In today’s highly competitive workforce and in the wake of a declining US economy, it is imperative for US students to be well-prepared to work for multi-national organizations. Participating in an IES Abroad internship allows students to distinguish themselves during the hiring process and it makes them a more desirable, experienced employee for any organization to hire. President and CEO of IEC, Mary Dwyer, recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions.
Have you seen any trends in internships abroad over the past five to ten years (popular locations or career interests)?
IES Abroad has noted an increasing interest in the number of students desiring internships abroad. In the 1950s only 2% of students studying abroad with IES Abroad were interested in internship opportunities. Today, on average 25-30% of students want internship opportunities with IES Abroad. However, in order to be more competitive in the US labor market, students want serious professional opportunities such as the opportunity to write a marketing plan or work on human rights issues. The most popular locations for internships are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London and Vienna. The career interests span the spectrum of business, finance, marketing, public service, social services, communication, museums, etc.
Please describe some of the benefits that students receive from doing an internship abroad.
The IES Abroad 50 Year Longitudinal Study showed that students who took internships through IES Abroad were more likely to excel in a foreign language, learn the culture, and establish a professional network. Most impressively, 52% of them reported that at some point in their careers they worked abroad. The benefits of an IES Abroad internship are apparent from the research results but in addition, they allow students to distinguish themselves in today’s highly competitive labor market in which new college graduates are struggling for employment. The reason IES Abroad internships benefit students in the workforce is because the internship placements provide students meaningful, important work experience that is marketable to future employers. Students are not office gophers spending their day at the copying machine. Additionally, unlike many internships abroad, IES Abroad’s worldwide internship program provides students with academic credit and a rigorous academic seminar from which students learn about international employment practices, laws and relevant issues, as well as, the unique work culture of the country in which they are studying.
Can you please provide 2 or 3 examples of internships abroad that are available to students.
Here are just a few examples of the hundreds of important work opportunities that students are performing in IES Abroad internships. Students are placed in schools to assist with teaching, in banks and businesses to assist with marketing plans, advertising campaigns, computer programming, accounting and other business activities, in human rights organizations and other not for profit organizations such as museums to assist with translating, acting as a tour guide and interviewing refugees, in clinics to assist with translation and interviewing patients, in newspapers to write news articles, at the BBC and CNN in London to assist with TV production, etc.
One student was placed in a UN organization in Rome to assist them in developing and maintaining a data base of international lawyers and judges to assist developing countries in changing their laws. After the tsunami this organization sent judges to the country to change the laws so that women could own property after their husbands had been killed by the tsunami. They also sent judges into Afghanistan to train local lawyers on how to act as judges. These opportunities and many more are available during the regular academic terms and during the summer.
If you had only one piece of advice for students looking to do an internship abroad what would it be?
The one piece of advice that I’d give students is to definitely enroll in an IES Abroad internship since they have been proven over a 58 year period to have significant, lasting impacts on their careers, use of foreign language and understanding of other cultures. However, regardless of how a student gets an internship opportunity abroad, they should NOT expect to be paid and they should try to get an internship that offers them meaningful work that they can leverage for future career opportunities.
Do you have statistics on how many students are actually hired for full-time positions after completing an internship abroad?
I wouldn’t know. The students go back to their home colleges in the US and pursue graduate education and jobs after graduating from a US college. Since the vast majority are returning to complete their undergraduate education, they would not be applying for jobs immediately after graduating from an IES Abroad program.
What percentage of students receive scholarships through IES to do an internship abroad?
IES Abroad is the largest provider of financial aid for students studying abroad awarding approximately $2 million in financial aid per year. We provide financial aid for 33% of our student body.
What percentage of students are accepted by IES to do internships in their country(s) of choice?
Nearly 100% of students who apply for an IES Abroad internship are accepted and placed in a serious, productive international work setting in the country in which they are studying with IES Abroad. However, they must be admitted to IES Abroad and we require a 3.0 college grade point average for admittance.