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Internships That Make a Difference #SDGAction

What can a meaningful international internship do for you – and for the world? The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call to action, a blueprint for peace and prosperity – for the sake of all people, the planet, and life on land and below water. But we can only succeed if we work together.


Your International Internship Has Real Potential

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can only be realized with strong global partnerships and cooperation.

An international internship can advance your career, yes. But a meaningful international internship with roots in the SDGs can also turn you into a global citizen with valuable cross-cultural skills. You can experience partnerships in action on a community-led project that advances the sustainable development goals. If that sounds like a lot of potential, it is!

But what defines a meaningful internship? And how can you know when you’ve found one?

Consider These Three Things When Choosing an International Internship

Where is the international internship?

Location matters. Have you ever noticed that most people travel to the same places? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least on the surface. But first, consider that many popular locations suffer from overtourism, where the needs of tourists overshadow local social and environmental needs. The downstream effect is that alternative locations miss out on the benefits of hosting students, financial and otherwise. And there is something else to consider: Our collective habits as travelers say a lot about who and what we value.

As you weigh locations, ask yourself: Will my presence as a tourist have a positive impact? Can I learn something new and worthwhile here? Is there something special about this location that is relevant to my career goals, education, or personal interests? Am I choosing this location because it’s popular, or because it’s meaningful to me? What do I hope to bring home with me – not in terms of possessions, but in terms of experience?

Ultimately, where you choose to intern determines where you invest your energy and finances. Your choice will have a direct impact on the community you choose to become a part of – and it means something!

International internship locations
Who will you choose to guide you on your international internship?

International internship providers can connect you to unique opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise find. If they are good providers, they will vet their internships and ensure that they are responsible – ethical, sustainable and beneficial for everyone involved. They’ll ask the hard questions for you. Not only that, but they should provide guidance and support throughout your experience, helping you to immerse in the local culture and get to know the community so you can be as effective as possible as an intern – and learn as much as possible. The dollars you spend and the time you exert should be put to good use.

While you’re vetting providers, ask yourself: Will this provider help prepare me and facilitate experiences so I can immerse in the local community and learn about a new culture? Are homestays an option, or is the housing locally-owned? Will I receive pre-departure information about the location so I know what to expect? Is there 24/7 support on the ground in case I have questions, concerns, or just need someone to talk to?

What will you do during your international internship?

Meaningful international internships, by our definition, will naturally align with the SDGs. Depending on your major or your field of interest, you can choose to work on locally-led initiatives that tackle unique social and environmental issues. For example, you could help market Peruvian textiles, help educate local school kids in Zimbabwe about environmental issues, or fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand.

Ask yourself: Is the initiative I want to intern on led by locals? Does it serve the local community? How so? Socially and/or environmentally? Does the organization I’ll be placed with perform educational outreach within the community (if applicable)? What kind of work will I be able to do? And what does a typical day look like? Who will I be working with, and what type of professionals can I learn from? What skills will I be able to apply and/or develop?

So Are You Ready for a Meaningful International Internship?

We hope you’ll consider the potential international internships have – both for you and the world. Whether you are studying business or literature, your skills can be applied to meaningful initiatives that can, in turn, open your eyes to the world.

So, what do you think of when you think of a “meaningful” international internship? And where do you think you could make the most impact, and why?

Kaya provides socially conscious educational programs, including internships, in Africa, Asia and Latin America that tackle issues around health, the environment, social justice and economic empowerment. Contact us to learn more about our programs.


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