mackin describes the experience from her own perspective and gives us some insight into how the power of international work experience helped shape her children’s professional and personal development and ultimately, their future careers. She also notes that going through our comprehensive program allowed her children to make the most of their program while providing her and her husband the peace of mind.
Anne’s daughter, Jen, first travelled abroad to do her education internship in London in 2013 after graduating university. Her brother, Drew, soon followed in her footsteps and completed his non-profit internship in Dublin in 2016. I asked Anne to share with me how she felt these experiences contributed to her children’s lives and careers.
First and foremost, there’s a reason why not everyone chooses to start their career with an internship abroad. Firstly, it requires taking a huge leap of faith. Traveling overseas into a foreign environment can be very testing for participants and parents alike.
Whether you, as a parent, have traveled abroad or not, your child’s experience is going to be different in their own unique way. As Anne admits, her children’s experience abroad also put her and her husband outside their comfort zones.
“As parents, we realized that we couldn't ‘fix’ everything for Jen and Drew, and that they may struggle a bit, and that is OK. It was a growing experience for us all."
Stay in Touch
By being abroad, it may feel like you’ve lost control. Not of your child, but of the communication. Not to worry as we have full time staff who are there to make sure your child is settling in well and enjoying their experience.
The good news is that in today’s world, there’s plenty of technology to keep you connected to your international intern too. Not to make you feel old, but things aren’t the way they used to be. For example, when my dad went abroad he only spoke to his parents over the phone once in almost three years! This just isn’t the case now.
While we require interns to have a local phone number (remember – that’s a safety feature), there’s still ways to call your intern while abroad. Have you heard of Skype, Facetime, or Zoom? If you said 'yes', then you're up to speed! These are all great messaging and calling apps. As Anne noted,
“Drew, got a SIM card in Ireland for his iPhone so we could text and call. We also downloaded What'sApp, and e-mailed."
When your intern signs up for their pre-pay local phone plan, they’ll get some data, which means they’ll always be able to use these apps, even when they aren’t in wifi. If that’s not enough for you, check out Viber or my personal favorite – What'sApp. My family still uses group messaging on WhatsApp so that when I share my travel photos with my parents, I can make my brother jealous too!
Whether it’s to share all the good times, provide emotional support or teach your son or daughter how to make rice, you’ll always be connected! Still remaining connected, but with a major time difference opens the doors to your child having to think twice about something and figuring it out on their own rather than calling you.
Gaining the Soft Skills
As Anne described “Jen and Drew came back from their internships exhibiting more self-confidence and independence, as well as a better sense of themselves." Coming from a parent, that says a lot!
While these soft skills developed may not be a feature on your resume, an employer will see that you have lived and worked abroad, which non-verbally translates as having independence, initiative, grit, resilience, and resourcefulness to name a few.
Building soft skills may not necessarily be quantifiable, however, they are a valuable asset in the workplace and will certainly help your son or daughter stand out in a competitive job market where simply having an undergraduate degree is not enough. As Anne noted, taking an internship abroad made Jen and Drew stand out because, “it showed employers that they were willing to take risks.”
Gaining the hard skills
International Internships can serve as a great stepping stone into starting a career or refining areas of work interests. In a competitive market, from a hospitality internship to an engineering internship, getting exposure to work culture in a particular industry is a great way to increase future employability.
Interns have the opportunity to learn about particular tools, programs, and techniques specific to their industry without a long-term work commitment. By the end of the placement, the intern can also add a list of new skills to their resume.
The benefit of a short term internship is that the employer and intern can enjoy a mutually beneficial experience, where time is the real commodity. In exchange for the host employer investing in and educating the intern, the intern reciprocates by giving their own time and commitment, and different way of thinking. As a result both employer and intern benefit from a new cultural perspective and take away a new set of skills and book of contacts.
Our program doesn’t start once the intern is on the ground. After interns are enrolled in our program they immediately have access to professional development resources and individualized coaching. This means their career readiness starts right away.
One of the first calls interns have is with a certified Gallup coach where they discuss their top five strengths from the Gallup Strengths Finder Assessment. Discussing your strengths helps interns become more self-aware and conscious of how these can be leveraged in the workplace to maximize career compatibility and happiness. It also teaches interns how to describe themselves professionally, which is essential when writing a cover letter or during an interview.
Our strengths coaches are also resume and cover letter experts. Providing individualized feedback on these documents is an essential part of our program. We only present the very best version of our interns to our partner employers. It doesn’t end there though.
