Internships and work experience while undergoing studies sometimes get a bad reputation. Students tend not to favour internships or work when it gets in the way of their studies, doesn’t earn them money, or takes up too much of their time. However, when done right, I believe that internships or student work experience are valuable and important in the long run.
Here are some of the benefits that international students can gain if they pursue an internship or some type of work experience while in university or college. I hope that institutions can also take these as opportunities to improve how their international students can land internships or gain work experience before graduating. After all, students do not just go to school to sit in a classroom. They are there to learn other skills as well!
Students can learn more about themselves.
One of the best ways for students to learn more about their goals and future careers is by getting an internship or part-time job in the field of their study. Many students find that studying their course is one thing, and actually working in that field is another! By testing the waters with an internship, international students can discover more about their likes and dislikes regarding the industry of their choice. It can also help them learn more about their strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps they prefer working in a lab or with people rather than sitting at a desk all day. Internships provide them with the opportunity to find out what they really want to do before they spend time and energy job-hunting.
Students can apply what they learn in the real world.
Stepping out of the university or college bubble can be daunting. It can also be difficult for students to see just how relevant their degrees or course learnings are in the real world. With an internship or any work experience, students can apply what they are learning in the fields they want to join in the future. They can see why it’s necessary to know about the foundations or learn the courses that are not directly related to their chosen field. Internships help students learn and grow more holistically and prepare them for the workforce.
Students can network with industry professionals.
Internships are a great way for students to get their foot in the door at a large company. They also help students connect with other students, professionals, or executives who they might not meet if they just send in their resume via email. Getting an internship in a place that also connects you to professionals in other fields is very helpful, especially for those who want to thrive as entrepreneurs or business owners. Widening one’s network is crucial for success (sometimes, who you know is more important than what you know) and it’s never too early to start!
Students can get an edge and refine their skills.
Many employers value work experience just as much, if not more, than education. Getting an internship before graduation gives students that extra edge over others who don’t spend their summers gaining work experience. Internships also allow students to refine their soft skills such as interpersonal communication, time management, conflict resolution, and creative thinking. These are all critical skills for anyone entering and succeeding in the workforce, but unfortunately, they are not always learned in the classroom. This is where getting an internship can help!
There are many more benefits to getting an internship or work experience prior to graduating, particularly for international students. I hope this inspires your institution to help international students get internships that are meaningful, helpful, and not exploitative so that they can make the most out of their study abroad experience. For agents, I hope this encourages you to inspire students to take internships whenever they can to boost their applications and resumes in the future. What are some of the best things you learned while interning or working as a student?