Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Image of University of Iowa students who completed internships in Dublin and London

Talk about resume-building experiences! A theatre arts major honing her passion for stage management at a performing arts company. A business analytics and information systems student with an interest in environmental issues getting hands-on experience with data analysis at a renewable energy company.  An aspiring music journalist building her music industry network with an internship at a music management firm. A business major living his dream interning at a sports marketing organization.

And the icing on the cake? These students are gaining real-world skills in impressive work environments while living in major global cities abroad.

While hundreds of University of Iowa students spent their summer completing internships in their chosen fields of interest, a smaller group of over 60 students took their experiences to the next level by completing internships abroad—allowing them to gain relevant, global experience while strengthening their intercultural communication skills and building confidence and adaptability.

Internships abroad are coordinated by the Study Abroad office with placements coordinated with IES Internships, a unit of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad). IES Abroad is the international internship provider for the UI; student participation in the partnership has grown more than 30 percent since summer in 2016.

This past summer, 64 UI students interned in 12 cities around the world through IES Internships.


Learn more about UI students who recently completed their summer internships abroad!


Relevant, global experience

Employers place a premium on internships and previous work experience when hiring from college campuses. Increasingly, students are seeking internships abroad in an effort to stand out in the global marketplace.

“We know that employers value internship experience when making hiring decisions, and the added layer of international internship experience allows students to develop highly desirable transferrable skills while helping them stand out in a competitive job market,” says Amanda McFadden, director of academic programs and international services in the Pomerantz Career Center at the University of Iowa. “Whether students plan to work domestically or internationally after they graduate, an international internship provides a rich learning experience which benefits their future career.”  

Image of Deja Williams, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in London

Deja Williams

Image of Alexis Hinman, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in London

Alexis Hinman

That was the case for Deja Williams, a journalism and mass communications student from Schaumburg, Illinois, who interned at a music management company in London. After graduation, she plans to work as a music journalist. “I’ve learned the fundamentals of music management and the different types of surrounding occupations all the while building a strong network,” says Williams. “I believe of all the things I have learned this summer, I’ve been given the confidence and ability to pursue a career in my preferred industry. I have also made a network of connections to support me when I am confused or need a helping hand down the road.”

Theatre arts student and Iowa City, Iowa, native Alexis Hinman commented on the network she was able to build as a result of her internship in London at a performing arts company. “By interning and working with people that have strong networks here in London, the idea of working in the United Kingdom after I graduate has become more realistic than I expected,” says Hinman. “Interning abroad has opened many more doors and options for me after graduation.”

Image of Devon McNamara, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in Dublin

Devon McNamara

For Devon McNamara, a music major from Maple Plain, Minnesota, an internship at a communications firm in Dublin allowed her to get experience with event planning—a field in which she hopes to work after graduation. “I’ve learned so much at my company and from my supervisor. I’ve also learned a ton of transferable skills pertinent to my industry,” she says. “I was thrown right in and asked to do much more than I expected. Which was awesome!”

Image of Zac Hess, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in Dublin

Zac Hess

Zac Hess, a business analytics and information systems student from Tower Lakes, Illinois, spoke to how his internship will help him to stand out to future employers. “My experience as an intern at a renewable energy firm in Dublin will shape my future professionally because it will show employers that I am willing to step out of my comfort zone and get a job that pushes me,” Hess says. “I’m working in a small start-up, so I’ve been able to get exposure to all aspects of the company. I’ve been able to visit some job sites in Northern Ireland, as well as complete data analysis projects with internally collected data, as well as data that is presented from the government.” 

Intercultural communication skills

As they enter the workforce, UI graduates are likely to interact with colleagues, clients, and vendors in or from different countries and cultures.

“Strong intercultural communication skills require an understanding that different cultures have different customs, standards, social norms, and even thought patterns that all begin with communication,” says Kristine Djerf, senior study abroad advisor and program coordinator. “Improving intercultural communication skills is inherent in doing an international internship. Communication is involved with everything we do in life from our living situation, to our social life, and our work life. Everything a student does while interning involves communicating with people from another culture, and thus understanding and learning the other culture and communication style.”

Working in Dublin was an eye-opener for Hess. “After interning abroad, I understood how cultural differences in the workplace can make communication more difficult and create miscommunications that were unintended. Because of the differences, I was able to greatly refine my communication skills to become more effective at interpersonal communication across cultures. Gaining an understanding of the culture and communication in a workplace have made me gain skills that I did not expect to gain.”

Image of Elizabeth Barrett, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in Dublin

Elizabeth Barrett

Image of Ryan Chaglasian, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in London

Ryan Chaglasian

Elizabeth Barrett interned at a market research firm in Dublin and was able to work with people from a variety of countries, including Ireland, France, and Belgium. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native found that there are ways to be creative when encountering language barriers. “For many of my colleagues, English was not their first language and occasionally communicating tasks or instructing me on how to do something would prove challenging, since they could not find the English word to describe it to me,” she says. “When this happened, we would work together to try and figure out some synonym, with them searching their mind and me giving suggestions of similar words to what I thought they might be trying to say.”

“My internship has helped me strengthen my intercultural communication skills by learning to understand what is different—while enjoying the things that are familiar,” says Ryan Chaglasian, English major from Deerfield, Illinois. Chaglasian interned at a nonprofit historical association and had the opportunity to enjoy conversations with colleagues about the British governmental and educational systems.

Image of Elly Woods, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in London

Elly Woods

In addition to building intercultural communication skills at work, Elly Woods found that making friends with host country nationals outside of work was another avenue to learn and grow. Woods, a journalism and mass communications major from Wheaton, Illinois, says, “My advice to students in an international internship is to try to get to know the people in your host country better. Make new friends—it’s a great way to learn what life in another country is like!”

Confidence and adaptability

In the increasingly global marketplace, internships abroad help UI students gain a competitive edge and valuable skills.

“Many students are seeking an immersive work-related experience that gives them a trial-run at what their future career would feel like,” says Monica Ernberger, study abroad advisor and program coordinator. “Global internships are an excellent way for students to forge ahead, with confidence, in their planned career paths, knowing that field is a good fit for them.  Internships abroad also give them opportunities to prove their ability to adapt to new situations, environments, and work cultures—a major point of attraction for future employers.”

Williams feels that her summer internship experience in London has strengthened her independence, confidence, and ability to stand-up for what she believes in. “It has been overwhelming and enlightening to take this journey, but I am glad I have been changed for the better,” she says. “My internship has paved the way with my confidence as a writer and willingness to try to make a name for myself in the industry.”

Barrett also commented about gaining a sense of independence and confidence as a result of her internship in Dublin. “Not only have I learned to navigate a workplace culture in a different country, I’ve gained confidence in my skills to navigate a city on my own.”

Image of Jess Buman, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in Dublin

Jess Buman

Image of Jake Prey, University of Iowa student who completed an internship in Dublin

Jake Prey

Jess Buman’s internship at a nonprofit that raises funds for a children’s hospital in Dublin offered opportunities to build confidence and navigate ambiguity. “This opportunity has allowed me to become adaptable to any circumstances,” says the business analytics and information systems major and Harlan, Iowa, native. “I have learned to confidently roll with the punches.”

Jake Prey, business major from West Des Moines, Iowa, interned at a sports marketing firm in Dublin, and encourages students to open themselves up to trying new things. “Go to as many places as possible and just open your eyes to where you are,” he says. “Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone in your personal life by trying new foods or visiting a new culture. Push yourself professionally by asking for more tasks at your internship to get the most out of it.”