Benefits of Interning Abroad


Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Danielle Hemsley

Spending the Summer in Spain with an NGO

When Danielle Hemsley graduates this spring, she will have not just one, but two, internship experiences to put on her résumé—one of them in Spain. Last summer Hemsley spent eight weeks in Valencia working for Farmamundi, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO), in its Área Logistica Humanitaria (ALH), which is involved in international disaster relief efforts. Her work involved market research about English-speaking NGOs that might be potential customers.

"I reached out to various organizations, to build brand awareness of ALH," Hemsley says. Among the skills she developed and knowledge she gained, "I learned about business development. I strengthened my ability to conduct Internet research. I became more familiar with international companies and international websites. My Spanish improved. I learned about NGOs, and about Spanish and European culture. I learned how it feels to be far away from home in a place where you don't really speak the language. I now have an even greater appreciation for international students and immigrants in America. I also learned that I am more adventurous than I thought I was."

One thing she would change if she were to have such an opportunity again, Hemsley says, is to have better linguistic preparation. "If I had it to do over, I would go to Spain a few weeks before the internship began and take an immersion Spanish class. The communications barrier was one of the main challenges. I got creative in expressing myself through acting things out, and using my basic Spanish."

Hemsley plans to pursue a career in multicultural consumer insights marketing research. She believes that the experience she gained in her international internship will be invaluable. "It was a great opportunity to gain exposure to and learn more about Spanish culture and work practices. I was exposed to so much new cultural information, which will surely benefit my future career."

When asked what she would say to students considering an internship abroad, Hemsley says, "Do it! Be open-minded, and if you have opportunities to try new things, say yes, even if you're scared."

This is an excerpt of "The Global Marketplace and Internships Abroad," Adobe PDF which was published in the May/June 2013 issue of International Educator.