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Career Break: Professional Internships for Young and Mid-Career Travelers

Written By
By Rachel Roderick
Guest Writer
Career break volunteering abroad

One of the most frustrating aspects of filling out any job description is the “experience” section. After all, if you are new to the field or you want to advance your career, you may have the skills you need but no opportunity to apply them in a real-world setting.

Interning abroad through one of these quality programs offers you hands-on job experience. Whether you are exploring a career in businesshealthcareenvironmental conservation, or just about anything else, there is an internship available to support skill development.

Upon your return from an international professional internship, you will have something to list under “experience” – and often, this is the factor that ensures you outshine the competition. You will gain professional references, as well as cross-cultural immersion that simply isn’t available in your home country. Better still, you will make a tangible difference in the communities you touch during your travels.

Featured International Internships Abroad

These are some of the most highly respected volunteer abroad and international internship organizations in the industry. They offer projects in a variety of fields, allowing you to live and work around the globe, from Australia to Tanzania:

Maximo Nivel


No matter where you are in your career, Maximo Nivel has an adventure for you. These carefully planned internships are perfect for those who need to build skills to compete for their first job, as well as those who are looking for new challenges and new opportunities after getting all they can from their current positions. Long-term projects are available in a range of fields, so you can make use of your existing talents while developing new competencies. These are some of Maximo Nivel’s most popular areas of focus:

  1. Education
  2. Special Education
  3. Micro Business
  4. Hospitality and Tourism
  5. Medical
  6. Human Rights

Students who are enrolled in Marketing, Sales and Client Service, or Accounting degree programs and those who are already practicing in these professions often choose one of the following options for an internship:

Micro Business Internships in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru

The globalization of markets has transformed how business is done, and e-commerce has opened the door for entrepreneurs in every corner of the world. When you intern in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru, you will be matched with a small business owner who is working hard to overcome their community’s unfavorable economic circumstances. An intermediate ability to speak Spanish is necessary to be effective in these placements, as you will spend your time working with entrepreneurs to create solid business strategies. You may assist with basic improvements in efficiency, production, and quality, or you could be tasked with finding new ways to connect with and serve international clients.

You can look forward to complete cultural immersion while building your Spanish vocabulary, and when your project ends, you will have an entirely new set of skills and experiences to add to your resume.

Human Rights Internships in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru

Economically challenged areas often struggle to reach minimum living standards, such as access to healthy food, clean water, and quality medical care. Some face a variety of social and community pressures that limit their ability to be successful and productive, such as a lack of education or discrimination based on religion, gender, or ethnicity. A variety of nonprofit organizations, community groups, and government agencies are working hard to provide support in these areas, and you can be part of the solution.

When you choose a Human Rights Internship, you will be placed with an agency or organization that is already established, and you will contribute to projects intended to raise the standard of living for the target population. You might be asked to participate in research, fundraising, community outreach, or education, giving you an opportunity to grow your skills in these areas. Your ability to speak Spanish should be at an intermediate level, and you can look forward to seeing dramatic improvements in your Spanish-language ability during your time on assignment.

Plan My Gap Year


There is a good reason why so many travelers choose Plan My Gap Year projects: this organization offers award-winning opportunities in 17 countries throughout Africa, South America, and Asia. Every aspect of these programs is meticulously planned to ensure participants have a safe, rewarding experience as they contribute to the communities they visit.

Plan My Gap Year has programs specifically tailored for individuals interested in developing the skills necessary for their chosen careers. Gain real-world experience in the following areas:

  1. Childcare
  2. Community Building
  3. English Language Instruction
  4. Medical and Healthcare
  5. Mental Health and Psychology

Those heading off for the business world often choose opportunities like these:

NGO Volunteers, Vietnam

Vietnam is a beautiful country with rich history. Unfortunately, many residents are in financial crisis. A variety of nonprofit organizations work to build communities through better health, a focus on human rights, and environmental conservation. Of course, such organizations are always limited by a lack of funding and staff. When you contribute your talents to these initiatives, it can mean the difference between a successful launch or a disappointing fizzle.

You can look forward to developing new skills and enhancing the ones you already have by working side-by-side with professionals who have experience addressing economic, environment, social, and educational issues in the developing world. Depending on your interests, you might find yourself doing anything from writing and editing critical communications to teaching English, updating websites, or creating cash management strategies.

