07 June 2016

International Internships: Being 20 Years Old and 10,000 Miles Away from Home

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In case you couldn’t tell from the title: I’m American. I still don’t know whether a coat or flip flops (“thongs”) are more appropriate in “30 degrees Celsius”, I pronounce Z “zee” and not “zed”, and I rely on spellcheck to make sure I don’t use that letter instead of an S in words like “organised” and “realised”. Australia is arguably one of the most similar countries to the United States, but I still have so much to learn.

Experience internationally is something that is increasingly more valuable in today’s job market. Now, over 40% of Americans have at least an associate’s degree and it’s predicted that this will rise to 60% by 2025. Students are searching for more ways to differentiate themselves in this increasingly competitive field. Working as an intern, either domestically or internationally, is one option that more students are pursuing to help set themselves apart. And the benefits, as it turns out, are enormous—

Work Experience

A report released by McKinsey found that less than half of surveyed employers believed that recent graduates are prepared for entry-level positions. While learning inside the classroom is great for developing a foundation, there are many lessons that cannot be taught in school. I may take a class on copywriting, but it’s completely different when you’re actually using those skills to write a promotional email to thousands of people. Internships provide a great opportunity for students to fill in those educational gaps, as they’re provided with real in-office experiences. This work experience can also serve as a job preview for students, as they can see what a career is actually like (and if they like it) before applying for their first full-time job.

Global Competency 

This benefit pertains specifically to international internships. Our world is becoming more interconnected as technology improves. It’s important that students learn to navigate intercultural exchanges, as it’s more common for businesses to expand into other countries. Within even predominately domestic companies, there can be entire departments, customers, or employees that are from other countries. Experience navigating these global relationships is incredibly valuable as our world becomes more connected.

Building Industry Relationships

Even if you’re not planning on returning to your host company or country, there is a lot that can be gained from these relationships. There’s so much that can be learned from working side by side with experienced people, especially when they’re in your field of interest. They’re perfect resources to answer your questions or give feedback about your work, which is harder to gain in an academic setting. Secondly, they can serve as valuable references in the postgraduate job hunt if you make a good impression. Recent grads are much more hireable if somebody in-industry can vouch for them. For companies, it takes a lot of the risk out of a new hire if there is somebody reputable who can speak to their competence.


Finally, for me the opportunity for personal growth was one of the deciding factors when I chose to do an international internship. Although I live on my university’s campus, my family lives a 30-minute drive away. Interning abroad is definitely a step out of my comfort zone, and I’m glad that I took it. I’m meeting new people, learning from a great company, and discovering new things about myself. I look forward to seeing what else Australia and Akolade will teach me in the weeks to come.   



Sydney is from the United States and is spending her American summer /Australian winter working as a Marketing Intern at Akolade. In a few months she’ll start her third year at the University of Michigan and is working towards a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies. After she graduates, she’s hoping to work in consulting or marketing, but still isn't quite sure what she wants to be when she grows up.

This is Sydney’s first time in Australia, and she’s been surprised that people haven’t laughed at her name more. So far, she’s adjusting to the slight cultural differences (Australian coffee is better, some words are spelled a tad differently, and “carryout” food is called “takeaway” food). She’s excited to be working with the marketing team at Akolade and continuing her business education outside of the classroom.

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