The Parent’s Guide to Internships Abroad
You’re worried about your child’s future.
Of course you are. That’s why you’re reading this. That’s why you’ve invested so much in them. You wish you could just transfer your lifetime’s worth of hard-earned wisdom to them, perhaps even helping them avoid the mistakes you might’ve made, or the regrets you might have.
You want the best for their future. And, sometimes you feel powerless to do anything.
And, that’s OK.
Parenting is HARD. It’s quite possibly one of the most difficult things you could ever take on. Things like fidgeting with Excel spreadsheets, filing your taxes, or mowing the lawn are a walk in the park compared to raising a child. And, you know what? You did the best you could!
We have the utmost respect for parents, and we sincerely believe you deserve a round of applause. (And, vouchers for your favorite spa & massage treatment.)
So, we totally understand your apprehension when your kid comes to you with a desire to “study abroad.” (Or, in this case, “intern abroad.”)
That’s a bit indulgent and opulent, no? Isn’t it a waste of time? An extended holiday? Is it even safe?
We have answers to all of these questions. But first, let’s look at the challenges your kid will face after graduation.
Your child is going to face a HUGE culture shock when they graduate college.
It wasn’t so long ago when teenagers were working, taking on newspaper shifts in the morning. Attending college wasn’t as common as it is today so what did most people do after high school? Get a job.
Society’s expectations of today’s youth has changed.
With more and more young people attending college, an undergraduate degree does little to set your child apart from all the others anymore. College has become an extension of high school. To break into certain industries, postgraduate studies are a must. For most, postgraduate life is a meandering search for the right career. (Amidst more and more competition.)
Frankly, it’s a cruel world that throws young adults from their life of academics and extracurriculars into a situation where they’re suddenly expected to hold down a full-time job, maintain an apartment, pay off bills/taxes/college debt, cook meals, maintain their friendships, and a million other things you didn’t think you’d have to worry about until they pop up in your day-to-day life.
Imagine going through school your whole life and suddenly you’re told to be an adult in the world… without any practice. That’s essentially what’s happening to twenty-somethings today.
The twenties are now known as a bridge between adolescence and adulthood. Officially known as “emerging adulthood,” this period is a time when young adults are still finding their feet. In a nutshell, it’s defined as an age of:
- Identity exploration
- Feeling in between
This isn’t a new phenomenon either. This research was presented by the psychologist Jeffrey Arnott in 1995 after five years of interviewing young people ages 18 to 29 about their lives. Since then, there’s been more and more research published about this age group, especially in association with the generation called the “millennials.”
One big challenge of our time is providing the support for young people during this transitional phase in their life, making it less of a “culture shock.”
And there is a viable solution.
The transition into the “real world” should start in college.
Universities and the government are already laying the groundwork for increasing the number of opportunities for students to study abroad (which can include anything from a traditional study abroad semester to a volunteer trip to an internship abroad).
Gap years are another option for students who missed the opportunity to go abroad in college.
In this guide, we’ll be addressing international internships.
An internship abroad is an excellent option for developing skills for the real world.
There’s this sentiment that “study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Sure, that’s true. However, we think it limits what an experience abroad is about. It’s not just a vacation where students gallivant around a foreign country, taking selfies for their Instagram. (Although, there is a bit of that.)
In reality, it’s an investment that pays dividends in the future. But like any investment, it needs to be taken seriously and nurtured. Here are three reasons why internships abroad are what young adults need to ease them into the realities of the world.
1. An internship simulates work life after college.
Think of this as a trial run for your child. College students don’t know a life outside of education. Sure, some students might’ve taken on a summer job or part-time job during the semester, but it’s nothing compared to working full-time in a role in their desired industry.
An internship reinforces the theory they will have learned in school, and they will gain practical industry skills that will be useful when it comes to finding an entry-level job once they graduate.
Not only do they gain those hands-on skills, they’ll also find growth in so-called “soft skills.” These includes developing interpersonal skills in the office that will also come in handy post-graduation.
2. Living abroad fosters an environment for students to work on their personal growth.
We mentioned “soft skills” in the point above. And, it’s a major factor in our second reason why an internship abroad is so valuable for an emerging adult like your child.
Living abroad gives them practice with the culture shock of setting up a new life from scratch.
