The Benefits of a STEM Education When Interning Abroad

Completing internships abroad can be a fantastic opportunity for students and graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—also known as the STEM disciplines. Not only are STEM students and graduates frequently in high demand, those with a STEM education stand to benefit the most from going global.

Below are some tips for taking advantage of your STEM background during your internship abroad.

Going for a walk is a good way to take a break from work. For a longer break, and a much cooler walk, consider a STEM exchange program abroad. Pictured above, STEM students take a short break during a walking tour of Munich while enjoying a longer break from studying.

Use STEM-speak to Transcend Language Barriers

As someone with a STEM education, your technical skills are likely to be recognized anywhere you go and will allow you to speak about yourself in a way that is easy to understand, even with those who don’t speak the same language.

Of course, the exact nature of many STEM jobs is difficult to explain to anyone outside of the particular industry regardless of language, but identifying yourself as an engineer in India will generally carry the same weight—and be understood the same way—as identifying yourself as an engineer in the U.S.

It may not seem like much, but while your counterparts with business majors are trying to explain the difference between being a “marketing professional” and a “salesperson” to people who may or may not know much about the modern business world, you will have already moved on to other topics after identifying your profession in terms which are easy to recognize wherever you go.

Whether or not you can navigate this tangle of wires and gauges depends more on your relevant STEM skills than your language capabilities.

And if you do happen to meet someone in the same line of work—a prospect that is quite likely during an exchange program—having the same industry knowledge as someone else will greatly ease communication. A shared STEM background can serve as a sort of lingua franca—allowing you to break through the language barrier by discussing common topics, using universal terminology, and being able to infer meaning from the conversation based on your own professional experiences.

Use Your Internship Abroad to Branch Out of STEM

Getting used to discussing your profession and STEM background in an unfamiliar environment is especially important if you are interested in using your internship abroad as a way to broaden your career prospects. Working in STEM frequently leaves you with less flexibility than many other fields so you should try to travel abroad early in your career while you can still fit the experience into your tight academic schedule, and while the benefit of developing a global perspective is greatest.

Participating in an international exchange will allow you to interact with others working in similar fields but in a different environment, which can lend itself to insights regarding your work back home. Even simply being away from the specific industry, group of specialists, or geographical location where you’re based can help you see things more clearly.

Thanks to her internship abroad, Mitchel was able to travel to Brazil to gain experience in her STEM field. The fact that she is the only woman in this picture highlights how quickly exchange programs can change the dynamic of a workplace.

Even if you’re not necessarily looking to branch out of STEM, it is a good idea to keep your eyes and ears open during trips abroad for opportunities to utilize your technical background in ways that you may not have considered before. Seeing your career from a global perspective can help reveal unique opportunities that aren’t apparent otherwise—or may not be obvious until you’re face-to-face with people working in the same field in a different country.

Remember Promo Code “STEM Degree” to Intern Abroad for Free

Completing a difficult STEM degree and acquiring skills that are in high demand usually go hand-in-hand with a cool STEM job and lucrative future career. But as if that weren’t enough, being a STEM graduate also means that you benefit from a number of funded programs, fellowships, and internship opportunities.

For example, many organizations provide scholarships to women in STEM to help continue breaking gender stereotypes. Check out some of the large number of specific STEM scholarships for women.

Additionally, organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers (nsbe.org) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (shpe.org) can also be great resources for STEM students to figure out ways to obtain international STEM experiences. Underrepresented students can also qualify for programs specifically targeting candidates like them.

At Cultural Vistas, we take special pride in knowing that programs like the STEM LAUNCH Study Tour have been known to change people’s lives.

STEM students from Morehouse College and Spelman College—two historically black colleges & universities (HBCUs)—are able to add international context to their education through a two-week professional and cultural tour of Germany with Cultural Vistas.

There are also a number of paid international fellowships and internships. A good place to start looking for internship opportunities abroad is IAESTE—an association with affiliates in more than 80 member countries that collaborate to host and send students abroad for technical internships every year.

Though you won’t actually be able to use your STEM degree as a promo code for free international experiences, most overseas programs you apply for as a STEM major will offer some sort of financial compensation—allowing you to relax and enjoy yourself after years of hitting the books.

Piotr Narel

Piotr Narel is a Marketing and Communications Officer at Cultural Vistas. He enjoys reading, writing, and long-distance running in his free time.

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