Looking to grow personally and professionally with a global experience? Does your college or university offer credit for internships spent abroad?
Many higher education institutions have entire departments dedicated to expanding internship, research, and international travel opportunities for their students. Called “enhanced academic experiences,” most colleges encourage students to create unique educational portfolios with internships and study abroad trips.
But what can you do if your college doesn’t have one?
How can you start to research internships or global education experiences without professional help? Can you persuade your institution to accept your internship once you’ve found one that excites you? There are many hurdles in your path overseas, not the least of which could be your GPA, as Josh C., a liberal arts student studying at a small college in the Mid-Atlantic discovered.
Josh said his interest in internships was kindled, “… because I want to broaden my understanding of my place in the world. Sure, I can do that and have done that at my home university, but that will only ever get me so far. I wanted to have the network and connections from both universities. I began looking in an area that I wanted to travel to – Australia – and found a school with a structure very similar to that of my home university.”
With a grade point average, well, below average, Josh worried that his application to study abroad would not be taken seriously. He was slow to decide upon a major and hadn’t focused on maintaining excellent grades during his first two years at school. “My primary concern was that I was going to be immediately overlooked due to my GPA not being at the ‘recommended level.’ My GPA has definitely created obstacles. I was seen as not ready and not suitable enough to be able to take the challenge of studying abroad.”
Josh’s story is not unique. Many students at liberal arts schools are encouraged to explore the academic catalog and take classes that will broaden their education through experiential learning, and in the process, they don’t focus on maintaining a high GPA. He discovered that he enjoyed learning “soft skills,” including decision-making, leadership, creativity, and innovative thinking. He said he hopes that by studying abroad he will be able to, “… broaden my network and connections outside of that of my own university, and to experience learning in a different environment.”
Types Of Study Abroad Programs
If you’re considering a program away from your home university, start by reviewing the “Study Abroad” section of your college catalog or website. Often you’ll see headings such as:
- Semester Programs
- Language Immersion
- Summer Programs
- Faculty-Led Travel Courses
With the exception of faculty-led courses, you’ll be on your own, which means you’ll need a certain level of maturity and discipline to be successful while abroad.
Semester programs are popular because tuition grants and scholarships can often be used as direct tuition exchanges. That means if you’re enrolled full-time at a college, then all federal grants and loans you’re eligible for while studying there could be used for the study abroad experience during a semester program. Check with your college to see if it offers direct tuition exchange programs.
Summer programs are most often affiliated, which means some grants and scholarships are off the table. You should check with your college because sometimes funding can be used as long as it does not exceed the cost of attendance at the exchange institution or program. That doesn’t make them less desirable – in fact, summer internships abroad can be life-changing experiences that help you position yourself for a future career.
Language immersion programs allow you to embed yourself in a new culture, often living with a host family and speaking a foreign language all day. The concept is that you’ll learn faster by living and working in a locale where the language is spoken.
Faculty-led courses are often tied to a class at your college and the whim of the adventuring professor. On the upside, it gives you extensive experience in the field. Popular summer programs can be found in the Anthropology or Biology departments and can have you digging ancient sites with an archaeology crew in the Old World, or trekking through jungles of the New World as you research amphibian populations.
Finding The Funds To Intern Abroad
Finding funding to travel abroad can be daunting, but there are options. Your own college or university may offer scholarships for travel. The key is to start researching financial aid, scholarships, grants, and donations early. Start your search here on Volunteer Forever with fundraising and scholarships for intern programs abroad.
Also, look at all types of scholarships – not just study abroad funding. You may be eligible for special funding, including fellowships or scholarships offered by your school or a club to which you belong.
Other funding resources include StudyAbroad.com Scholarships, the Institute of International Education Study Abroad Funding, and the Fund for Education Abroad.
Alternative funding ideas include:
- Stretch your dollar by studying abroad in a country with a good exchange rate.
- Get “off the beaten path” and be willing to travel where you’re needed.
- Commit to longer stays. Grants and scholarships may be available for year-long internships and volunteer opportunities instead of a few weeks.
