What if you could intern in Paris, Hong Kong or Egypt?
As colleges begin to prepare for the summer, so must students. Most graduates take the nearly two months of leave to intern, which get them hands-on experience and can bring a degree of clarity to how they want their careers to unfold. Increasingly, students are opting to do these internships overseas.
“Universities in countries such as France, Germany, Egypt and the US reach out to students because many of those who intern at an international university return there for further study, after graduation,” says Arjun Krishna, co-founder of WeMakeScholars, a study-abroad portal.
Organisations such as the United Nations and Google also offer internships that are open to students around the world. The benefits are immense, from cross-cultural benefits to an extended global network to help jumpstart your career. “With increased opportunities, student queries and interest in international internships on our portal have gone up by nearly 50% since 2015,” says Krishna.
There are several portals that aggregate such internships — WeMakeScholars, InternShala, overseas education portal IES Abroad, global youth organisation AIESEC, Canadian non-profit organisation Mitacs. Together, they offer a wide range of options that cover communication design, sustainable development, engineering, primary education and youth organisation, science and the humanities.
How does one select the right internship? “There are broadly three parameters — organisation, job description and financial implications, says Udit Bhatnagar, senior counselor at study abroad consultancy ReachIvy.
Even if it is paid, the stipend may not always cover all your costs. And not every foreign internship will add value to your career. “Accounting internships are generally restricted to research. If you want a career as an analyst, this may not help much,” says Bhatnagar.
“For lawyers, consider going abroad only if you plan to specialise in universal areas such as human or animal rights, or international law. Pick an internship if you plan to study further in that country.”
The US, Singapore are good destinations to pick for software engineering internships, Germany for mechanical or automobile, adds Hiren Rathod, business head at Imperial Overseas Education Consultants.
‘I am learning design strategy, in Paris’
Karanjit Narang, 24, a postgraduate student of branding and communication design at Ecole intuit lab, began a three-month internship at Seenk, a branding and design agency in Paris, in January. He reached out to the agency, which has a tie-up with his institute.
“The internships I was getting in India were all related to graphic design, but I knew my end goal was to get into strategy, so I snapped it up,” Narang says.
He is now part of a team that ideates and pitches branding strategies. “I have interned as a designer before. Here, I am working with a team for clients that have a pan-French presence, so the scale is larger, which has given me a broader perspective,” he says. “The volume of projects is also high. There is something new to work on every two weeks, so it has been a process of constant learning.”
The stipend is not enough to cover all Narang’s expenses. “But I think this will pay off,” he says. “In India, it would have taken me about three years to make a shift to strategy. I see this as an investment in my career.”
One thing he wishes he could change is how little prep he did before he arrived. “I didn’t know much French, and I knew very little about the culture. At meetings in the beginning, I could not always follow all the details that were being discussed.”
He picked up phrases as he went along, and his team members helped him with translation where he couldn’t follow. He’s made some good friends. “My favourite memory is making my French friends dance to Punjabi music,” he says with a laugh.
‘I learnt discipline and conflict management’
For 21-year-old Divya Jain, currently in her final year of an engineering degree in electronics and communication at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad, a research internship in Dresden, Germany, was a stepping stone to her finalyear thesis.
“I wanted to eventually do research in the area of electronics, in computer architecture and nanotechnology,” she says. “I wrote to professors at universities in Europe and Singapore, expressing my goals, my interest areas and why I wanted to research with them.” The Technische Universität Dresden responded positively.
“The actual internship was rigorous and intensive, but the whole experience, from managing documentation to adjusting to a more disciplined work culture, managing conflict, fighting everyday sexism, was a huge learning curve,” she says.
It also helped that she had done a few internships in India first, including a twomonth stint at the semi-conductor laboratory run by the union government’s Department of Space, in Mohali.
“I did that as part of our curriculum and it helped me narrow down my area of specialisation. Chances are I would not have even been selected for Germany, without this experience,” she says.