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International internships beckon students

BY CARLY MATTHEW | MARCH 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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An internship in Spain can cost roughly $8,000 — not including the $1,500 plane ticket — but some say the experience is priceless.

Amanda McFadden, University of Iowa associate director of career advising and international services, thinks the programs can be worth the cost.

“I think anywhere you get good work experience is valuable,” she said.

McFadden said, for example, internships completed abroad make a student’s résumé stand out and can be good conversation starters during job interviews.   

“I don’t think employers view them as negative,” she said. “Their interest is in your experience, and that’s the important thing.”

She said the UI Pomerantz Career Center emphasizes that students can and should find internship opportunities individually when looking domestically, but seeking experience abroad on one’s own can be more difficult.

Students sometimes try to secure internships abroad on their own, but approaching them through an organized internship program — with a price — can help students take care of some of the “red tape” they encounter when trying to find employment internationally, she said.

“I think students should really evaluate their options and make sure the expenses are justified, then decide,” she said.

This summer, UI junior Alex Ortiz plans to participate in the Tippie College of Business Madrid Internship Program in Spain.

Ortiz majors in accounting and minors in Spanish.

“It’s something I was interested in, especially with my international business certificate,” he said.

His program will last about two months and cost around $8,000 not including airfare, according to Tippie’s Madrid Internship Program webpage. He said he expects the experience he will acquire will be worth the cost.

“I just wanted to do something more personal and professional,” Ortiz said. “I wanted an opportunity to grow.”

The program appealed to him, he said, because could choose an alternative to a typical study-abroad experience and select a program to match his numerous interests.

For example, Ortiz said, he would be able to earn college credit while gaining internship experience abroad and improving his Spanish.

Stephanie Grebe, Tippie’s assistant director for global internships, said students sometimes are skeptical about the programs’ high prices until they realize the cost covers the high costs that come with living abroad.

“I think the initial reaction is, ‘Why am I paying to work?’ ” she said.

Costs include internship-related résumé and cover-letter reviews, the internship-matching service, interview preparation, and guaranteed internship placement, she said.

While abroad, the money covers housing, most meals, insurance, three to five semester hours’ worth of academic credit, and weekend excursions.

Students in Tippie’s program are required to record their experiences before and during their trip.

That way, when they return, they have a record of the challenges they encountered and their accomplishments and can better market themselves to potential employers, Grebe said.

“The goal is to maximize personal and professional development,” she said.

Maria Walsh, a UI senior studying finance along with an international business certificate, went to London on a 10-week internship program.

“I knew I wouldn’t have to worry so much about getting an internship because of the program,” she said.

She was able to work at St. James’s Place, a UK-based company, to do a wealth management internship during the summer program.

“I tell everyone I meet to do it,” she said. “It gives you a great sense for working with people from different backgrounds.”

Neil Jirele, a UI junior majoring in finance and minoring in Spanish, interned in Madrid last summer at a startup school for entrepreneurs.

He said that during his internship, he was able to explore career paths he hadn’t previously considered.

“There’s tremendous value to working in different country and in different environments,” he said.


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