- Check out the travel agencies and deals offered by partner organizations. Many programs offer discounted rates, and some airlines offer student rates.
- Stay with a host family instead of in a hostel or dorm. You’ll have the added benefit of immersing yourself within the culture and it will help you learn a new language.
- Check with private and community organizations, including alumni, chambers of commerce, service organizations, and heritage organizations for a scholarship or grant.
- Ask local businesses about sponsoring your travel.
- Contact your friends and family who may be willing to help fund your experience.
Featured Intern Abroad Programs
Maximo Nivel is a locally-operated organization founded in 2003, offering international education, study abroad, internships, and volunteer travel in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Maximo Nivel connects with more than 4,000 people each year to high-quality, safe, and affordable opportunities abroad.
Whether you want to study abroad, take a gap year, get international work experience, or just be involved in life, language, and culture, Maximo Nivel has a program for you. Programs include Spanish Immersion, Volunteer Abroad, International Internships, TEFL Certification, Study Abroad, High School Abroad, and other great adventure and culture programs. Maximo Nivel’s programs are internationally accredited, and university credit is available for most.
Maximo Nivel works directly with many universities and can help you get credit for Spanish courses, if you complete a volunteer abroad program, or do an international internship. Maximo Nivel provides all the documentation needed to help you receive credit directly from your home institution. Programs are accredited by the Ministries of Education in Guatemala and Peru, and the organization is required to complete a re-accreditation process every three years. Through its School of Record, Maximo Nivel offers credit-bearing courses for Spanish, volunteer abroad, service learning, and international internships.
Maximo Nivel offers university programs in the fall semester, winter term, spring semester, and summer term. Students can study part-time or full-time and convenient, flexible courses enable students to earn credit without sacrificing other commitments. Earn between three and 12 credits with Service Learning, Internships, and Spanish Studies. Courses that earn you three to six credits include Medical Studies, Conservation, Science, and Interdisciplinary Studies. Some programs may even qualify to use financial aid. International internship options include:
Intern Abroad HQ
Intern Abroad HQ excels at internships that combine global networking with cultural exchange. Coursework includes guided reflection, personal development, and professional competency building. Weekly reflection modules encourage you to gain soft skills that build your resume and lead to a resilient career.
Programs are based on the experiential-learning framework and set individuals apart within a competitive workforce. Available year-round, internships in affordable destinations range from Ireland to South Africa, to Greece, to Bali and beyond. If you’re seeking practical experience, or want to enhance your career prospects, check out the diverse range of affordable internships below:
Plan My Gap Year
Plan My Gap Year is a respected organization that receives excellent reviews from its alumni. They work with communities in need around the world and empower volunteers to travel, understand, and make an impact. Founded in 2011, Plan My Gap Year sends more than 4,000 travelers overseas each year on safe and extraordinary adventures throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America.
Many travelers with Plan My Gap Year are not planning their gap year travel; they may be interested in internships or programs abroad that can be used as a university or college placement. Project staff is able to sign off on paperwork, and students can find work in the areas of medical, childcare, psychology, and nursing.
Faculty-led travel courses are popular because of one of the perks of booking an expedition means that teachers travel for free. Educational trips can be inclusive and customized, which alleviates the group from planning. With the all-inclusive, tailored trip, Plan My Gap Year can suit a variety of needs with all housing and meals included. Pre-departure training includes information for teachers, students, and parents, and an experienced U.K. team member will accompany the school group throughout their trip abroad. With financial protection through the Travel Trust Association, your money is 100% protected; the organization also is a member of Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL). Choose from the following programs to develop your own internship abroad:
- Childcare Volunteer Abroad Projects
- Community Volunteer Abroad Projects
- Duke of Edinburgh Overseas Residential Projects
- Teaching Volunteer Abroad Projects
- Medical Volunteer Abroad Projects
- Mental Health Volunteer Abroad Projects
- PMGY Encounter Volunteer Abroad Projects
- PMGY Experience Volunteer Projects
- Under 18 Volunteer Abroad Projects
- Wildlife Conservation Volunteer Projects
Projects Abroad, founded in 1992, offers global service opportunities that encourage mutual learning and cultural exchange. This organization has placed more than 100,000 people to work in 50 countries around the world. Choose an internship and augment it with a language course and a program for professionals that range from social, environmental, and economic projects.
