Our recent guest speaker M.Vivian shared her insight on international internships and her role working working with students, companies and institutions. Reading further on this, the articles I found speak of many of the benefits we have covered when discussing the internationalization of higher education this semester. But there is the issue of the high cost of the international summer internships and the disparity in access. The article The Impact of International Internships and Short-Term Immersion Programs looks into the international internships at Middlebury College. Many of the internships are with international non-profits and NGO’s. Middlebury admin note that internships provide real-world experience, and the real-world involves the challenge of cross cultural adaptation. The University of Pennsylvania has an extensive international internship program that focuses on non-profits and start-ups. They active encourage students to seek opportunities that are outside of western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and those selected receive awards that can cover up to 75% of expenses.
A look at third party internship providers shows why the concept of interning abroad can be controversial. In the aptly titled articles Internships Abroad: Unpaid, with a $10,000 Price Tag, and Foreign Interns Head to China, the New York Times covers the rising demand for international internship and the students (and families) who are willing to pay high sums for the experience. Many of the students profiles in the Times articles were business, marketing and finance majors, they spoke of the competitiveness in the job market and the belief that international experience would make them stand out. The high-priced unpaid internships are viewed as an investment, with the return on investment being post-graduation employment.
There is the issue of inequality- the wealthier students who can afford these experiences will have an advantage in the job market. Which is probably true. But is it anymore of a disparity than the student who can afford a degree from NYU vs the student with a degree from a local public university? I believe that the broader scale benefits we have discussed on the topic of internationalizing higher ed apply just as much to internships. And while the number of interns seeking financial firms is probably greater than those seeking NGO’s, either position has the potential to contribute to greater cross-cultural awareness among college graduates and if they have the opportunity and the means to experience a summer interning abroad, institutions should support it.
Resources: Internships Abroad: Unpaid, with a $10,000 Price Tag http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/education/edlife/the-10000-unpaid-global-internship.html
Foreign Interns Head to China: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/world/asia/foreign-students-seek-internships-in-china.html
UPenn International Internship Program: https://global.upenn.edu/iip
The Impact of International Internships and Short-Term Immersion Programs : Retrieved from: http://remote.baruch.cuny.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=96312003&site=ehost-live