I am an international student from China studying a Media and Communications degree in an Australian University. As it’s my last year of study I thought gaining some work experience abroad would help advance my career, and increase my cultural sensitivity. Given my experience I thought I’d share my do’s and don’ts for international students trying to secure an internship abroad.
Don’t wait to find an internship when you graduate
The earlier that you start gaining experience in your field the better. Your first step may not be an internship. Your first step may be volunteering in order to fill the gaps in your resume. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and set yourself up to be more competitive when it comes to finding internships later on.
Another proactive step you can take is to contact your universities career advisor, or speak with your lecturers or tutors, they will be able to advise you on how to approach this endeavor.
Internships are a good way to improve your language skills. That being said, if you are not highly competent in the local language you should review new words every day before you start seriously looking for internships aboard.
Prepare yourself by researching your destination. While some behaviours are acceptable in certain regions of the world, these same actions or expressions can be considered offensive in others. If you are unsure about how to proceed in a certain situation, it is safest to consider humility, respect, and gratitude—these are timeless cultural customs wherever you go.
Prepare your CV & cover letter
A cover letter accompanies your CV as part of an application for a job. It provides further details on how your skills set aligns with the role, what you can bring to the organisation and why you want the position. Double check your grammar and spelling on your cover letter and CV. Mistakes show you not only lack attention to details but also suggests you may not have the required language skills. It’s crucial you take the time to proofread. You could also ask a friend for help checking your cover letter.
Use your cover letter and CV to display your unique combination of skills and experience that relate to the job selection criteria of the role. I realised how important working experience was when I wrote my cover letter.
Internships are a learning experience
The general rule is, the more you put in, the more you get out. Depending on the organisation there may be additional opportunities that you need to ask about. Such as hearing a colleague talk about training or a seminar that they’re going to. There’s no harm in politely asking if you could attend. Worst case scenario they say no, and that’s fine, the key is you put yourself out there. There may also be a mentoring program or reference group for young professionals which you might be eligible to attend/ participate in. The organisations intranet will usually have all the information you need to scope these types of opportunities out. So, if you come across or hear about something, ask about it.
So study hard, work hard and enjoy your learning journey!
By Liangyu Zhang