As I write this, I am standing at a big crossroad after graduating from university. I am deciding whether I should get a job in my home country, Malaysia, or go back to Japan to teach English full-time. While I was in my second year of university, I did an internship teaching English at a school and now they’re offering me a full-time job.
Both options sound equally attractive to me, to be honest. I must admit having the opportunity to teach in Japan is in unbelievable in all the best ways. No competitive applications or stressful interviews to go through, I simply have to choose whether to fill this spot. This opportunity has been one of the many benefits of an internship abroad.
How to utilise the benefits of an internship:
After coming back home, I can only recommend an international internship to every single person I know. My international internship added enormous value to my career path.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to leverage the benefits of their international internship experience. So, let’s go through some ways that I’ve used my internship abroad as a career asset, and how you can do the same!
1. Make your international internship experience clear in your CV
You heard it here first – hiring managers screen through CVs as quickly as you swipe left on dating apps. The high volume of applicants and CVs they receive means that they need to see something that catches their eye. One of the benefits of an internship abroad is that it is a great conversation starter and will help give you that edge.
Emphasised your internship in a strategic way. The heading should look like this: “Title (Intern) – Company, City, Country”. When describing what you did in that internship, mention the tasks you completed. Doing so shows your global perspective and, of course, any achievements that you may have had while working abroad.
Keep it concise, and even if your CV doesn’t look the snazziest of all, you know you’ll have them hooked.
2. Keep a solid network
When working abroad, you are sure to meet like-minded and strong-willed individuals from all over the world. Diversity is one of the strongest benefits of an internship in London, New York or Singapore.
However, these people are not just your buddies hanging out in a different country. In fact, you should start thinking long-term about the value of this diverse network.
Because I built a good rapport with my supervisor while there and maintained contact even after I left Japan. They no longer think of me as that Malaysian intern from back then, but as someone who has professionally developed beyond that role over time.
Keep a solid network of people – perhaps one or two who can mentor you, and others of different nationalities who can offer you insights about their country’s needs and potential roles you can fill.
3. Learn an additional language (and about its culture)
One of the skills that employers highly favour is fluency in a foreign language. Why? Many companies today deal with overseas clients, buyers, and suppliers. So, having someone on the team who can speak their language not only removes communication barriers but elevates the company’s cultural standing. One of the benefits of interning abroad is that you could pick up an additional language, and since language communicates culture, that means you’ll also have knowledge of another culture.
Let me give you an example: imagine that after having done an internship in Singapore, you pick up an interesting mix of Singaporean-English (Singlish). X Company seeks to localise their advertising to appeal to a Singaporean audience. Put 2 and 2 together – that’s you: you can fill that gap.
You can also legitimize your foreign language proficiency and challenge yourself by taking an exam for a professional language certificate.
4. Try getting experience in a working environment in a different country
Some may not see this as a direct benefit of an international internship, but I strongly believe that you don’t learn just the direct responsibilities you have at work. You can learn plenty from the working environment you are in, and this includes company culture, norms, and professional relationships. In Japan, for example, I’ve learnt to navigate these norms by exchanging the greeting, “You’ve done a great job today!” with every colleague I meet on my way out at the end of the day.
Experiencing working environments in a foreign country sets you apart from other employees, and you can leverage this experience by making useful suggestions to your new company, or by adopting those admirable work ethics in your own capacity. With that said, the further away your experience was, the better. For example, if you’re from London, you might reap a greater benefit by doing an internship in Singapore, rather than in a neighbouring country.
5. Develop yourself professionally and personally
Professional development isn’t exactly a quantifiable skill. Nobody can look at you and be able to describe your professionalism on a scale of 1 to 10. Rather, being professional can earn you a better reputation amongst your professors, colleagues, or peers. This will lead to more respect, higher levels of trust, open doors to leadership roles, and potentially a stronger stance in negotiations.
Since my internship abroad, I have really come out of my shell, and become more certain and confident in the things I say. Likewise, you will learn, through experience, how to negotiate tough situations, how to interact with people professionally, and how to carry yourself in the workplace.
I guarantee that your international experience will widen your horizon and general knowledge, and help you develop a global perspective about almost every issue you can think of.
An international internship will be what you make of it
Just an exploratory time abroad, or a goldmine of assets to add to your career. Don’t just let the time pass you by, but be smart about what you do with your internship experience. My internship abroad has opened up many doors for me, and I know it will for you too, if you put these steps into practice.
You might still be wondering if you should go abroad for your next internship, but if you have read this far, then I think we both know the answer. There are so many benefits of an internship abroad waiting for you. Explore the international internship programs we can set up for you, or say hello to us to begin!
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