BY BRANDON KING
If you are an American scouting out your summer internship, it’s likely that you are looking to the traditional markets for summer internships: New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Opportunities abound in medium and large-sized cities everywhere, but an increasing number of students are looking to differentiate themselves by doing internships overseas.
In this post, we take a look at some of the opportunities afforded by an internship in an emerging market.
It’s no coincidence that the largest emerging markets, the BRICs- Brazil, Russia, India, and China- are also increasingly popular destinations for internships. The fact that their markets are not nearly as efficient as in the US, and their infrastructure typically (though perhaps not in China) lags behind their developed counterparts illustrates just how much opportunity there is left for these economies to grow. Opportunities abound!
Whether interning, working full-time, or simply travelling overseas, the time has never been better for Americans, as the dollar remains relatively strong despite weakening in recent months.
Before covering internships in emerging markets, here are a few of the most common reasons a student will decide to undertake an internship:
- It’s an employers’ job market, and they want to see experience before committing to a full-time hire rather than a temp worker.
- An internship is a great way for an employer to give a student a “trial” before committing more resources to them as a full-time. Many employers report that interns who go on to be full-time hires are their most productive employees.
- College interns may get paid more after graduation-Candidates with internship experience are highly likely to earn more than candidates with no experience.
- Earning college credit toward a degree is often possible.
- Internships enable a student to take his career plan for a “test drive” so that they can find out whether they actually want to do it or not.
- Working in an internship bridges the gap between academic theory and real work experience
Internship opportunities in Brazil vary from 1 month to 2 years. Here are a few things to know about internships in Brazil:
- An allowance of between 0-0.2 BRL except for foreign interns (they are not entitled to pay)
- If you are Brazilian, you’ll find that your allowance varies depending on the field of study. STEM fields (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) pay best, just as in the US.
- Expect bureaucracy
An intern requires a Vitem IV visa. To get this visa, these requirements must be fulfilled:
- Letter from the hiring institution
- Intern contract details
- Criminal record for the last 90 days
- Proof of residence for the past year
- Proof of financial ability
China is one of the world’s most popular destinations for internships, and for good reasons- its economy continues to grow at a rapid pace, and its culture offers tons of new experiences for the eager intern.
Internships in China can last anywhere from 1 to 6 months, with 3 months being the average. Chinese is NOT required but it will provide more opportunities for an intern. As a global business powerhouse, China offers internships year round, though it can be a challenging country to work in. Students interested in working in China may consult this China internship guide as a resource.
India is an extremely diverse country, one with 22 official languages and a caste system imposed by the British Empire that (unfortunately) impacts life there.
India is also extremely bureaucratic, so be prepared for that.
The most common industries for internships in India are:
- Teaching English
- Travel and tourism
English is widely spoken so Hindi (or any India’s 21 other national languages) are not a requirement. The cost of living in India is extremely low outside of Mumbai, which rivals many world cities in its high prices.
Russia sits at the intersection of east and west and has a history that captivates many of the interns who pass through it. The most popular fields of study are: Hospitality, Tourism and travel, especially along the coast of the Black Sea. The Energy industry also attracts many expats to Moscow, as Russia has the largest reserves of natural gas in the world.
Internships in Russia range from 3 weeks to one year. While Moscow has traditionally been considered one of the world’s most expensive cities in the world, the fall of the Ruble in 2015 has made it increasingly affordable. The most popular cities for interns are Moscow and St. Petersburg.
While South Korea is actually considered a high-income country, we added it to this because of its growing popularity with foreign interns. Surrounded by China and Japan, Korea has nevertheless managed to cultivate its own unique culture.
Internships in South Korea are unpaid, and it is up to the intern to organize housing and their living expenses. South Korea has very strong electronics and gaming industries, both of which provide internship opportunities. Teaching English is another option for those looking to make the move to South Korea, as it has one of the biggest ESL (English as a Second Language) markets in the world. If you end up interning in South Korea, you’ll likely be in either Seoul or Busan.
Of course, you’ll want to do your homework before committing to an internship in any country. Visa laws change regularly, so be sure to consult multiple sources to make sure you are coming on the right visa. Bring at least three months’ worth of cash, arrange housing before arising, and expect the unexpected. Expect unpredictability, communication challenges, and perplexing customs- these are all part of what make an emerging market internship so fun!
Brandon King is an entrepreneur who moved to China after graduating university in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis. He runs an HR company that specializes in helping people pursue job opportunities in Shanghai, China.