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Leadership Development Abroad: Volunteer & Professional Internships

Robin Van Auken | Hands-on Heritage
Written By
By Robin Van Auken

Rise to your potential with an internship that helps you polish your management style and become a professional leader.

Leadership is a skill – it’s not a personality trait someone is born with. You can learn how to become a successful leader by improving your ability to communicate well, make better decisions, manage conflict, motivate others, and build a great team.

Leading is about collaborating effectively with others and making them feel confident and safe following you – with their heads and their hearts.

Leading teams and organizations can be a challenge, but it’s also a challenge to find the path to becoming a leader. With an international internship, you’ll gain hands-on experience working and engaging with others to achieve collective goals. You’ll become more mature and confident as you take on more responsibilities.

But it’s not enough to have the information about how to be a better leader. It’s not enough to be motivated to act. You need both.

Expand your horizons and start on your career path through global networking and cultural exchange through an internship with Maximo Nivel. A trusted international organization like this can place you on an internship that lets you work as an advocate for others, contributing to change that improves the community while you gain hands-on experience.

Or build your leadership skills and your network with Intern Abroad HQ, a flexible option with multiple start dates available every month and durations that can be as short as two weeks. The short stays are great for introductory experiences.

If you’re committed to staying abroad longer, but concerned about adjusting to life in a new country like Spain or Japan, The Intern Group partners with Talkspace to provide all its participants with anonymous access to a licensed online therapist for up to three months. Talking with someone about your worries is great stress relief. And if you’re interested in combining a trip abroad, and immersing yourself in the culture and commerce of another country, take a look at the opportunities offered by Plan My Gap Year.

If you’re already working toward a career, either in business or health care, consider an internship that places you in a developing country with African Impact. The experience of working with people whose lives are greatly influenced by your help can be doubly rewarding.

Anyone can develop the skills of leadership, but it requires commitment and practice. Embrace the challenge and take your career as far as it can go by choosing one a leadership development internship abroad.

Featured Internships Abroad

Maximo Nivel


Maximo Nivel offers study abroad, intern abroad, volunteer abroad, and many other travel opportunities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Founded in 2003, this family-owned and locally-operated organization places more than 4,000 people each year on educational and meaningful programs. Maximo Nivel provides high-quality, safe, and affordable experiences for students, volunteers, and travelers, whether they are solo adventurers, high school or university students, young adult groups, retirees, and even families.

Micro Business Internships in Latin America

Maximo Nivel offers several micro business internships that can help you develop your professional leadership skills. As an intern, you’ll get exposure to business practices in the developing world, gain real-world experience, increase your knowledge of vocabulary in Spanish, and improve your ability to communicate with Spanish-speaking clients and colleagues.

On this internship, you can build a global, professional foundation. Choose from programs that invite you to help local companies launch marketing campaigns, optimize business processes, and learn how to serve international clients. You must have intermediate Spanish skills and be at least studying for a bachelor’s degree in communications, business, economics, or a related field. Locations include San Jose, Costa Rica (from $1,925 for four weeks), Antigua, Guatemala (from $1,495 for four weeks), and Cusco, Peru (from $1,525 for four weeks). Click here to apply!

Intern Abroad HQ


With extremely affordable international internships, Intern Abroad HQ offers diverse placements throughout Central America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. With a focus on experiential learning and community engagement, interns gain hands-on experience while gaining relevant skills for a successful career.

Whether you’re passionate about business, health, conservation, law, education, engineering, or economics, Intern Abroad HQ offers flexible, entry-level opportunities for personal and professional development year-round. Internships include a resume-boosting reflection program to build skills that are universally transferable across employment settings. Intern Abroad HQ is brought to you by International Volunteer HQ, a leading volunteer travel organization that has supported nearly 100,000 volunteers since 2007.

Communications & Management Internship in Italy

Curious about a career in high-level management and organization, but not sure where to begin? Take a look at Intern Abroad HQ’s Marketing & Communication internship in Rome, Italy. Depending upon your language skills, stay four weeks or longer in the marketing and communication department of a graphic design agency. Tasks focus on social media marketing and digital communications, so an understanding of these mediums is required. Some activities include social media editing and website maintenance, research, data analysis, reporting, graphic design, marketing campaigns, client meetings, conducting competitor research, and more. You should have a beginner level of the Italian language, and at least one year of relevant college study in a related field. Fees start at $3,227 – learn more here!

Start Up Entrepreneurship Internship in Cape Town

Here’s a great internship for young entrepreneurs eager to gain insight into how new ventures are started: this internship in Cape Town, South Africa provides you with valuable insight into innovation-oriented companies, and entrepreneurial social ventures. Placements are in the private sector, with some NGO placements available that focus on developing education and financial independence for women and young people. Opportunities range from finance, green energy, information technology, management, and social entrepreneurship. An open mind and commitment to learning are essential. Stay for two weeks or longer with fees starting at $920. Read about it here!

Plan My Gap Year


Plan My Gap Year is a respected organization that receives great reviews from past volunteers, works with communities in need around the world and empowers 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.

Travel, Volunteer, Learn Around the World!

Immerse yourself in the culture and commerce of another country with Plan My Gap Year, traveling the world and volunteering on amazing projects from six weeks to 40 weeks! Imagine the life-changing experiences you can have when you visit Africa, Asia, and South America on a Round-the-World Trip.