Gain practical experience and learn directly from experienced, local professionals in under-resourced countries with an international internship with Projects Abroad. You’ll also get to share your ideas and contribute to the placement where you work. Discover what you’re capable of with short-term and long-term internship options. Whether you want to learn more about law and human rights or want to shadow doctors in a hospital, Projects Abroad can cater one of more than 125 projects to help you select the perfect internship.
Global Vision International
Global Vision International (GVI) offers award-winning, high-impact programs in the areas of community development and conservation around the world. Founded in 1997, GVI has placed more than 24,000 volunteers and interns on projects with local partners, as well as with international organizations such as Save the Children, The Red Cross, SANParks, and The Jane Goodall Institute. Its projects are designed toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, allowing volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to contribute to responsible programs.
GVI offers international internships in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Australasia that range from six to 24 weeks. Interns are provided with practical work experience that enhances their personal and professional development, as well as hands-on experience that impacts their future career. All internships with GVI are designed to contribute towards key global issues across a variety of fields. Internships also equip students with both soft and hard skills, including intercultural fluency and global citizenship.
Receive academic credit that contributes to your university or college qualification – GVI has worked with several noteworthy educational institutes such as Stanford University, Duke University, University of Oxford, New York University, Northeastern University, University of Brighton, University of Bath, University of East Anglia, Plymouth University, University of Oregon, University of Glasgow, Bournemouth University, and Cardiff University.
Complete a GVI internship that complements your classroom-based, theoretical learning, or as research for a thesis or dissertation project. All GVI internships include:
- An exclusive GVI Leadership Training Course
- All necessary field training and equipment
- Weekly one-on-one staff mentorship sessions
- A confidential professional recommendation on completion of your course
The Intern Group
The Intern Group designs international internships, giving participants a chance to explore new countries and develop global networks as they build their career. Founded in 2011, The Intern Group places more than 2,000 travelers abroad annually with programs in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The Intern Group provides access to development workshops and tools, professional career training, social and cultural events, quality housing, and 24/7 support.
As the world becomes more globalized and companies and organizations establish offices worldwide, knowing first-hand what your career field is like on a global scale can give you the boost you need for a successful future. An international internship with The Intern Groupgives you insight into how people live and where they work in a variety of countries.
If you are trying to learn or improve foreign language skills, interning will give you more exposure than what you are used to in the classroom. Experience a new language in the context of the workplace.
Many universities allow you to earn course credit or meet graduation requirements by completing an internship program, either by granting credit to you directly or by accepting transfer credit from another university. Usually, the simplest way is to earn credit from your own institution. If this is not an option for you, then Florida A&M University and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, both in the United States, act as a “school of record” for The Intern Group and grant credit to participants in our programs.
If you want to do more research into the different requirements regarding credit, The Intern Group provides a Five-Step Guide to give you an overview of the steps you should take.
Ready To Start Your Internship Abroad?
Most colleges and universities encourage their students to study abroad to enrich their 21st-century liberal arts education and to become global citizens. Begin by reviewing the criteria for travel study on your college’s website, or speak with an adviser about options that are available to you through your own school.
Remember that you’ll need to meet minimum criteria when it comes to conduct and grade point average, but even if you’re lagging behind the standard 2.5 GPA, strong recommendations from professors in your major can heavily influence your application. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Want to know more about student travel and internships abroad? Check out these articles:
Marine Conservation, Research and Biology Internships Abroad
Summer Volunteer Work Abroad Programs & Opportunities
Teen & High School Volunteer Abroad Programs | Under 18 Mission Trips
Robin Van Auken · Writer
Robin is a researcher, writer, and a registered professional archaeologist, a skillset she uses every day as a cultural communication specialist with Hands-on Heritage. Her projects connect communities with an emphasis on interpretation and education and conserve cultural and environmental legacies.