Mental Health Volunteers in Sri Lanka

Work in healthcare? Then consider volunteering in Sri Lanka for mental health. The country suffers from a high suicide rate and has struggled to bring more focus to mental health. While volunteering, you’ll gain insights into the Sri Lankan health system and see the influence of Buddhism, Ayurveda, and culture in the country’s healthcare. As a volunteer, you’ll help overstretched hospitals and mental health professionals better serve patients. That assistance will make a big difference, and you’ll see your impact as facilities improve outcomes for patients.

So, are you ready to build new medical skills and knowledge and help people in need? The peaceful town of Ambalangoda awaits.

Love Volunteers

volunteer in Bosnia

When you get caught up in the routine of a 9 – 5 job, it can be hard to feel like you are making a difference. Love Volunteers designs programs that will get you out of that rut and into new experiences. Build your professional skills while creating measurable change in the world. With more than 194 separate projects in 12 distinct fields, you can pursue your career passions through travel and adventure.

Nutrition Volunteering Program, Argentina

In areas stricken by deep poverty, healthy food can be hard to come by. When you participate in this program, you will help by delivering nutritious meals to underprivileged children, in addition to supporting education efforts. Perhaps the most rewarding element of this project is helping families grow their own food, which will have a long-term impact on their overall health.

Community Development Program, Bosnia

Building strong relationships between diverse community members is the only way to achieve lasting peace. When you participate in this project, you make a direct contribution to eliminating prejudices. Join other volunteers from around the world in breaking down barriers between young people of differing backgrounds through art and education. This assignment has a minimum duration of four weeks, which ensures that you have enough time to build relationships of your own during your stay in Bosnia.

Projects Abroad

internship in China

Experiential learning isn’t a new idea. At its most basic, it is the principle that learning is more effective when paired with hands-on practice. Interning with Projects Abroad takes experiential learning to a whole new level, giving you the opportunity to put your existing skills to work while simultaneously developing new ones. Projects Abroad offers more than 133 internships across 22 countries, so you can gain expertise to prepare for your career or to break out of your current professional rut. These are the major areas of focus for Projects Abroad internships:

  1. Business
  2. International Development
  3. Journalism
  4. Law and Human Rights
  5. Medicine and Healthcare
  6. Micro-Finance
  7. Social Work
  8. Veterinary Medicine and Animal Care

Those with a particular interest in business, finance, communications, and similar fields often choose projects like these:

Business Internship, China

The Chinese economy is growing extraordinarily fast, and you can be a part of the action. You will choose an industry from options like consulting, finance, and technology, and you will be placed in a role where you can gain real-world job experience. In addition to learning skills important to your career, you will create cross-cultural connections and develop intimate knowledge of the challenges that face international businesses. This type of experience cannot be learned in a classroom, and you can be sure your resume will stand out when you apply for jobs back home.

Micro-Finance Internship, Senegal

In economically disadvantaged countries, a tiny business can offer a lifetime of financial security for entrepreneurs and their families. When you participate in the Senegalese Micro-Finance Internship, you will work directly with adults who have spent their lives on the city streets. Your responsibilities might include managing the micro-loans that get these small businesses off the ground, and you may have a chance to provide business advice and guidance to budding entrepreneurs.

Agape Volunteers


In 2009, the founders of Agape Volunteers created a nonprofit organization intended to match international interns and volunteers with opportunities to create change on the African continent. The group, made up of volunteers and Kenyan aid workers, started their work with several small programs in Kenya.

Today, Agape offers more than 20 distinct projects in the African countries of KenyaSouth AfricaGhana, and Tanzania. When you participate in a project, you will gain experience in your chosen profession, as well as build skills that will serve you throughout your career. Agape is particularly popular with those who wish to work in the following fields:

  1. Education
  2. Music Education
  3. Wildlife Conservation
  4. Sports Education
  5. Orphanages
  6. Medical Care

These are two examples of the projects currently available:

Maai Mahiu IDP Camp, Kenya

The disputed 2007 presidential election left a legacy of violence throughout Kenya, displacing thousands of families. Many have made their homes in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP). Agape works to create opportunities for the 700 families at the Maai Mahiu IDP Camp, contributing to education, medical care, and basic infrastructure like clean running water. If you choose this project, you will be assigned to the current area of focus. You may find yourself teaching, building homes, or creating a farm that will supply children with meat and dairy products.

Medical Volunteering, Tanzania

There is a need for medical students and medical professionals in every country where Agape has programming, and you can tailor your experience to fit your interests. The Medical Volunteering project in Tanzania is your chance to get hands-on experience in a clinic setting. Under the supervision of physicians, you may find yourself doing anything from prescribing and distributing medication to assisting women during labor and delivery.