Tailor-made trips are the perfect way to volunteer and travel across a range of countries in one or more continents – and Plan My Gap Year organizes everything for you, so all you have to do is enjoy and learn. If you’d like to use this program for your college application or even for coursework, project staff can coordinate and oversee requirements and paperwork required by your course instructors. Plan My Gap Year regularly works with students and has ties with some of the leading universities. Choose from the following trips:

  1. Real Africa Encounter: $1,575 for six to 12 weeks in Ghana and Tanzania
  2. Real Asia Encounter: $1,485 for six to 12 weeks in Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka
  3. Real South America Encounter: $1,725 for six to 12 weeks in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru
  4. Real South East Asia Encounter: $1,575 for six to 12 weeks in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bali
  5. Real Taster Encounter: $1,485 for six to 12 weeks in India, Sri Lanka, and Bali
  6. Ultimate Round the World Encounter: $5,775 for 20-40 weeks – takes you to 10 spectacular destinations



GVI is an award-winning company that focuses on high-impact and high-quality conservation and community development programs. 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 projects.

Community Development Expedition in Fiji

When you choose this internship with GVI you can assist with strategies to protect the environment for the benefit of future generations of a coastal village in Fiji. This district is not impacted by tourism and there are few sources of income for its residents. You’ll work on key infrastructure construction projects, setting up income-generating community-based initiatives, and help to develop studies that inform important environmental management decisions by the local authorities. The program’s goals are to assist villagers to adapt their livelihoods in response to environmental and social change. Fees start at $2,495 for two weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks. Learn more and apply here!

Wildlife Research in South Africa

Here’s an excellent opportunity for students who love animals and would like a conservation internship that places alongside large predators! Live and work alongside Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGASA) qualified guides, growing professionally by learning from their experiences on GVI’s Wildlife Research in South Africa program.

Travel to a Big Five game reserve to work alongside a local wildlife research team to learn how they track animals, study their behavior, and research the habits of some of the world’s most exotic animals. Volunteer with your team to track wildlife, conduct research, help with data entry, and even help with community education initiatives focusing on conservation. In your free time, visit the famous Kruger National Park, only an hour away from where the GVI base is located, or visit the nearby Drakensberg Mountains where awe-inspiring vistas are afforded over the Blyde River Canyon. This trip lasts two weeks, with stays up to three months, and fees starting at $2,745. Learn more and apply here!

The Intern Group

Tokyo olympics volunteer alternative

The Intern Group creates customized international internship placements for students to explore amazing places and develop professional networks. Founded in 2011, the Intern Group coordinates programs in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Its full-time local teams are in-country to ensure a global experience is safe and rewarding. Academic credit assistance is available. In addition to professional internships and visa assistance, the Intern Group provides access to development workshops and tools, professional career training, social and cultural events, quality housing, and 24/7 support.

Corporate Internship in Tokyo, Japan

Here’s a corporate leadership internship that gives you comprehensive professional development with cultural immersion in Tokyo, one of the most important cities in Asia and the industrial hub of Japan. A corporate program lets you excel in the fields of commerce, finance, engineering, communications, and innovation. On the Japan internship program, you’ll have the chance to gain vital professional experience and industry exposure on a global level. Accommodation, advanced professional training, cultural and social events, and 24/7 local support are all included. Cultural events on this internship include a day trip to Mount Fuji, a visit to the Tokyo Tower, a tour of the Tsukiji market and a Sushi workshop, and a Japanese food tasting. Fees for this program start at $5,138 for six weeks. Stay up to six months and add language lessons to your internship. Read more here and apply today!

Government and Politics Internship in Spain

An internship in government and politics in Madrid can teach you how to influence others and affect policy. Conduct research for a leading political party, and help direct change to benefit the wellbeing of the planet. Work with professionals in partner organizations that will take your knowledge beyond the classroom and learn the skills necessary to excel in your future career. Your internship in Barcelona includes a spectacular night tour of Antoni Gaudi’s La Pedrera, a multi-sensory, multimedia event. You’ll also enjoy a day trip to the Dali Museum in medieval Girona. Program fees start at $4,608 for six weeks, with stays up to six months. Learn more here and start your application today.

African Impact


African Impact offers internships in 12 countries throughout Africa. Founded in 2004, African Impact has placed nearly 13,000 people on award-winning humanitarian projects. African Impact builds its programs in the community holistically, partnering with governments to maximize the power of volunteering and to create global citizens. Permanent teams onsite ensure you’ll have safe adventures and make lifelong friends.

Social Development & Entrepreneurship Internship

Join African Impact in South Africa, in the Greater Kruger Area, to support and incubate local entrepreneurs, helping them learn and ultimately establish small- to medium-sized businesses. In the process, you’ll gain valuable leadership skills you need to do the same for yourself – and others – when you return to your home country. You can change the lives of others when you create a culture of entrepreneurship that stimulates economic growth and development. This leads to job growth and improves the standard of living. You’ll get to know, understand, and gain an appreciation of the African business landscape and the complexities faced by local entrepreneurs, and work side-by-side with community members in the Innovative Farmers of the Future initiative. On your internship, you’ll be paired with a personal development coach and academic trainer to acquire and develop new skills and gain a practical business education. Duration is four to 12 weeks with fees starting at $3,195. Sign up here!

Public Health Internship, Zambia

Improve your ability to lead others as a professional healthcare provider when you commit to an impactful public health internship in Zambia. This important program helps to improve access to, and quality of, healthcare. You’ll gain practical work experience as you assist in innovative public healthcare practices and research in low-income areas. Collaborate with healthcare workers, professionals, and NGOs and acquire an in-depth view of current health challenges and address issues including mental health, general nutrition, physical health, and other topics tailored according to age, gender, and income bracket. Program fees start at $2,345. Read more here.

Ready To Travel?

Leadership is about working with other people and learning grace from your successes and failures. An internship abroad will put you into situations that leaders encounter every day, and give you a chance to assess your own leadership tendencies and to improve them. They say even the longest journey begins with a single step. Take a look at the internships here that put you on the path to effective leadership, and get ready to take your first step.

“Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”- Reed Markham