Hop across the pond: Internships and job placements overseas


With the recession hitting North American businesses hard, it looks like rough seas ahead for this year’s graduates.

Rather than jumping ship, adventurous job seekers should look beyond their geographical boundaries to areas where the economic downturn has not had such a devastating impact on employment opportunities for well-educated young Canadians.

International training opportunities and internships offer a viable stop gap measure while graduates wait for the revival of the economy back home.

Not only do international employment positions provide a means of weathering the economic storm, but they also create a worldwide network of employers and students, building an increasingly unified global village.

International internships present a unique opportunity to graduates faced with the closed doors of the North American job market.

AIESEC International (Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales) is the world’s largest student-run organization that facilitates internships between students or recent graduates and international employers.

Originally founded in the Netherlands, AIESEC has developed an “international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential” (AIESEC mission statement). The network has grown to include 35,000 members across 107 countries and 1,700 universities.

This system of ‘students helping students’ has bridged connections between young job seekers and global employers, resulting in international job placements ranging from three to eighteen months.

The recession has affected students from all academic backgrounds and programs like AIESEC present opportunities for all graduates faced with the challenges of the current job market. Educational and developmental traineeships cater towards arts and political science students, as well as more specific placements, such as business and engineering.

According to Nadia Sabessar, president of AIESEC’s McMaster chapter, the real value of internships is their ability to let students “take the theoretical skills that they learn and put them it into a practical setting.”

Programs like AIESEC can help recent graduates capitalize on the current economic turmoil by giving them skills and experience to enhance their degrees in anticipation of their future careers. These placements partner with small local companies and NGOs, as well as the world’s largest corporations such as Hewlett Packard (HP) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Nadia emphasized the long term value of AIESEC involvement, highlighting stories of members that have found permanent positions as a result of AIESEC partners, alumni or the skills and experiences they gained during their internships.

Companies are not looking to hire long term employees and as businesses are forced to endure massive layoffs, they are deferring the work load to temporary workers, such as interns.

Nadia said she encourages recent graduates to use the recession to their advantage by either going back to school, or getting involved in their community and international travel. AIESEC is one of many programs that enable students and graduates to gain an international perspective, an advanced skill set, and a valuable network.

International internships present a unique opportunity to graduates faced with the closed doors of the North American job market.

Here are some other international work, education and volunteer programs for young Canadians:

Would you consider taking your job hunt international?

About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.