Students Explore World through International Internships

April 28, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – From French patisseries to Italian art galleries and Eastern European news media outlets, Illinois Wesleyan University students have gained a wide variety of career experiences and opportunities from international internships.

Senior international studies major Lauren Nelson, who held an internship last year with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an organization that provides uncensored news to countries with regulated media, in Prague, Czech Republic says she gained valuable experience. Nelson’s position involved a wide range of responsibilities from contacting foreign political officials to writing news overviews for broadcast. Although stationed in Czech-speaking Prague, as the Russian information services intern, Nelson had an opportunity to practice her Russian language skills in the office as well as learn some of the Czech language outside of the office.

“The internship allowed me to prepare for future international career opportunities by practicing my linguistic and professional skills in a culturally diverse setting,” said Nelson, who will pursue her master’s degree in Russian, East European and Eurasian studies next year at Stanford University.

Language skills are not the only benefits students reap from international internships. Junior international business major Katie Feriozzi, who worked as an art gallery intern in Milan, Italy last fall and who will return to Italy this summer for an internship with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, appreciated the opportunity to connect with professionals in the art world.

“I know that I want to pursue a career in arts business and to live and work in Italy. These internships will provide me with great networking in the field,” said Feriozzi.


Lauren Nelson

International internships are available either as part of a study abroad program or separate from organized programs. According to Stacey Shimizu, director of the IWU International Office, students who complete international internships in the summer usually do so outside of any set program whereas most students who complete international internships during the school year do so as a supplement to their study abroad program. Some study abroad programs even offer internships integrated within the program curriculum.

“We’re seeing more and more internship opportunities from study abroad programs we work with,” said Shimizu, “which probably indicates an increase in demand for these opportunities.”

According to Laurie Diekhoff, assistant director and internship coordinator for the Hart Career Center, “I’m definitely seeing more students inquiring about international opportunities.”

This school year, seven IWU students held international internships while an additional eight students have international internships this summer.

Interested students can begin the process of finding an international internship in different ways. Shimizu recommends setting up and appointment with the International Office to gather information and explore options.

“Some questions to consider early in the process are when would you like to go abroad, how much time you want to spend each week in the internship and whether or not you want to earn academic credit,” said Shimizu.

She also points out that the programs offered by the International Office all can provide academic credit, but this results in a tuition charge. The application process for international internships is two parts: an application to IWU for permission to study abroad and an application to the study abroad program itself. Students may also need to arrange for visas, work permits and travel insurance.

Outside of set study abroad programs students can also find international internships in other ways. From IWU faculty to past IWU students who have completed an international internship, there are many avenues to research possible opportunities.

“Talk to professors and faculty who are in the field you are interested in to look for opportunities,” said Nelson. “Also, when you intern internationally you are not only representing yourself, but also your school possibly opening up opportunities for IWU students in the future,” said Nelson.

Researching past IWU student international internships can also be helpful.  Former IWU students have interned in many different countries including Denmark, Japan and even Africa.

However, finding an internship is only part of the process.

According to Diekhoff, potential interns should also possess some specific skills and qualities when considering an international internship.

“A student needs knowledge of and respect for the country and culture they are considering visiting, along with appropriate language skills,” said Diekhoff. “Students need to be independent, with strong self-confidence, self-motivation and the ability to adapt easily to new situations. Also, students should enjoy a challenge because working abroad adds another layer of complexity to the internship experience.”

Despite the extra challenge Nelson, Shimizu and Diekhoff agree that the benefits of international internships are two-fold.

“Both an international internship or one in the United States are valuable and will provide hands-on experience in a career field. An international experience will also allow students to be part of a multicultural workforce,” said Diekhoff. “Students will enhance their cross-cultural communication skills, strengthen their language skills and become fully immersed in a different way of life. They will also develop an international network of colleagues and a better appreciation for our global economy.”

For additional information, contact the Office of University Communications at (309) 556-3181.

Contact: Heather Lindquist, ’09, Dave Buesing, ’10
 (309) 556-3181