Take your business degree to the next level and learn how the economy of a foreign country evolves with an internship in International Development. Or, focus on education policies, governance, conservation, science, health, gender equality, or more with a broader internship that allows you to explore ways to improve living conditions, alleviate poverty, and stimulate economic growth.
The concept of International Development is so broad that nearly any topic you study is relevant because what it measures is how a community or country changes through time. Hopefully, that change is positive globalization and the establishment of free trade policies between developed and underdeveloped nations.
As an international development intern abroad, your goal is to help people enjoy freedom from poverty, hunger, and insecurity.
An internship in international development would build upon both the Millennium Development Goals, established by the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals, a new agenda that calls upon all countries to act in solidarity to transform our world by the year 2030.
New goals focus on climate change, economic inequality, democracy, poverty, and peacebuilding.
To accomplish these goals, international aid is needed – not just disaster relief or humanitarian aid. The difference between these types of aid is the emphasis on long-term, internal solutions – ones that help a developing country devise solutions for its own problems.
“A truly sustainable development project is one which will be able to carry on indefinitely with no further international involvement or support, whether it be financial or otherwise.”
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What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
There are 17 interconnected goals that serve as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone. These global challenges that must be accomplished by 2030 are:
- NO POVERTY – Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
- ZERO HUNGER – The food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for development and is central for hunger and poverty eradication.
- GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING – Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all at all ages is essential to sustainable development.
- QUALITY EDUCATION – Obtaining a quality education is a foundation for improving people’s lives and sustainable development.
- GENDER EQUALITY – Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
- CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION – Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in.
- AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY – Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity.
- DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH – Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create conditions that allow people to have quality jobs.
- INDUSTRY, INNOVATION, AND INFRASTRUCTURE – Investments in infrastructure are crucial to achieving sustainable development.
- REDUCED INEQUALITIES – To reduce inequalities, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.
- SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES – There needs to be a future in which cities provide opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.
- RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION – Sustainable consumption and production are about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all.
- CLIMATE ACTION – Climate change is a global challenge that affects everyone, everywhere.
- LIFE BELOW WATER – Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
- LIFE ON LAND – Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
- PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS – Access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.
- PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS – Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
How will the world know it has accomplished these goals, especially since we only have a decade to complete them? And who decides if an underdeveloped country is on its way to becoming developed, or if it’s even necessary or desirable to move in that direction? To help answer these questions, the United Nations has created a protocol for interpreting the “human development index.” A country scores a higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, and GNI (PPP) per capita is higher. There are many different measures of human development, but some of them are:
- National GDP
- Literacy rates
- Life expectancy
- Human Development Index
- Gini coefficient
- Human Security Index
- Per capita income
- Maternal survival rate
- HIV infection rates
- Number of doctors per capita
How Can You Help?
If you’re a student or a recent graduate, and you’re seeking the hands-on professional experience that will launch your career, you can add an international development internship to your resume in as little as two weeks. Many volunteers ask what they can accomplish in such a short time, but the fact is your contribution adds to the ongoing work of thousands of other like-minded people who are helping to improve the world each day.
International development internships include placements in medicine and health care, childcare and education, wildlife and marine conservation, micro business, agriculture, engineering, science and technology, law and public relations, media and journalism, government and politics, and hospitality and tourism.
The partners featured in this article work with NGOs and grassroots community development organizations to address important sustainability issues such as access to clean water, education, gender equity, health care, agriculture, and more. Explore the possibilities!
Featured International Development Internships Abroad
Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel offers international education, study abroad, internships, and volunteer travel opportunities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. This organization works with more than 4,000 people each year to deliver high-quality, safe, and affordable trips to Latin America. Check out Maximo Nivel’s international internships in the following areas:
- Special Education
- Micro Business
- Hospitality & Tourism
- Human Rights
Maximo Nivel also offers customized internships and can help you explore your specific internship goals and interests in a unique way. Intermediate Spanish speaking skills are required, though you can prep for your trip through the organization’s online Spanish classes or its Native Spanish program to bring your skills up to the appropriate level.
Intern Abroad HQ connects students and young professionals to flexible and affordable internships around the world. This organization invites you to launch your career through global networking and cultural exchange, with coursework that includes guided reflection that combines personal development with professional competency building. Internships include weekly reflections based on an experiential learning curriculum. Weekly reflection modules encourage you to gain soft skills that build your resume and lead to a resilient career. Dive in to a range of internships, including:
- Animal Care
Programs are available year-round, with affordable destinations ranging from Ireland, to South Africa, to Greece, to Bali and beyond. Learn more and sign up here!
