“Despite all the ways an international experience may have influenced their character, many college-aged students struggle to take that last step of weaving their abroad story into their professional narrative”
Studying, working or undertaking an internship abroad can help to equip students with skills and experiences they might not otherwise have had – but the challenge for many students is communicating this to employers. Katie Arango, managing director of Connect-123, considers how institutions can enable their students to get the most out of their international experiences.
International education professionals, students who’ve studied abroad, and at this point, a large portion of the general population are well aware of the many benefits of study, volunteer, teaching and internships abroad. Getting pushed outside one’s comfort zone and being immersed in a different culture presents a multitude of growth opportunities that enrich students personally and eventually, professionally. And in this highly competitive work environment, time spent abroad can certainly be a point of differentiation from other candidates. Read More
“I remember my professor’s wife telling me that this was only the beginning for me, and she was right”
Sabrina Prioleau refutes the idea that short-term study abroad doesn’t have an impact on students, describing how her own experience has inspired her to do a PhD in international education.
While in graduate school at Webster University, I noticed the wonderful study abroad opportunities that were offered to undergraduate students. I remembered saying to myself I wish there was a two week study abroad option, however I quickly recanted and said, but they would never have such a short program. To my surprise, I received an email in November 2011 from Webster’s main campus in St. Louis, Missouri. The email encouraged me to add international experience to my resume by participating in a hybrid course, which consisted of 6 weeks of online course work and two weeks abroad.
“Surveys of high school seniors reflect that the vast majority of the future collegians expect to study abroad. Unfortunately, this expectation ends up being more of a dream than a reality”
Mark Shay, CEO of Abroad101 – which some describe as the ‘TripAdvisor of Study Abroad’ – argues that when it comes to studying abroad, US institutions need to do more than simply aim to increase numbers. With red tape and credit transfer proving to be stubborn obstacles, he argues that an overhaul is needed.
Americans perceive study abroad as a prideful, traditional centerpiece of the Liberal Arts experience. The image of leaving the home campus to immerse oneself in a foreign culture and gain a different perspective on life is viewed as a romantic extension of a college experience. Surveys of high school seniors reflect that the vast majority of the future collegians expect to study abroad. Unfortunately, this expectation ends up being more of a dream than a reality – because 95% of all American college students will not study abroad, we need to change. Read More
Mark Shay is a business leader with a long history of success helping higher education institutions recruit and retain students, with a career that has spanned three decades. He is known throughout the higher education industry as an innovator for developing products like Gradschools.com, StudyAbroad.com and creating international student recruiting solutions for agents and universities.
“I did not consider anything less than a year to be considered a real exchange. How could you master a language, build relationships, and integrate yourself in a community for anything less than at least a few months?”
It has been exactly one week since I arrived to China. Today I joked with a friend that I have not used a fork in seven days, which led to a discussion recapping everything we have learned in such a short period of time.
The growing popularity of short-term study abroad programs has started a debate among professionals and educators in the field. Are these short-term programs more than just an ‘academic trip?’ Does the length of a program dictate whether or not we should label the experience as ‘study abroad?’
There appear to be two trending categories of short-term participants: those who are unwilling to spend extended periods of time away from home, and those who are restricted by certain curriculum requirements. As a result, summer, May, and ‘J’ term programs are becoming increasingly popular among university and high school students. These programs allow us to “fit” the experience into our schedule, and require less commitment.
“There appear to be two trending categories of short-term participants: those who are unwilling to spend extended periods away from home, and those who are restricted by curriculum requirements”
As a junior in high school, I packed my bags and headed out to Spain on a year-long program. At the time, I did not consider anything less than a year to be considered a real exchange. How could you master a language, build relationships, and integrate yourself in a community for anything less than at least a few months? By the time you establish a routine, it would be time to go home.
Despite these disadvantages, short-term programs play a critical role in international education. Spending a few weeks abroad will inevitably not give you the same return as a year. Relationships and integration in the community require time. Languages are not mastered overnight. The bottom line is that you cannot compare short and long-term programs. Each program type has different goals and expectations. But if a student can only study abroad for a short amount of time, catering to this need continues to support our greater mission: raising cultural awareness and understanding.
Coincidentally, my internship project at CIEE revolved around its high school summer abroad program. Reading the feedback from students made me realize how powerful a 3-4 week experience impacted their outlook on the world. They kept blogs. Posted on social media. They shared their experiences and became global ambassadors by educating others of a world very different than their own.
When I told people that I was going to study abroad in China for a semester, I got a wide range of reactions. The people who had previously visited Asia thought it was a brilliant idea. They raved about the amazing food, business opportunities, and endless city nightlife. Those who thought I was “brave” or “a bit extreme” had never traveled here before. They told me stories they had heard from a friend of a friend who went there once back in the ’80s. They expressed how dirty and unsafe they believed the country to be. They brought up one or several of China’s well-known weaknesses.
“If a student can only study abroad for a short amount of time, catering to this need continues to support our greater mission: raising cultural awareness and understanding”
After being here a week, it is impossible for me to even tap into everything there is to know about this city. But there are a few things that stand out.
Each morning when I wake up, the city’s daily air quality score sits at the top of my app notifications. On my walk to campus, I pass a local hole-in-the-wall food market, whose smell and appearance remind me of the poverty-stricken markets I saw in Morocco. At every crosswalk, I am thankful for the pedestrian rights and protection laws that exist in the United States. When at a restaurant, I always order a beverage that is sealed.
