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Conversation Starter: What is - and is not - an International Internship?

During the 2023 International Internship Conference in Indianapolis, Kate Moore facilitated the Pre-Conference Workshop titled Best Practices for Building, Maintaining, and Sustaining a Meaningful International Internship Program.

This blog is the second in a series sharing discussion from the workshop.


Participants were asked about definitions or descriptions of international internships. What are they? What are they NOT?


Ideas from the engaged, experienced, and enthusiastic cohort are captured here.



·      Learning diverse ideas

·      A professional and personal experience for students

·      Real, valuable experience abroad/away from home country

·      Some cross-border element (i.e. international culture or context)

·      A way to expand global mindset

·      An opportunity for cultural immersion

·      Includes learning objectives and assessment

·      Significant time involved

·      Projects and supervision by host organization

·      Opportunity to network

·      Co-curricular

·      Global learning

·      Deep dive into the local issues in aim to understand them better

·      Creating global communities in local spaces

·      Integrated work experience

·      Chance to see how different norms/policies impact work in the field

·      Cultural sharing

·      Mentorship

·      Exploration of work

·      A way to prepare oneself for an increasingly global workforce

·      Gaining exposure to cultural differences in the work setting (i.e. variations in productivity and what is considered successful or appropriate)

·      An academic based experience

·      In the field

·      Hands on

·      Immersive global experience

·      Exposure to the world of work within a particular country or community

·      Learning by doing in a professional setting

·      Learn new skills

·      Put oneself outside their comfort zone and grow

·      Learn more about yourself

·      Face fears

·      Experiential learning and training opportunity with a global aspect

·      Incorporates intentional reflection during and after experience

·      Based on learning

·      Supported/monitored by professionals

·      Trial for what it’s like to work

·      A learning experience for students that is structured to provide reflection and support students in their professional, academic, and personal goals

·      A career development experience for pay or credit that facilitates global and/or intercultural learning within a discipline or industry

·      Hands on experience

·      Reciprocal

·      Can be transformative

·      An academic / work / real life/ professional / personal growing experience

·      Occurs in or with an organization located outside of a country where the school is located

·      Real life experience

·      Opportunity to learn about future career opportunities and what’s available

·      Skill development and personal, professional development

·      Opportunity to challenge your cultural understanding



·      Working alone without learning (needs to be structured)

·      Purely academic classroom learning

·      Without any global/cross-cultural component

·      A vacation

·      The same as a study abroad academic program

·      Research abroad

·      Academic exchange

·      Simulated/synthetic

·      Job

·      Volunteer

·      Just a cool travel trip or excuse to visit another country

·      Just theory

·      Just working in another country

·      An unusual travel experience

·      Easy way of doing an internship (takes time and commitment from the start)

·      Grunt work

·      Completely independent

·      A waste of time / money / resources

·      Something with no funding

·      Just an individual experience

·      Just a trip

·      For tourism

·      Shadowing

·      Informational interviews

·      Independent research

·      Menial labor

·      Always contributing to the bottom line within an organization

·      Exploitative arrangement that only benefits the employer or organization

·      Tourism


What are your definitions or descriptions of international internships? How does thinking about what they are not help focus your work?


Look forward to continuing the conversation!


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