Plan My Gap Year works with communities in need around the world and empowers interns and volunteers to travel 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.
Design your own international internship with Plan My Gap Year and help to improve the lives of others. Plan My Gap Year is a Duke Of Edinburgh activity provider, allowing you to complete your residential section on overseas volunteer experience. They also work with the insurance company Endsleigh to offer an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy for volunteers. This optional policy ensures volunteers for all their travel essentials. Choose from the following programs to create your internship:
- Duke of Edinburgh Overseas Residential Projects
- Mental Health
- Wildlife Conservation
Many travelers who sign up here are planning their gap year travel, but some people are 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. Click here to learn more and to register!
Projects Abroad, founded in 1992, offers global service opportunities that encourage mutual learning and cultural exchange. It has placed more than 120,000 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 on an International Development Internship working with NGOs in South Africa, Vietnam, or Mexico. Help communities prepare and cope with the Disaster Management Internship in Jamaica. Your work with these NGOs could include creating campaigns, educating local communities, and facilitating existing projects as you learn about global development challenges and the work needed to overcome them.
Projects Abroad lists hundreds of programs that give you the skills and exposure in underdeveloped countries, helping you gain a deeper understanding of the world and the complex processes involved in supporting people to grow and prosper.
Agape Volunteers specializes in volunteering, community development and conservation, and adventure travel throughout Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, and South Africa. Agape’s low-cost programs range from medical volunteering, teaching at public schools, coaching in sports and music, HIV prevention and outreach, and working with wildlife and conservation. Agape Volunteers is one of the most affordable options if you want to volunteer or intern in Africa. The Agape Travel Policy is provided at no extra cost, and there are no registration or administration fees charged to travelers.
Create your own international development internship and support refugees in Kenya with Agape Volunteers. You’ll administer sustainable aid to more than 700 families living in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, established in 2012 by Agape Volunteers and its partner Marifiki. Volunteers provide food deliveries, help to construct fresh water supplies, and lend a hand constructing buildings, including houses. The organization also founded and supports a school at the camp, called the Southern Cross Academy. Your role as an international volunteer in Kenya with Agape Volunteers is to spend time at the IDP, offering assistance with medical outreach work, distributing supplies, or helping with the building and maintenance of ongoing construction projects. Learn more and get started here.
The Intern Group designs international internships, giving participants a chance to explore new countries and develop global networks as they build their career. Nearly 90 percent of the participants with the Intern Group find graduate level employment within three months of completing their international internship. This organization provides access to development workshops and tools, professional career training, social and cultural events, quality housing, and 24/7 support.
With destinations in world capitals, top cities, and important countries, the Intern Group can design an experience for you in the following destinations: the United Kingdom (London, Dublin), Madrid, Barcelona, Colombia, Chile, Shanghai, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Australia, as well as the United States and Canada (New York, Chicago, California, Toronto). The Intern Group works with a variety of companies and organizations to best suit its participants’ needs, based on career interests and academic or professional backgrounds. The Intern Group partners with some of the most prestigious organizations in the world, through to small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurial startups.
African Impact’s sustainable programs are impactful and make a positive, long-term difference in the lives of the people and wildlife they help. Founded in 2004, African Impact has placed more than 13,000 people on its award-winning humanitarian projects. Volunteers make life-changing memories while contributing to responsible community and conservation projects.
Nothing beats hands-on experience, which is what you’ll receive when you intern with African Impact’s own foundation. A registered charity, African Impact works with interns at the grassroots level to effect change. This internship can be customized to your skills and interests while providing you with the time and space to learn about African cultures as you build your resume. You’ll be responsible for managing the charity’s projects, which vary depending upon location. The internship program is a great opportunity to gain valuable experience while immersing yourself in a different culture in one of these beautiful locations:
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Zululand, South Africa
- Greater Kruger Area, South Africa
- Livingstone Zambia
- Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
As an intern, you’ll work at the African Impact base, helping the project manager with community partnerships and relations. This internship makes you accountable as you learn how to manage donations and supervise the implementation of all funds. Learn more here!
Ready to Travel?
Regardless of your background or your major, there are internships that work towards sustainable international development, and we’ve gathered up a list of top-tier programs for you to consider. Each one of the featured volunteer abroad partners showcased above can place you on a successful international internship, and many can work with your current college or university if you’re seeking credit for your placement. What are you waiting for? Start your internship application today!
Want to know more about international development programs? Check out these articles:
Volunteering Abroad for Refugee Relief
HIV/AIDS Volunteer Abroad Programs
Community Development Volunteer Projects and Programs
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.