When people find out I’ve just returned from studying abroad (ten weeks, five days, and nineteen hours ago, to be precise) the first question they always ask is, “What was your favorite part?” They’re expecting the typical answers: weekend trips, meeting new people, or being exposed to a different culture.
What they’re not expecting to hear is: “my internship.”
Internship? Abroad? YES! During my time studying abroad in London, England, I got to not only live in a different country, but also work in one. Marist has a partnership with FIE (Foundation of International Education) – a program offered in both London, England and Dublin, Ireland – where students have the opportunity to be placed in an internship with a small-scale company during their time abroad.
I was placed at a media production company called Really Bright Media, who specialized in producing corporate videos. As a media studies and production major, there was no better fit for me. There were only four other employees at the company, which meant from Day 1, I was given meaningful tasks, including screening footage, editing videos, and color grading. Especially because I worked four days a week, they immediately got to know me, and viewed me as part of their team. I was constantly asked my opinion on projects, was brought along to on-location shoots, and was constantly offered opportunities to try new things. I gained valuable hands-on experience from industry professionals who were always willing to teach me new skills.
You might be thinking, “Why would I ever want to spend my time abroad working…for free?” The answers are obvious and plentiful. The professional opportunities I was able to gain, as well as the once-in-a-lifetime work experience made the work well worth it.
I got to experience way more of London than I originally expected due to my internship. I never would have thought I’d get a behind-the-scenes tour of Emirates Stadium, or that I’d end up in a hard-hat and steel-toed boots filming construction near Oxford University, but I did. I had no experience in sound mixing, but I was offered the opportunity at a short film shoot to do so, and I took full advantage of it. I was even recruited as an extra in the director’s personal short film! One of my favorite opportunities was being invited to attend a film festival at Pinewood Studios. Pinewood Studios is one of the largest studios in the UK, where movies like James Bond and Star Wars have been filmed, as well as smash television hits like The Crown. I learned every day is new in the media production world, and how important it is to become a versatile employee.
Interning abroad is a great resume booster. While at Marist we are incredibly fortunate – around 50% of Marist undergrad study abroad – the national average is around 10%. Out of those 10%, only around 1% participates in an international internship. That means whether you’re searching for an internship or a job, you automatically have a rare bullet point on your resume, and one that employers will always want to ask you about. Especially in today’s world, where getting an internship is an incredibly competitive and difficult process, being given an internship simply by meeting FIE standards is a huge benefit.
Interning abroad displays flexibility, ability to adapt in new environments, cultural sensitivity, and curiosity, all skills highly appealing to a hiring director. It also allows you to network across borders. In today’s world, most businesses are becoming global, therefore getting international experience is priceless to your professional skill set. Not only will you leave the experience with transferable skills and unique stories to share during an interview, but you will also have a network of people who know the work you are capable of, and are willing to write you a reference.
The whole point of studying abroad is to be immersed in another culture, and what better way to do so than to work besides actual people from that country? What better way to get to know them, their beliefs, and their lifestyles? After living with and taking classes with other Americans, working besides actual British people was a refreshing professional experience, and definitely enhanced my cultural immersion. (Fun fact: no matter how good you think your British accent is, after you experience the real thing, you’ll realize it’s not.)
My internship was not only the most fun part of my study abroad experience, but also the most rewarding. I feel confident going forward in my internship/job search process, knowing that I took a huge step in becoming more marketable. I also strengthened my professional network while making international friends in the process. If you’re not planning on going abroad, I urge you to reconsider. And if you know you want to go abroad, consider FIE.
You can find out more about Marist’s international programs here.
You can read about FIE and their internship opportunities here.