How to Pick the Perfect Study Abroad Program: Service-Learning and Internship Edition

By Abby Zelenka, ISA

When you think about what a “traditional” study abroad experience looks like, what do you picture? It probably involves students taking classes for a full academic semester at a host university abroad. Is this the only opportunity to have an international experience? Absolutely not! There are many valid reasons why a “traditional” study abroad experience may not be the best fit for you. Maybe you have already studied abroad for a semester or a summer and are looking for a different experience your second time abroad. Perhaps you’ve discussed options with your academic advisor and being off campus for a full semester doesn’t work with your graduation plans. Maybe you are about to graduate and are looking for a post-grad professional development opportunity before the job hunt. It’s possible that the thought of tutoring high school students or conducting research for a PR firm excites you more than taking classes. ISA offers two program options that offer hands-on international experience in your career field.  If you’re curious to learn about your options to learn outside the classroom, check out ISA’s Internships and Service-Learning programs!

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Both international internships and service-learning experiences offer the chance to gain real-world experience in your field, both of which are impressive to highlight on a resume. Not only are you growing personally and professionally, but an ISA Internships or Service-Learning program could be one of the best times of your life!

How will you determine if an internship or service-learning program is right for you?

There are a few distinctions between the two programs that can help make your decision clear. ISA Service-Learning offers a diverse range of program placements designed to empower you to serve a community abroad and develop key skills that you’ll have with you for the rest of your life!  You’ll feel more like a local and serve your local community while gaining hands on experience. Service-Learning options are 4, 8, and 12 weeks in length with the availability to customize dates if needed.

Nothing makes a resume stand out from the crowd more than an international internship. ISA Internships assists in finding you individualized placements in your field of study. You’ll get that resume boost while simultaneously exploring a foreign country. Internship programs often are 8 weeks long and these dates are customizable as well.

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Now that you know the basics, how do you know if an experiential program is right for you?

The first thing to do is check in with your academic advisor. If you haven’t met with him or her yet, now is the time! Your academic advisor will be able to let you know of any internship, field study, independent study, or service-learning requirements you may have before graduation. While an internship component may or may not be required, it’s always an amazing experience to have on your resume. Imagine all of the students in your graduating class applying for one position and everyone has a local internship on their resume.  Having completed an ISA Internship, your resume will stand out with international experience! Feel more like serving a community? Your advisor will also be able to tell you if a service-learning program will fulfill your internship requirement. Depending on how far along in your studies you are, your schedule may not have much flexibility with scheduling during the school year. Not to worry, ISA offers program dates starting at different times throughout the year, including summers. ISA programs are open to recent grads and young professionals. So if you’ve already graduated, don’t think it’s too late!

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Interested in a particular field?  Did you know that ISA Service-Learning has partnered with community organizations in 15 specific service fields including community agriculture, disabilities and special needs, and health care?  ISA Internships has an infinite number of partnerships within 18 different career fields including Engineering, Health, Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Sciences and Math.

While the number of options available, making a decision may seem a bit overwhelming. This is why ISA has a dedicated team of advisors to help point you in the right direction. Contact the Outreach Manager for ISA Internships & Service-Learning, our guru for all things Internships and Service-Learning. They can’t wait to help you find the program that works best for you!

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