However, there is so much good about this country that people do not know. Let me tell you about my Chinese language tutor, who bends over backwards to help me pronounce tones correctly. Or how approachable people on the street are when you need directions. And did I mention that Shanghai has one of the cleanest metros I’ve ever seen? Not to mention the incredible malls, history, architecture, restaurants, and rapidly emerging middle class.
“Interning in one of the BRICS is particularly compelling; people are intrigued by my experience in an ‘edgier’ destination than most traditional European study abroad countries”
Marie Lefebvre is a recent graduate from UC Berkeley currently interning at CRCC Asia in San Francisco. She returned to the US in July from a year abroad in Brazil, where she interned at the BRICS-Policy center in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (FUNBIO) and a start-up accelerator called Outsource Brazil. Here she writes about her experiences and why people shouldn’t be too quick to write off the BRICS as study destinations.
While career prospects for the hordes of college graduates in Europe and the United States grow slimmer year by year, the inverse is true in the BRICS. By now a household name since Goldman-Sachs reported in 2011 that the original four countries would overtake the world’s economic powers by 2050, the BRICS acronym represents the so-called emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and, as of 2012, the newest member: South Africa. This group of economies, that accounts for the majority of the world’s economic growth and has come together on a variety of initiatives, makes up a powerful bloc that counters US and EU dominance in world affairs.
As a former intern in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I have seen and experienced first-hand the vast opportunities available in the BRICS for students seeking meaningful work experience. During my year studying there, I completed three internships. Although they varied in sector – from an environmental NGO to a research think-tank to a start-up accelerator – across the board I noticed that companies valued fluent English-speakers in order to gain and maintain global relevance. Furthermore, since I have returned to the US, I have noticed in my own job search that my experience abroad makes my resume stand out. The fact that I have internship experience abroad makes people curious, and it shows I am willing to step outside my comfort zone. Interning in one of the BRICS is particularly compelling; people are intrigued by my experience in an “edgier” destination than most traditional European study abroad countries.
“Across the board I noticed that companies valued fluent English-speakers in order to gain and maintain global relevance”
If nothing else, it’s a great conversation starter: talking about travel is a great way to break the ice at an interview. Commuting to work from a beach-side bus stop, just a day in my life as an intern abroad in Brazil!
Each of the BRICS countries has unique factors that make them attractive to potential interns from abroad. Brazil has a relaxed work culture compared to most countries. On the other hand, South Africa is one of the most racially diverse countries in the world. Russia is Europe’s energy giant and gearing up to host the next World Cup. India is one of the largest countries in not only the BRICS, but the world. Lastly, China’s appeal cannot be ignored, as it is home to the world’s most spoken language, and stands out for being the world’s largest trading partner. China’s GDP is expected to surpass the United States’ around 2020 and become the world’s next superpower. Overall, all of the countries are exciting places to be given their economic growth.
“China’s GDP is expected to surpass the United States’ around 2020. Overall, all of the BRICS are exciting places to be given their economic growth”
It’s true that the various barriers to entry can be intimidating. Visas, paperwork, lack of contacts, not to mention the language – the list goes on. Luckily, there are resources and agencies that can help you navigate the foreign work culture and red tape. Studying abroad in a BRICS country will also help you tap into resources not readily available to others as doing so already entails completing a lot of the paperwork and provides you with a network in your given country. In my case, I looked at bulletin boards at my university in Rio for internship openings, and my UC Education Abroad Program adviser in Brazil helped me get an internship by tapping into her own network to help me find one. For those unable to study abroad, or for those perhaps lacking foreign language skills, agencies such as CRCC Asia place students or recent graduates into one to three-month English-language internships in their chosen sector, providing support before and during the program. Programs like CRCC Asia’s China Internship Program provide support and services like visa processing, accommodations, internship placement, orientation, language classes, and networking events.
CRCC Asia alum Shuwen Zhang is a Chinese national originally from Shanghai. Zhang, despite being a full-time student at NYU, chose to return to China as a summer intern to increase his future career prospects. He is not alone; many Chinese citizens choose to return to China in a professional capacity, and CRCC Asia enables them to tap into the program’s well-established network in the country. This is particularly helpful because it lets students find an internship in a sector where they may not have any contacts. Zhang says his improved communication skills in particular will stay with him well after his internship: “The internship was beneficial to my future career goals. There is a big chance that I’ll choose to work in Shanghai after graduation. Knowing how it [business in China] actually works, especially the relationships among colleagues, prepares me better work life in Shanghai.”
“Knowing how business in China actually works, especially the relationships among colleagues, prepares me better work life in Shanghai”
UPenn student Melusine Boon Falleur recalls her time interning in China as a chance to have an authentic experience abroad while improving her Chinese, an invaluable asset considering she hopes to work with China in the future. Melusine, who did mainly research and translations for Beijing’s Design week, reflected that “interning abroad is overall an amazing experience because whatever your work is, you will learn a lot about the company, your co-workers but also the culture and business practices of the country.”
Among other linguistic and cultural motivations, she was drawn to China for the main reason the BRICS are so appealing to live and work in: its thriving economy and business culture. Thanks to her one-month internship in Beijing, she has now has more networking opportunities in China and a better understanding of the work environment there: “For example, I learned that I really need to improve my Mandarin and gain more work experience in the United States or Europe if I want to be competitive in the Chinese job market.”
Interning in one of the BRICS will help your résumé stand out in an increasingly globalized world, giving you cultural experiences and fluency that would be an asset to any company aiming to be globally competitive. Although it may be difficult at first adjusting to a completely new country and work culture, you will be challenged in new ways and you will come back with valuable work experience, new friends, and perhaps even some new language skills.