Unlike “real life,” they have a safety net in their university and intern abroad program provider.
While there’s a cushion for your child to fall back on, we won’t hold their hands. We seek to empower individuals. To prompt them towards challenging themselves. To live outside their comfort zones, whether it’s cooking for themselves or taking their first solo trip.
Sometimes, your child’s growth will come from you taking a step back, and letting them fly. And, rather than doing that once they graduate college. They can take their first trial run with us as a guide.
3. Taking time away from their lives back home will give them a different perspective and appreciation for what they have already.
There’s the old adage, “you can’t see the forest if you’re in amongst the trees.” And, it’s true. Going abroad is a figurative “taking a step back” that can illuminate many things about a person’s life.
This is the X-factor when it comes to interning abroad. It’s hard to generalize this last point because everyone has a different epiphany.
Some can be personal.
Students might realize that their passions lie somewhere else. Others might realize the power and support of their close friends and family as a result of living apart for awhile.
Others can experience a shift in worldview, having lived and worked among those from another culture.
Travel often makes the richness of the world a reality. Your child might discover new levels of cultural understanding simply by interacting with foreigners on a daily basis.
Ok, that sounds like a worthwhile experience. But, I’m still worried about my child’s safety. Is it safe?
From a big picture perspective, European cities (and Dublin, in our case) are safer than those in American cities. (See: Numbeo for information on statistics like cost of living and crime.) There’s less violent crime in general.
Statistics are only one part of the story though.
Our stance on safety is to maintain the same amount of street smarts you’d apply to domestic travel (or even simply in your hometown).
We make sure every one of our program participants is aware of basic safety measures such as not walking alone late at night (travel with your friends or take a taxi), not flashing money in public, being responsible with alcohol, and keeping us in the loop when they travel, in case of any emergencies.
With Stint Ireland, we invest in accommodation that are located in safe, residential areas, such as Portobello and Ballsbridge, that are also within walking distance of the city centre.
What about terrorism?
The reality is, people are in danger of crime or terrorism anywhere in the world, whether it’s at home or abroad.
Ireland, specifically, has not experienced threats of terrorism recently.
Also, will my child graduate on time?
One of the best things about an intern abroad experience is its flexibility.
For example, many students, especially ones in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), find that they don’t have time to study abroad during the academic year.
An intern abroad experience during the summer is the perfect opportunity for them to have an experience abroad, while keeping their academic progress on track, with the added bonus of gaining practical experience that would help in their career journey after graduating from university.
How can I support my child?
When you’re thrown into a completely new environment, things can be exciting but also intimidating at the same time. It will be an emotional roller coaster ride as your child will discover aspects of themselves they may never have encountered before.
What they need is non-judgmental, unconditional support. Often, that will come from their parents and their friends. It is up to you to be their rock. To listen.
Don’t be their superhero! Give your child space to sort out her/his own problems. It might be difficult but they’ll learn and grow from the experience.
Make sure you are part of their support network.
Before they go abroad, tell them that you are here to listen to them, non-judgmentally. (And, you have to mean this.) Make them comfortable so that they know if something is bugging them, they can turn to you to express their struggles. Remember, this is essentially “practice” for real life.
By showing you are supportive in this endeavor, your child will see that they can come to you when they experience the culture shock of “real life” after college as well.
During their experience:
Keep in touch. But, remember to give them space too.
Building a life in the foreign country is important. If that doesn’t happen, it will lead to homesickness.
Encourage them to make friends and to make the most of their time abroad. Instead of talking too much about how things are back home, chat about the things they’re excited to do while abroad. Are there events in Dublin that you’re interested in attending? What are their weekend plans? What are their top travel destinations in Ireland?
Remember, they didn’t go abroad to sit on their laptop Skyping their friends and family!
Reverse culture shock is hard. Be patient. Give your child space and time to process their experience.
Tell them you are there to listen. And, you’re interested in hearing about their experience.
Your child will share their stories when they are ready.
When they share their stories, realize and acknowledge how they have grown. When you’re listening to their stories, comment on how brave, courageous, and amazing certain are. It take guts to go to intern abroad.
I have more questions!
Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to chat!
If you think our Intern Abroad program is something your child might appreciate, please refer them to our website at www.stintireland.com.