In order to move up the career ladder, real world experience through internships is crucial. Even so, the transition into a new, competitive environment can take some adjusting — especially if you decide to go international. Yet more and more students are turning to internships in other countries in order to gain life experience as well as job experience.
That’s the mindset of Grace College senior Caitlin Park, who will travel to Mongolia in August. Park is working with Joint Christian Services (JCS), a broad organization that offers services that vary from assistance for prostitutes to English classes.
Park is most excited about “the opportunity to take what I have been learning here in the classroom, and use it in a real-life situation,” she said. “I am excited about experiencing a culture completely different from my own, and about learning more about the needs in Mongolia.”
Park is actually required to complete a “cross-cultural” internship as part of her expected degree in Intercultural Studies and plans to visit religious centers, shop in the markets and attend weddings as part of her immersion.
Though she will not be paid, her trip will include travels outside of Mongolia, such as China.
Despite the fact that this job will be her first international internship, Park is prepared for that adjustment period.
“I love adventures, and I love traveling, but it is hard to think about having such an incredible experience without the people I care about most,” Park said. “On a more superficial level, I will miss peanut butter — but I’ve already planned ahead, and I’m taking that with me.”
Michigan State University sophomore Florian Cherdron has already experienced the loneliness that comes with living thousands of miles away. He chose to intern at Sonotronic Nagel GMBH, a plastic welding company in southwest Germany.
“I live by myself and most of the people I work with are at least twice my age so it’s a little hard to just find places to make new friends,” Cherdron said.
But the positives far outweigh the negatives. At his internship, Cherdron has been exposed to every stage of the production process, even working with million-dollar machines that weld door panels for A-class Mercedes-Benz cars not sold in America.
“Really, the best thing has been the tremendous amount of learning in the eight weeks it’s been so far,” Cherdron said. “You can learn all the theory you want, but it just doesn’t teach you as well as hands on.”
In his spare time, he like to take in the local culture. “The German inner cities are nice since there are many pedestrian areas where cars aren’t allowed: cobblestone roads with restaurants, stores, beer gardens, etc,” Cherdron said. “It’s a nice place to spend an afternoon.”
In the future, he hopes to get an internship in England, but is open to destinations worldwide.
“I like to travel, so given the opportunity there are a lot of places I’d be willing to go,” Cherdron said.
For students with internships abroad, travel and absorption of another culture is just as important as the glimpse they receive of the working world they will soon enter.