On Wednesday, I attended a student focus group dedicated to world internships. In a room of other dedicated undergraduate students, I honed in on what I find is most important to me in selecting a company and program abroad.
For this particular focus group, it was composed of a small group of students who had prior experience either studying or traveling abroad. We ended up in a Skype conference call with a woman from an unnamed organization who inquired about our travel and work goals, as well as what we felt should inherently be part of an internship experience based on our efforts to obtain the internship, and the money involved.
In the nature of a focus group, we were shown taglines, color schemes, websites, logos, photos, and phrases. We selected both our favorite and least liked options in all of the above categories, along with presenting explanations on why we chose what we did.
I tended to lean toward warm and muted colors, pictures of groups of people, logos with intense black circles and elephants, and the concept of spontaneity.
While in a room with other individuals, I was motivated not only to start thinking about a global internship following my graduation, but also what really caught my eye in a global career-related experience.
What matters to me?
I find I like interacting with companies that offer lots of location options, regardless of the fact that I am well aware of my indecisive tendencies. I want the ability to choose from any corner of the globe. I am currently looking at options in Berlin, Swaziland and Ghana.
This is arguably the biggest decision maker for what would be an obvious reason. Since I am a nutrition major, I’ve been searching for nutrition internships specifically, but have found a lot of “health” internships in this process that are either vague in job description or cater more toward nursing or other health professions. Having a focused option to apply to is completely necessary.
Customization goes along with the focus piece. I would want my placement to be formatted to my goals and strengths to some degree. Internships, in my opinion, are not in the market where one-size-fits-all. I like the idea that my position is formatted for me if I am paying a large sum of money for travel and placement. Also, since there is so much variety in the field of dietetics, my career specialization and skills differ from another nutrition undergraduate student in many ways, so a custom position is important.
I personally say this as a result of the focus group. Taglines that focus on individual success generally tend to steer me away in my search process for an internship. Personally, I am drawn to the concept of connection and collaboration, so I am more likely to look into a program that emphasizes that. This is a result of traveling to Thailand and realizing how much group success and interdependence is important for success. In individualistic cultures, such as in the United States, the success of the individual is held in high regard, while in collectivistic cultures people recognize the power found in groups and in teamwork. I’ve come to understand how much I value this in my life and future work.
Paid vs. Unpaid
While it would be nice to say that paid internships are always available, the reality is that many are not. I am not wholly focused on finding one that is, and the reason for this is because I am already required to complete a year-long internship that is unpaid in my field. Dietetic internships are infamous for the fact that they are unpaid and full-time in work requirements. It’s a hard concept that I’ve had to swallow. Finding an internship abroad that fulfills the clinical hour requirements of the one that I would do at home would be amazing on it’s own, and so I don’t find myself completely focused on obtaining money through it. I just hope to gain the experience.
When I was going studying abroad in Thailand, I had the peace of mind knowing that my program coordinators were only a Facebook message away 24/7 and a tuk-tuk ride across town. I certainly think that having a strong support team in the application process and in my placement, would be a key part in my internship option. While I revel in being independent in travel and my work, I like knowing that I can ask for help if I do need it.
In looking at different websites, I am drawn to internship offerings that come with options for co-curricular activities such as company tours, excursions, and workshops to explore my location further, connect with more people, and become more inspired at the possibilities in my field and the working world.
During the focus group, we were given two “doors” to choose from:
Door 1: You get your dream, customized internship placement, but you won’t know where you’ll be situated until you apply and pay in full.
Door 2: You receive an internship in your field for a determined period in a set location, but you’re not able to receive a full description of what you will do or the organization that you will be working with.
I picked Door 1 in a heartbeat. I like the idea of going anywhere in the world, especially if I have the option of a customized placement. I like being spontaneous and I enjoy the concept of adventuring into the unknown.
These are some of the factors that I isolated as being the most important in what I’m looking for. The focus group not only helped me pinpoint these key parts, but also helped me reconnect with other returned travelers on my college campus to discuss where we were headed in the world. In hearing of my peers going on their own internship and study abroad experiences once more, I am currently searching new opportunities with starry eyes and a passport in hand.