Before we put any resumes and cover letters in front of an employer, our Program Advisors see to it that the corrections and advice from the coaches has been made. This helps our interns follow through with crafting that perfect document with a resource to have the final look.
This is just the beginning. We follow through to see how our interns are using their strengths in their internship when we do a site visit and upon program completion. We also meet with each host employer to see how the intern is using their strengths in their new role. Our intention is to encourage the intern to think about their place in the organization and industry.
While part of the experience is identifying what they like, it is equally important to identify what they don’t like about a particular job or industry. Like any position, they will learn little more about themselves as a professional. In terms of thinking long-term, another of our goals is to help the intern become more conscious of their likes, dislikes, and how they relate to any future career goals.
Getting That Dream Job
Okay, let’s be honest, how many people can say their first full time job was their dream job? While possible, we are realistic and see an international internship as a great stepping stone to getting there.
Even without the professional development, simply going abroad has positive impacts on obtaining employment. According to the University of California, MERCED, 97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation and 90% landed a job within 6 months.
This is compared to the 49% of college graduates who found employment in the same period. Imagine the impact interning abroad would have! There are no statistics on the learning impact precisely because of the newness and uniqueness, but it will set your intern even further apart.
By the end of a program, interns can clearly see the professional benefits of their time abroad. 84% of study abroad alumni felt their studies abroad helped them build valuable skills for the job market. Employers are also increasingly valuing international experience in their candidates.
59% of employers said study abroad would be valuable in an individual’s career later on with their organization. These facts were also true for Drew and Jen. Anne says that,
“When they returned, their prospective employers were impressed that they had traveled and worked internationally. Both Jen and Drew had full time employment within 3 months of returning from their trips too. We have no doubt that their GE internships helped get them to that point.”
Our programs do a good job helping our interns figure out what their dream job is and we help them get there. Now that’s some feel good work!
Doing it safely
One of the many benefits of going abroad through an organized program is that we are experts in managing a fun, successful, and most importantly, safe time abroad. Global Experiences for example, has in place a Program Preparedness and Response Plan, which follows a carefully designed protocol.
This has been mirrored from the University of Arizona’s study abroad program safety protocol; one of the largest study abroad programs in the U.S. In addition to our own safety procedures, we provide our students with health and safety material including webinars on safety abroad, orientation on steps to follow in an emergency, and contact information about local medical and police services.
We require all students to have a local phone number in order to be reached during an emergency and require them to notify staff when traveling outside their host city. Our on site location staff provide 24/7 emergency support and are our local experts on navigating health and safety issues in their country. Click here to learn more about our health and safety protocols.
Beyond ensuring these basic safety measures, there are many procedures in place to ensure a successful program for our interns. With so many nuances involved in interning abroad, there are admittedly a lot of challenges that can (and will) present themselves. After doing this for 16 years many of these nuances has been ironed out. As Anne noticed,
“GE has built-in procedures in place IF there is a problem in any area - living situation, internship, etc. They work to make sure that everyone is satisfied with the outcome.”
Furthermore, as travel experts, GE is committed to helping our interns through the pre-departure process and making sure that by the time they are on the ground they are prepared for their program. Through online tools such as the Global Experiences program Portal and individual attention given by their assigned Program Advisor, we ensure each intern is ready to hit the ground running.
“We appreciated the specific timeline of tasks to be completed that was set by GE. We also were glad that the program advisors sent reminders and dealt directly with Jen and Drew to keep them on schedule. My husband and I never felt the need to contact their program advisors, because we felt confident that they had control of the situation.”
Minimize risk – maximize the experience
If going abroad were easy, not to mention, interning abroad, then everyone would do it. The reality is that it is challenging and even scary at times. Even as a parent you may not have all the answers and that’s okay. We do. Doing a program like ours with customized support helps ensure that we minimize risk and maximize the experience. As Anne said,
”We were fortunate that both Jen and Drew had great adventures, formed lasting friendships, and gained international work experience in their chosen fields of study.”
There are many things you can do to help your child succeed. Being supportive of their decision to intern abroad is certainly a good one. As someone who was fortunate to have supportive parents, like Anne, while I lived and worked abroad, my experiences have shaped me personally and professionally too. As experts in international internships, rest assured that with 16 years of experience, we know how to do it and how to do it well.
There’s a reason we are partnered with over 50 university partnerships domestically and internationally including Texas A&M, University of New South Wales, University of Michigan and Fairfield University for our school of records. With many trusted stakeholders, we are constantly trying to improve and offer the best experience we can. As parents, you are one of the most important stakeholders we have!