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How Interning Abroad Will Jumpstart Your Career

January 9, 2014

This is a guest post from our friends at International Relations Online, is an innovative, online Master of Arts in International Relations degree offered by the American University School of International Service (SIS). SIS is among the largest schools of international affairs in the world and is a top-ten ranked school of international affairs by Foreign Policy magazine.

By John Sinden, Jr

Internships are often a requirement in the international relations field. Without one, you may find yourself struggling to stand out among your competitors when it’s time to secure a job. If you want to jumpstart your career, it’s important to look for internships abroad, where you can gain real-world experience and skills that will help you in your career. Here are five reasons why you should intern abroad:

Gain Language Skills

The international relations field is a diverse and multi-cultural community of professionals and experts, so you’ll eventually work with people who don’t speak your native language. An internship abroad will give you an opportunity to learn a new language and ultimately expand the communication skills you have to offer. Many international internships include language classes, and a typical 3-month internship can give you ample time to practice a new language with locals.

Grow Your International Network

Living in a foreign country and working on projects in the local community will often lead to meaningful interactions with a wide range of individuals from NGO executives to local community leaders to international organization members. An internship abroad offers the invaluable opportunity to connect with others in the field and broaden your professional network. A large network is an important resource to have when it’s time to find job leads and get your foot in the door at domestic and international organizations.

Understand Other Cultures

An internship abroad means you’ll be working in a foreign office where the culture and customs are different than what you’re used to. You’ll have a better understanding of what proper etiquette is in different formal and informal situations—is a handshake the norm or is bowing more appropriate? Whether your internship is in China or the United Kingdom, you’ll gain cross-cultural skills that will shine on your resume and be incredibly helpful in forming relationships in the IR field.

Diversify Your Resume

To have a career in international relations, you need to demonstrate your skills and experience working in the field. Since most internships abroad will have you working in a small group, you’ll be able to wear different hats and gain practical skills, such as researching and writing skills and critical analysis skills. This work experience will make you a well-qualified job candidate in the competitive industry.

Find Job Opportunities

As an intern, you are considered part of the team, so your internship is the perfect opportunity to showcase your best work. Ultimately, an internship abroad will be what you make it, so it’s important to be punctual, observant, curious, and willing throughout your internship experience. Some tasks will be menial while others will really challenge you to think critically. Often times, the end of an internship opens the door to several other opportunities and can lead to a full-time job, so making a good impression is key.

With all of this in mind, it’s time to prepare and research internships that interest you. Create a calendar with application deadlines to ensure you don’t miss any opportunities. An internship abroad will help lead you in the right direction toward a successful career in international relations.

A Master of Arts in International Relations degree offers students a strong foundation in the field of international relations as well as the chance to gain specialized expertise through concentrations in Sustainable International Development and Global Security and Conflict Resolution. Learn more about International Relations Online.

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