Academic Frameworks for Internships and Service Programs


A resource based on the Collegial Conversation held on August 25, 2016

Academic frameworks refers to curricular and co-curricular mechanisms that help to structure, facilitate, and assess the learning that takes place through experiential education. This collegial conversation looked at the types of academic frameworks that are in place for international internships and service-learning programs; reviewed existing resources and models; and identified next steps in creating greater consistency and standardization for these types of international education experiences.

The panelists for this Collegial Conversation were Kate Moore EdD from the Academic Internship Council (AIC), Jennifer Evanuik Baird from Georgia Institute of Technology, and Carin Usrey from Marymount University. Learn more and read the full transcript.

Major Topics of Discussion

Learning Goals
The learning goals should be distinct from domestic internship and domestic service learning experience goals. Desired learning outcomes will dictate the model of whether a service learning or internship experience would better serve students.

  • Interpersonal/Intercultural
  • Academic/Discipline specific
  • Professional

Assessment tools examples:

  • Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)
  • reflect upon their personal and professional growth (self-assessment)
  • Feedback on student performance and engagement from a supervisor or faculty member 

Academic Frameworks

  • Co-curricular (no credit) with access to online resources
  • Workshops or coursework on campus before and after the experience
  • Online coursework alongside the experience
  • Independent study with faculty on campus
  • Local tutor or coach to meet individually during internship
  • Assimilation into a local class that may be tangentially related to the experience
  • On-site local course developed specifically for the program

Considerations for institutions include: individual or cohort-based; on-campus or local; online or in person; and existing or customized.

Key factors that influence how to assess which academic frameworks are best for a specific program:

  • Country where experience is taking place: local regulations, work culture, language requirements, labor market trends, and cross-cultural context.
  • Curriculum to which the experience will be linked: timing within coursework, whether academic credit can be applied to major/minor, and impact on degree completion.
  • Cost of student undertaking the program: length of time in country; access to financial aid; availability of funding to support, and any additional fees or tuition required.

Internship Contracts
Ideally between student and work site (not university and work site). Tips: work with legal counsel; include non-negotiable language, shift the language on the contract to say that the home school "acknowledges" the terms rather than having school be a named party; and use contract addendums for home school role.

Vetting International Internships

  • Ask for detailed offer letters with the tasks, supervisor, hours, expectations, etc.  
  • Require a learning contract with the employer 

Tips for Creating Direct Relationships for Internships

  • Find out what companies are already engaging with your university 
  • Look at local companies that have a global presence 
  • Consulate and Chambers of Commerce from other countries in vicinity of home school 
  • Alumni living abroad 

Trends in Experiential Learning

  • Increased demand for more formal programs around experiential learning 
  • Development of university Departments of Experiential Learning, Applied Learning, etc. that cut across and allow collaboration across campuses 
  • Increase in the requirement for graduation of some sort of experiential learning component 

Best Practices

  • Usually if the student is receiving academic credit for the internship, they cannot be paid (every country has different standards)
  • Implementing standard forms / vetting process across campus for all faculty led programs
  • Using examples from other, non-related academic areas
  • For overcoming isolation from individual internship abroad: alumni networks, online components that link students globally, getting involved in the local expat community through networking / informational interviewing assignments, linking up with local universities and their students, etc.

Identified Gaps in Resources

  • Courses or related programming that:
    • ties the internship experience to the student’s academic discipline
    • addresses how students can take ownership of their own learning during experience
  • Lack of learning outcomes and associated assessment instruments that focus specifically on overseas internships
  • Limited academic research on the topic in general
  • More resources on programming that can run alongside internships to help facilitate the experience for students
  • Need for clearer articulation of the value proposition to students. Why do an international internship over a domestic one or even a study abroad experience? Example: Marymount University has video footage of student responses to share with prospective students


Education Abroad Knowledge Community’s (EA KC) Subcommittee on Work, Internships, Volunteer and Research Abroad (WIVRA)

WIVRA Advising Document for Students

WIVRA NAFSA Website Resource Page

Nolting, W., Donohue, D., Matherly, C. & Tillman, M. (2013). Internships, Service Learning, and Volunteering Abroad: Successful Models and Best Practices. Washington, DC: NAFSA.

Career Integration with Study Abroad: University of Minnesota

CAS: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education

Forum on Education Abroad Guidelines for Credit and Non-Credit Volunteer, Internship Experience and Work  (VIEW) Programs Abroad (2013).

Global Internship Conference

NACE: National Association of Colleges and Employers

NCDA: National Career Development Association