Source: The Chronicle Of Higher Education
By Cindy Chalou and Charles Gliozzo
College graduates need an international perspective to be competitive in today’s job market. Many will have to negotiate foreign cultures whether they work in the United States or abroad. As part of this continuing change, international college internships should now be viewed as steppingstones to career success.
Even though relatively few American students go on internships abroad, the number increased 133 percent from the 2003-4 to the 2008-9 academic years, according to the latest figures from the Institute of International Education, which looked at students who received credit for such programs.
Several trends have fueled the growth in international internships over the past decade. For one thing, more students and graduates are pursuing opportunities in Asia, given the weak economy in the United States.
In addition, international internships are increasingly becoming integrated with college service-learning programs. Student interns now work abroad in hospitals, orphanages, clinics, and schools. One Michigan State University student interned with Mumbai Magic Bus, a charity in India that mentors impoverished youth. Her experience assisted her in later working with a similar American nonprofit.
Yet while international internships can be valuable for students, it can be difficult for a college to carve out the time and personnel needed to manage them. The tasks include:
- Developing a meaningful academic experience that provides a cross-cultural education and differentiates an international internship from a domestic one.
- Creating opportunities that challenge students on academic, professional, social, and cultural levels.
- Establishing true partnerships that include adequate student commitment and universitywide engagement.
- Ensuring professional placements that match students’ interests and have on-site supervision that lends academic credibility and quality control to the experience.
At Michigan State, we have worked on developing and refining our international-internship offerings. After 15 years of development, we now place about 135 students at internships, in 18 countries, each year.
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