Faring the Global Recession: Internships

I write things! For other people! This is an article I wrote for my beloved company, Go Overseas on Feburary 28, 2012. You can read the original article here, and afterwards you can peruse the rest of the site to find volunteer/ study/ teach/ intern/ live abroad opportunities!


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For many of the graduating class of 2012, the dire economic climate of the post-college “real world” fails to shock. After all, it was right around the time that these lucky students received their acceptance letters that the global financial system collapsed. This crisis fundamentally changed the typical life paths and career choices of today’s youth, creating a ripple effect that has begun to change how future generations will cope with an increasingly international and mobile society.

CRCC Asia, like many other internship providers, found themselves well positioned for the global recession. Offering China-specific internship opportunities for American and British applicants, CRCC Asia established itself as a leading provider just in time for the flood of eager global interns seeking job placement. Panrimo, a U.S.-based provider specializing in nuanced, unique study and intern abroad experiences, similarly received a boost in the past years. Spotting a productive, but fun, opportunity to couple international work experience with the dream of studying abroad, Panrimo has a ringside seat to witness the growth in foreign internships.

Spending Money to Make Money

To learn more about the burgeoning internship field, I spoke with Ed Pearce and Jill Richardson from CRCC Asia and Tony Schepers from Panrimo. Pearce begins by pointing out the weight of the current situation’s semi-permanency—while minor market fluctuations might not inspire any lasting change in behavior, people have recently become more open to investing in their futures despite the upfront costs. While enormous debt once seemed the death knell of career freedom, students now readily take out loans to pay for their education, and more recently, their overseas internships. The reason? Employers require work experience, and jobs are scarce. As Schepers notes, “The global recession is actually spurring drive for the students to have that unique experience. They’re scared that after graduating college, they’re not going to get a job. So if they’re thinking that already, what’s another $5,000 if they make a unique business connection in Eastern Europe or China?”

Expanding Your Networks

Our world is becoming increasingly networked, making international contacts a regular addition to the virtual Rolodex. According to Schepers, it’s “sexy” to be considered for a company that has multinational branches. Pearce adds, “People are looking at those economies that have sustained growth and are saying ‘what are they doing right?’ or ‘how can I learn from them?’” Such countries, including China and several South American nations, have become hotspots for international business.

One in a Million

On the flip side of the macroscopic global perspective, many applicants are looking for ways to boost their individual appeal and the value of their resume. With a cutthroat job market for recent graduates and unemployment rates in the double digits, Richardson remarks that “People need to find ways to distinguish themselves to potential employers… having that international background is really really a way to stand out.” An international resume goes a long way, Schepers adds. Not only does it bolster your domestic opportunities, it also provides for openings around the world. Employers see such applicants as flexible and adaptable, which makes them safer and more stable hires.

Can you work 40 hours a week, unpaid, in a country you may have never been to before? That’s a challenge.

China, a global economic powerhouse, is impressive not only for its political position, but also because “it’s extremely foreign in the minds of Americans… it’s particularly impressive to employers for someone who wasn’t necessarily raised in that environment to be able to step foot in this new area and conquer new lands.”

Integration of School and Work

Half of average CRCC interns are current students, enjoying a gap year or a one-to-two month summer internship, and half are graduates, searching for either basic work experience or a more concentrated look into their own field. As opposed to their older counterparts, this generation has moved away from finance. CRCC Asia has seen a spike in marketing and green-tech (unsurprising, as China makes most of the world’s solar panels). Panrimo includes social media, graphic arts, and journalism as growing industries, while stalwarts like business, economics, and accounting remain strong. With Panrimo, many young applicants use their internship to develop their academic interests, rather than switching disciplines altogether (as is more common amongst the older demographic). However, Schepers notes that certain industries inherently inspire travel much more than others.

What The Future Holds

With no end in sight, the economic recession inevitably will affect the future of global travel as well. As Pearce points out, the drive for international internships grows from the desire to run one’s lives more efficiently, both in terms of time and cost – interns can kill two birds with one stone by coupling travel, study, and work in shorter time frames and in more convenient seasons. While CRCC Asia and Panrimo have both seen an annual doubling in internships, Schepers predicts that the average internship length will decrease to a month or less, with a shift from an entire year abroad to a mere semester or summer away. He attributes this to a tightening of financial aid, and a possible lessening of parental support in the face of older children moving back into the family household.

The Role of the University

As a final comment, Pearce poses a question: what is the role of universities in encouraging overseas experiences? Luckily Schepers has an answer. Since several internships offer college credit, students can achieve greater efficiency and better cost-effectiveness, speeding up graduation in a time when every new term brings higher fees and smaller financial aid packages. Interns are able to make stronger business connections in their fields of study, leading to earlier job placement and less anxiety about employment prospects.

To summarize, Schepers observes that interns are simply “curious; they want to have an internship experience in another country because they can’t get that same experience [at home], but also because they really want to have that line on their resume and the global perspective in their speech when they approach potential employers. …”

The global world is in front of us, and it’s undeniable. Students aren’t fighting it; they’re embracing it.

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