The Quest for the International Internship

Internships.

For students, they are almost essential to complete in order to get a leg up on the competition for jobs and opportunities after graduation. 

For both of my majors, journalism and global studies, internships are a required component of our degree programs. I’m both thankful and also frustrated by that requirement as getting an internship is an arduous, time consuming process.

This semester, I’m completing my journalism internship by working as a communications intern in the development department at the International Rescue Committee in Phoenix. I absolutely love this job because it combines my passion for writing and nonprofit work. I know that what my contributions are benefiting an incredible organization that helps refugees achieve self-sufficiency in their new homes. I get to meet and interview the various employees of the IRC and learn about their background and what their programs offer to the refugee clients. Working here has been a great experience so no problems there.

My second required internship for global studies however has been another issue. We are required to go abroad for this internship that could be anywhere from 1 month to a semester. I thought it wouldn’t be that hard to transfer my skills to an international organization and that I had a decent combination of academic and extracurricular experience, along with language skills, to make me a good candidate.

Here’s my record for what I applied for since last fall:

  • State Department (designated alternate)
  • USAID Africa bureau (not accepted)
  • Search for Common Ground (not accepted)
  • Africa Outlook (not accepted)
  • Ashoka D.C. (accepted)
  • Isara ( in progress)
  • UNHCR London ( in progress)
  • Awamuki ( in progress)

So as you can see, I did get a yes from one organization which I was so so excited for, but unfortunately, because the internship would not be abroad, it doesn’t count. I went through an agonizing few days over spring break to decide if I should take the Ashoka internship and try to find another international opportunity in the fall, but I felt that would not be wise because I need to start my thesis in the fall and it would be best to be on campus then. The study abroad internship programs offered by my university either didn’t fit my degree, interests or the deadlines passed.

We now have a month left of school left and I still don’t have a summer internship.

Yes, I am panicking, thank you very much.

I hope one of the last three I applied for works out, otherwise, I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s really frustrating when there are so many great institutions in the United States that deal with international issues, nonprofit, development and communications and would willing accept me as an intern, but that won’t count for credit. If only I was a graduate student or could afford to be gone for 6 months, then I would have a ridiculous amount of more options (I’m looking at you, UN!)

Traveling overseas is an entirely different experience than working domestically, so I understand why our program (which is called global studies for a reason) wants you to go abroad and I really do want to go. I guess just having this one summer left and not wanting to break the bank with sketchy internship placement organizations that may or may not contribute to ethical, sustainable development or be relevant to my interests has caused me undue stress.

I was actually supposed to go to Turkey for a study abroad last summer through ASU but that trip got canceled due to low enrollment. To make sure I used that time well, I took 2 online classes and got a paid internship at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

All in all, I don’t know whether I want to work abroad or domestically after I graduate but I know having both experiences is important. I can’t wait until I know what I am doing this summer and when I do I’ll make sure to write an over joyous post about it!

I thought I’d end this post by sharing a few of my secret internship/job sites (will mostly apply if you share similar interests as me like NGO, social justice, international development etc.) What’s ironic is that I share lots of internship opportunities with everyone I know and they are in awe of where I find these positions from. I guess my manic search for my internship has made me develop a very robust list of networks and websites and Twitter accounts.

Good luck and happy internship hunting!

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