The impact of climate change has transformed entire ecological systems, and GoEco is focused on protecting the natural world. Participating in one of these projects is your opportunity to make a direct contribution to the health and safety of wildlife and their habitats.

Of course, GoEco is about more than just wildlife – there are plenty of internships that allow you to work with people, as well. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that your efforts will have a positive impact, and you will return with professional references and new skills that will help you advance in your career.

The majority of GoEco’s projects are geared towards the following areas:

  1. Wildlife and Animal Conservation
  2. Marine and Coral Reef Conservation
  3. Medical and Healthcare
  4. Community Aid and Development
  5. Teaching English Abroad
  6. Volunteering with Children

Whether you prefer a western European placement, or you want to experience a more exotic destination, GoEco has an internship for you. These are just two of the options currently available:

Diving and Marine Conservation Expedition, Fiji

Whether you a novice diver or you have many hours of underwater experience, the marine life you will see off the coast of Fiji is unmatched anywhere in the world. Your job is to collect data through a series of dives that will assist researchers in developing effective conservation programming. In addition to hands-on experience in the area of marine conservation, you will improve your diving skills and return with your PADI Open Water and Coral Reef Researcher Distinctive Diver Specialty dive certifications.

Skills Development, South Africa

This aptly-named internship is specifically designed to boost the skills of community members in the areas of business, sports, and general healthy living. Depending on your background and existing skillset, you may find yourself leading HIV/AIDS awareness activities, teaching soccer clinics, or training local entrepreneurs in business and computers. While you work, you will enhance your own level of expertise, and you will gain valuable experience that is sure to differentiate you during your next job interview.

Intern Abroad HQ

career break trips

Whether you are just starting out in your chosen field or you need an extended break from the stress of your routine workday, Intern Abroad HQ has the solution. This organization offers international opportunities to develop new skills that will give you an instant career boost.

Programs are available in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Central America, and they span a range of professions:

  1. Animal Care
  2. Business and Economics
  3. Education and Child Care
  4. Engineering and Design
  5. Environment and Conservation
  6. Healthcare and Special Needs
  7. Law and Human Rights
  8. Management and Organization
  9. Marketing and Communications
  10. Sports and Physical Education
  11. Tourism and Hospitality

Some of the most popular internships focus on business and management skills, adding critical experience to participants’ resumes. With so many entry-level job descriptions insisting on at least a bit of history in the field, an international internship can be the factor that differentiates you from the competition. These are just a few of the projects you may wish to consider:

NGO Support, Guatemala

This internship is an exciting opportunity to develop skills for your career in Development, Social Business, Community Affairs, Monitoring & Evaluation, Marketing, Public & Media Relations, Foundation/Campaign Manager, Donor Relations, Human Resources, and/or International Relations.

During your time in Guatemala, you will assist an established nonprofit with improving the quality of life for community members. Your responsibilities will vary, and you could be tasked with anything from communications to donor relations. No matter how you spend your days, you can be sure that every moment will be unforgettable.

Business & Media Internship, Japan

Every student who has taken a course in management knows that many of today’s most fundamental management principles originated in Japanese companies. For example, the just-in-time manufacturing and continuous improvement models are based on methods developed by Toyota executives.

Instead of reading about Japanese business practices, why not see them first-hand? The Business & Media Internship in Japan offers an opportunity to do just that. Participate in a cross-cultural exchange of ideas while you contribute your talents and develop your skills with tasks related to social media marketing, blog writing, search engine optimization, market research, and sales support.

Start Up Entrepreneurship, South Africa

Learning what it takes to launch a startup is the best way to gain deep understanding of the inner workings of the business world. Whether you will return to an entry-level job in a large organization or you decide to sign on with a company that is just starting out, the skills you gain from your time in the Start Up Entrepreneurship internship will make you an invaluable asset to your team.

Work with leaders who are creating something from nothing in fields like green energy, finance, management, information technology, and social entrepreneurship. Your daily tasks may include anything from marketing and communications to developing a strong financial strategy, depending on your interests and where your strengths lie.

Final Thoughts

Every opportunity to enhance your skills and apply them in real-world settings will benefit your career, both in the short-term as well as the long-term. However, an international internship gives you a special edge. In addition to the hands-on experience you gain from any field placement you take on, you add a cross-cultural element that isn’t available at home.

No matter which project you choose, you are sure to come back with a deep understanding of the risks and challenges facing communities in other parts of the world. In today’s digital culture, people from every corner of the globe can connect in seconds, and an ability to effectively serve diverse populations is a must, no matter what profession you are in. The experience offered through international internships is invaluable to future employers, making you a top choice in a sea of otherwise unremarkable candidates.