[CHE] As Overseas Internships Grow, So Do Challenges for College Officials

The Chronicle of Higher Education — June 3, 2010

Beth McMurtrie, “As Overseas Internships Grow, So Do Challenges for College Officials

At the annual conference here of Nafsa: Association of International Educators, at least a half-dozen sessions are focusing on the topic of managing successful internships or, more broadly, strengthening the link between students’ experiences abroad and their career prospects at home.

“Students are a little bit ahead of some of us in the field, and they’re already blending in their heads work and study programs,” says Cheryl Matherly, associate dean for global education at the University of Tulsa. “And we’re catching up with that.”

The hurdles of setting up or tracking internships abroad are many, which may be why the overall numbers remain low. Fewer than 14,000 students participated in internships or work abroad for credit in the 2007-8 academic year, according to the Washington-based Institute of International Education. Still, that represents a 70-percent increase from just five years earlier. Those figures also underreport the trend as they do not count students who work abroad without seeking academic credit for their experience.

Study-abroad officials say that, without a doubt, students are looking harder for internships abroad that may help them get a leg up in a bleak job market.

In the end, strong internships do seem to give students a leg up among the competition, international administrators say. Even the most humbling of work experiences abroad provides students with an education about the working world beyond what they could get at home.

“There’s a culture shock within the culture of work,” notes Ms. Ascarelli. “But it’s the kind of culture shock you’re looking for.”