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Tips for obtaining an international internship

Are you ready to go global with your internship search? Have you ever dreamed of applying your engineering knowledge and experiences in China, India, Brazil, or some other exciting country of the world? Here are some questions to think about and guidance to help you along the way - from someone who was in your shoes just a few years ago, interned internationally in Brazil during his time at Ohio State, and is currently living and working in São Paulo.  Ok, let’s go!

1) Decide where you would like to go

Where in the world would you like to gain on-the-job and life experience?  Why do you want to go there?  Thinking through these questions will help guide your search and be handy to have ready to share with people who can help you along the way.

2) Think about what experiences you want to gain

What would you like to experience and learn?  How would you like to grow personally and professionally?  Maybe you want to develop cross-cultural teamwork and leadership skills, learn how to apply your technical knowledge in the challenging environment of an emerging market, or put yourself in a context where you are working and communicating in a new language.  

3) Learn about the local market and culture

Now that you know where you want to go and have an idea of what you would like to learn, it’s time to do your homework about the region and country.  What are the companies or organizations there that align with your goals and interests?  What’s happening in the market economically, politically, and socially?  Invest the time and energy to learn the local culture and, depending on the country, language too.  Being prepared with the knowledge and cultural skills necessary will reap you rewards many times over in successfully achieving your dream of an international internship.

4) Leverage the College of Engineering for support

Take advantage of the many resources, helpful advisors at Engineering Career Services, and powerful network of the Ohio State Engineering - through sharing your plans and asking support from professors, staff, and fellow students who may have connections in your target country and industry.

5) Connect with OIA and Global Gateways

The Office of International Affairs (OIA) and Global Gateways exist to support internationalization of Ohio State both on-campus and in fostering global connections in the key areas of students, research, alumni, and partnerships.  Ohio State currently has three Global Gateways located in China, India, and Brazil.  Reach out to OIA, Global Gateways, or a specific Gateway to share your internship goal and they can help guide you, make connections with alumni, and identify potential opportunities with internship partners.  Even once you achieve your international internship, OIA and Global Gateways can continue to serve as a resource to help you navigate the logistics of before and during your experience, such as visa issues or anything else that may come up along the way.

6) Network with relevant alumni and partners

The Ohio State University has over 550,000 living alumni spread all around the world who lead, own, and work at companies and institutions that could potentially be host to your dream international internship opportunity.  Contact the Ohio State Alumni Association, tap the College of Engineering’s alumni network, and use social networks like Linkedin to identify and reach out to Buckeyes around the globe who live and work in the country where you would like to go.  You may be surprised by how willing your fellow Buckeye alumni are to help a motivated student like yourself in achieving your ambitious goals.  Relationships, networks, and who you know are incredibly important in the international business environment and are many times the key factor in identifying work and internship opportunities internationally.

7) Be flexible and open to the possibilities

Your international internship opportunity may manifest in a slightly (or very) different way than you envision at the outset.  It’s possible that you may find yourself in a different country than you originally planned or maybe even in a totally different region of the world.  Perhaps you may temporarily sacrifice a high-paying salary for the life-changing opportunity of living and working in China, India, Brazil, or some other exciting country of the world.  It’s also possible that your international internship will be exactly what and where you think from the beginning, but regardless of how your dream takes form you’ll probably come back forever changed with new friends, memories, experiences, and knowledge that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

8) Work hard and hustle to make it happen

Be prepared to dedicate yourself to the journey of achieving an international internship.  Know that it may take more work than a Google search or browsing traditional internship opportunity channels, but remember that the time and energy you invest in your dream has the potential to pay incredible rewards and even change your life forever.  You likely may need to go outside your comfort zone, network with and contact people you don’t yet know, and be ready at any minute to clearly and concisely articulate your plans.  

Set your intention, create a plan, dedicate yourself , and don’t hesitate to share your dream with anyone you meet along the way who may be able to help you.  Know that you have a world-class institution, The Ohio State University, and a global Buckeye network ready to support you.

Now, go make it happen!  Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or get in touch via email if I can be helpful in any way along your journey.  Good luck and go Bucks!

Luke Barbara is the director of the Ohio State Brazil Gateway and is based in São Paulo. Barbara focuses on facilitating academic and institutional partnerships, advancing opportunities for global businesses to connect with Ohio State’s students and faculty, and developing the growing network of Ohio State alumni. Barbara graduated from Ohio State and studied chemical engineering, international development and entrepreneurship. As a student he served as president of the Business Builders Club and organized the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship (APTE) Summit.

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