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Business & Microfinance Internships Abroad: Get Hands-On Experience

Robin Van Auken | Hands-on Heritage
Written By
By Robin Van Auken
Volunteer Forever - Business & Microfinance Internships Abroad

With the semester winding down, you probably have some free time on the horizon. You could go home and see if your job at the local grocery store is still open…or if you’re looking for an adventure, you can choose a totally different path and sign up for a business internship abroad.

There are so many internship opportunities around the world for students who want to gain hands-on experience and a leg up in their career. Travel to China and work with an export company in a Shanghai skyscraper. Or develop business plans for female entrepreneurs in a coastal fishing village in Ghana. If you’re interested in Latin American culture, cruise to Costa Rica and improve your Spanish-speaking skills with a micro business there.

Invest In Yourself When You Invest In Others

Internships are an investment in your future. If you’re a business major, then you already know that investments are a good thing. But maybe you need a few more reasons to consider an internship abroad. While they don’t always pay in cash, they can be valuable in many other ways. Internships allow you to:

  1. Gain New Skills: Be intentional about working toward your career goals and spend time developing and refining skills in your desired field.
  2. Learn About an Industry: You’ll gain insight into the inner workings of an industry and learn a new occupation. This is a great way to learn about your career choice and prepare you for your future.
  3. Strengthen Your Resume: Employers are looking for experience on your resume – yes, even as a recent college graduate – and an internship can demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as your confidence as an international traveler and your ability to work with as part of a team.
  4. Find and Connect with Mentors: You may find a wonderful mentor on your internship and this person’s influence can guide you for the rest of your life. Take the time to get to know everyone in the office and seek guidance.
  5. Become More Professional: For many students, an internship can be their first introduction to an industry or career. You can learn a lot from the people you meet and work with, including how to behave professionally. You’ll have a better idea of how to interact with colleagues, vendors, and clients after you’re internship and conduct yourself with maturity and confidence.
  6. Receive Recommendations: If you’re hardworking, punctual, and committed during your internship, then you’ve left a favorable impression on your supervisor and your coworkers. Politely ask for recommendations and then maintain a relationship with them once the program has ended.
  7. Know What You Want: You’ll know if you like your chosen sector – or if you don’t – when you finish your internship.

If you’re considering an internship but you’re not sure where you want to go or what you want to do, take a look at the programs we’ve featured below. There are many more opportunities with each of these trusted organizations, and these recommendations can get you started on your internship research.

Featured Programs

Maximo Nivel

Volunteer Forever - Business & Microfinance Internships Abroad

Maximo Nivel, a family-owned organization founded in 2003, operates educational institutes and offers volunteer programs for travelers in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. A leader in international education, study abroad, and travel, Maximo Nivel works with more than 4,000 people each year to deliver high-quality, safe, and affordable programs.

Micro Business Internships

The Micro Business Internship with Maximo Nivel gives you exposure to business practices in the developing world, allowing you to gain real-world experience, increase your knowledge of business vocabulary in Spanish, and improve your ability to communicate with Spanish-speaking clients.

Placements are in small companies, with a focus on international marketing, sales, client service, distribution channels, staff training, and accounting. Interns work with business entrepreneurs to help them expand their companies to serve international customers. With your help, entrepreneurs can acquire the opportunities they need to expand their services and develop products. This growth means they can hire employees and have a positive impact on their community.

You can expect to work four to six hours per day, Monday through Friday. Intermediate knowledge of Spanish is required, however, Maximo Nivel offers online Spanish classes and Native Spanish Program to help you improve your language skills.

You should be currently enrolled in a college, working towards an undergraduate or graduate degree in business, economics, communications, or a related field, or have one year of related vocational training or experience. Stay a minimum of four weeks on this internship and choose to work in either Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru.

Intern in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an exotic country with volcanoes, beaches, and rainforests. On days off, visit national parks and go on ecotourism trips. With more than 1,000 miles of beaches, you can spend your time swimming, snorkeling, fishing, surfing, or scuba diving. San Jose, the country’s capital, is a gateway to both the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, as well as its rainforests. There are museums, parks, markets, plazas, theaters, shopping, and a variety of clubs and nightlife. Thanks to its tropical location, there is plenty of fruit in Costa Rica, and you can also expect to eat lots of rice and beans during your travels here.

Intern in Guatemala

Guatemala is a top ecotourism destination and has both a Pacific and Caribbean coast. The country has a unique ecosystem, including the Tajumulco Volcano. Maximo Nivel places participants in Antigua, the most popular destination in Guatemala, located in the central highlands. This city is home to well-preserved colonial architecture, as well as spectacular Mayan ruins. Antigua is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the United Nations and there is a special “Tourist Police” force deployed in the city to ensure everyone’s safety.

Travel is easy with the use of tuk-tuks, chicken buses, and other shuttles. Travel by foot is easy also since the city is built on a grid system and most sites are located within a 15- to 20-minute walk. Food is based on traditional Mayan cuisine and corn and cornmeal is a staple. Black beans and rice are part of most meals, as well as the chili. Guatemalan coffee may be the best in the world and fresh fruit and root vegetables are easy to find at the market. The culture here is a mix of ancient Mayan traditions, colonial Spanish, and modern Western influence. This is a conservative country, so you should be sure to dress conservatively. Shopping is plentiful in its small shops, boutiques, and locally owned stores, and there are abundant restaurants and most clubs and bars are concentrated within a block or two of the Central Plaza.

Intern in Peru

Located in the west-central part of South America, Peru is home to diverse cultures and civilizations. The city of Cusco is in the Andes Mountains, where the ancient Inca Empire once ruled. Cusco is the gateway to the historic archaeological site of Machu Picchu.

Transportation around Cusco is easy and provided by private “combis” (shared minibusses) and there are taxis on most corners. The food in Peru is diverse and highly seasoned. The culture is traditional and indigenous rituals are still present. Cusco is relaxed, so schedules are flexible. Shops and markets are abundant and you can buy world-class alpaca products and hand-made textile at most open-air markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available in the markets and there is a modern mall in the city. There are many restaurants, as well as casual bistros and cafes. Most clubs and bars are located near the Plaza de Armas and the San Blas districts, where a lively nightlife is found.

Learn more and sign up for a micro business internship with Maximo Nivel here!

Projects Abroad

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Projects Abroad offers a variety of global service opportunities, allowing volunteers to immerse themselves in the language and culture of their chosen host country, while having a meaningful impact on the lives of its residents. Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad has placed more than 10,000 people to work in 38 countries around the world. Project types range from volunteering, internships, high school specials, alternative spring breaks, gap years, language courses, and programs for professionals.

Gain valuable international experience in business or microfinance to boost your resume and gain insight into the different economic systems of the world.

Business Internships

On an international business internship, you’ll be placed as an intern at a foreign company where you’ll be immersed in the company’s day-to-day work and build connections. After identifying your skills and interests, Projects Abroad will help you choose a placement that will allow you to pursue your own career goals.

You’ll work with permanent employees and business leaders to better understand your chosen industry, and will also be matched with a supervisor who will support you throughout your internship. Business Internships to consider include:

  1. Learning from business professionals in the rapidly developing economy of China
  2. Work at a consulting firm to boost your resume in Mexico
  3. Help disadvantaged youth at small community enterprises in Vietnam

Microfinance Internships

Join an international microfinance internship to gain valuable business skills while helping small businesses.

Projects Abroad has provided financial support to individuals or groups to start their own businesses, usually within disadvantaged communities. As an intern, you’ll provide extra support to these businesses, or help new applicants apply for their loan. You can help them through all the necessary steps – from the initial idea, to running the business!

This will give you insight into the business environment of your chosen destination. Some of the businesses supported have gone on to become valuable additions to their local communities – something to you can help continue to achieve. Sign up today to support female entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities in Tanzania, or empower entrepreneurs do become independent business owners in Cambodia.

Global Vision International

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Global Vision International (GVI) offers award-winning, high-impact programs in the areas of community development and conservation around the world. Since 1997, GVI has placed more than 24,000 volunteers on projects with local partners, as well with international organizations such as Save the Children, The Red Cross, WWF, SANParks, and The Jane Goodall Institute. GVI’s award-winning programs receive more than 2,000 participants each year, making sustainable contributions towards key global and local issues.

Business and Micro-Enterprise Internships in Cape Town

Join GVI on an International Business Internship near Cape Town, South Africa, assisting entrepreneurs as they develop small, social enterprises. You’ll gain practical experience when you encounter and solve real-life problems and real-life challenges. This internship gives you insight into finance, marketing, accounting, management, operations, international relations, human resources, and more.

Start your internship with training to learn the different customs of South Africa and understand the communities you’ll be working with on the project. You’ll learn how to conduct workshops, training, and one-on-one mentoring. Weekly meetings with staff will ensure that you’re progressing in your internship with GVI’s partner, Solution Space, in the township of Philippi.

Weekdays will find you contributing to and participating in Solution Space’s incubator program, which serves a variety of business owners, each with unique business needs. This project nurtures ambitious micro-entrepreneurs with the long-term goal to develop sustainable business practices. There’s room to grow and the opportunity to create as you put your theoretical lessons into practice. Then join the critique and see the results of your work. Some of the topics you’ll cover will include:

  1. Entrepreneurship training
  2. Ways to obtain microcredit
  3. The importance of proper business planning
  4. Common challenges of microenterprises and how to overcome them
  5. How to create business plans

You’ll stay in safe guest houses or apartments with shared twin rooms and bathrooms with access to hot, running water and electricity. Meals are included, with cooking done by interns on a rotational basis. Transportation to and from the project is provided.

You’ll be based out of Gordon’s Bay, a coastal village near Hottentot Hollands Mountain Range, 45 minutes from Cape Town. Spend your free time touring Cape Town, going on a wildlife safari, or staying in Gordon’s Bay and swimming or relaxing on beautiful beaches, touring vineyards for wine tastings, and frequenting the popular restaurants.

The town is the gateway to the Garden Route, a 200km stretch of the southwest coast that’s famous for its ecological diversity, magnificent topography, wildlife, and more. Many people hike the route for its spectacular vistas. You’ll see beaches, lagoons, lakes, hills, and mountains. Because of its close proximity to the ocean, you’ll also see dolphins, seals, and the Southern Right Whale off the coast. This internship starts at four weeks and fees begin at $4,345 – and you’re invited to stay up to 12 weeks. Learn more and register here!

Global Nomadic

Volunteer Forever - Business & Microfinance Internships Abroad

Global Nomadic connects travelers with life-changing projects around the world, empowering positive change and providing partners with sustainable livelihoods. More than 10,000 people have chosen to travel with Global Nomadic since 2009, visiting 40+ countries. Projects range from human rights and social sustainability to environmental conservation, to wildlife rehabilitation. Global Nomadic also provides opportunities for people to develop new skills and enables young professionals to enhance their careers with international work placements.

Cambodia: Business Analyst

Spend time in Siem Reap, Cambodia as a Business Analyst Intern with Global Nomadic. You’ll work with an award-winning, independent travel agency, helping it move to the next level by bringing business expertise and skills to the country.

Cambodia has a history of conflict, genocide, and famine and its standard of university education are low. Residents of this country lack many of the skills they need to make a business flourish.

As an intern with Global Nomadic, you’ll help develop a sustainable, financially strong agency and train a knowledgeable, capable local Khmer team to take over the business. You’ll work in a converted house and garden, alongside local Cambodians and Westerners.

As a Business Analyst, you need to have expertise with Salesforce to help the organization grow. You’ll help the agency purchase and implement the software, help to define the process workflow, set up the reporting framework, draft a procedure manual for ongoing use, and work directly with the agency founder. You’ll need to be independent, flexible and adaptable to working in a unique culture. You should have experience in sourcing and implementing the correct CRM into a business or previous project, as well as knowledge of MS Excel and business analytics. Previous experience with the travel industry is an advantage, as well as a good command of English. You’ll have your own desk and access to a computer, wifi, and the use of a bike for getting around the community.

Accommodation is not included in the fee, however, Global Nomadic’s in-country partner will help you find lodging upon arrival. Free time can be spent sightseeing the temples of Angkor, dining at world-class restaurants, relaxing at sumptuous spas, shopping, and embarking on tours. The project fee is $425 for a three-month placement and you may stay up to a year in-country. Learn more and apply here!

Buenos Aires: Business Internship

Gain valuable hands-on experience working with an internet retail business in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with Global Nomadic. This is an ideal placement for anyone studying finance or business development, or those interested in the world of internet retail.

Live and work in the metropolis known for the tango, gauchos, colonial heritage architecture, and futbol. You’ll share your talent with Argentinian companies and at the same time, develop and enhance your own skills as you prepare for a career in international business.

You’ll work with a company that operates a high-end shopping website, offering exclusive discounts on luxury brands in fashion, accessories, and home retail goods. In addition to an online store, the company maintains a blog for publishing fashion-related articles and content. Another aspect is marketing incentives that customers use for additional credit towards future purchases.

You’ll need to be at least 18 and be able to stay for one month in Argentina. You should have excellent organizational skills and a strong work and personal ethic, and you must be self-motivated and able to work on a team. You’ll be required to write a monthly report on your placement progress.

Accommodation is included and you’ll be transferred from the airport upon arrival. You’ll be met by a coordinator who will introduce you to living in Buenos Aires, supply you with a welcome kit, and prepare you for your upcoming placement. Choose from staying in a shared apartment, family homestay, student residences, or private apartments. All options include wifi, towels, sheets, and utilities.

Spend your free time learning about futbol, a popular sport throughout the country. Learn the tango, the national dance of Argentina, or take a bike tour around the city. The street art is also popular, so go sightseeing and study the murals. Spend a night seeing what it’s like to be a real gaucho and live the life of the Argentinian cowboy. Ride horses, eat traditional gaucho foods, and drink gaucho wine and get out of the city for a day. Program costs are $1,590 for four weeks, with stays up to eight weeks available. Click here to learn more and to register!

Bangkok: Business Development & Marketing Internship

Join a leading international company in Thailand as a Business Development and Marketing Intern with Global Nomadic. This placement introduces you to a broad range of marketing projects and gives you intensive on-the-job training by industry leaders with a strong track record.

You’ll acquire firsthand knowledge of Southeast Asia’s emerging markets and have access to exclusive business networking events. You can also take advantage of the Thai language training and career consulting services on this placement, which is ideal for those studying business, marketing, communications, or related university majors.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is establishing itself as an emerging market of global relevance and multinational corporations are acknowledging Thailand’s importance. From your first day on the job, you’ll be working on the marketing and business development team of a leading corporation, fully integrated into the daily operations of the company and receiving training. As part of a multicultural team, you’ll broaden your horizons and have new professional experiences.

Your placement includes Thai language lessons because a basic knowledge of the language will help your internship and help you immerse in the culture. Your daily tasks will include planning and executing marketing campaigns, taking part in meetings to increase the corporation’s partner- and customer network, organizing events, and engaging in activities to accelerate the company’s growth.

You’ll be met upon arrival in Bangkok and transferred to your accommodation, which are of high standards and includes a fitness center and pool. You need to be at least 18 years old, have the relevant academic background and commit to three months with the internship.

Spend your days off exploring the city, marveling at the shining spires of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keaw, or relaxing on a longtail boat through the floating markets. Catch a tuk-tuk and sightsee Chinatown, or spend a day shopping in the luxury malls. Visit Wat Pho, home to a gigantic reclining Buddha, murals, inscriptions, and sculptures on topics from astronomy to archaeology, or catch up on the Chatuchak Weekend Market, a must-visit place for tourists. Fees for this internship start at $940. Learn more here!

Invest in Yourself!

Internships are tools and depending upon how you use them, you can produce great results. Expand your skillset and gain global experience at the same time as an international business intern. When you choose to travel abroad, you invest in yourself and you invest in the world.