Picture this: A summer behind the scenes at the Edinburgh Art Festival, helping set up a show and banquet, managing a guest list and communicating with artists and agents, plus an excursion to London and a tour of a Scotch distillery and 12th-century castle.
That was Darius Francis’ internship last summer. He loved it. Who wouldn’t?
“Anytime I talk to anyone about this experience, they say, ‘Wow, tell me about that,’ ” said Mr. Francis, a senior majoring in public relations at Eastern Illinois University.
The only thing is, his 10 weeks cost more than $16,000, including $7,300 to the program provider, Panrimo, and $6,000 to Eastern Illinois for the nine credit hours earned through the internship. Mr. Francis was able to cobble together some financial help: a $6,000 federal loan and $3,800 in scholarships from the university’s study abroad office, Panrimo and a local nonprofit. His parents paid the rest.
Demand for internships abroad has surged as students — and just as important, their parents — grow ever more worried about their job prospects after graduation and seek a foothold in a world that values global experience.
“The hottest growth area in the whole international education area” is how Cheryl Matherly, vice provost for global education at the University of Tulsa, describes internships. “It’s a way to really make the international experience more relevant.”
In response, in 2013, I.E.S. Abroad introduced full-time summer internships, which this year will be in Sydney, Dublin, London, Rome, Milan, Paris and Barcelona, Spain, and Santiago, Chile. Cost: $5,000 to $7,850.
Rachael Criso, a French professor at the University of Michigan, is not a fan of pricey internships. “There are a lot of private operators who charge students $7,000 to $10,000 for the privilege of working abroad for nothing,” said Dr. Criso, who helps find and arrange overseas internships for students in Michigan’s college of literature, science and the arts. “We’re trying to make it an affordable proposition for students. We have some scholarships that help them pay for housing and airfare.”
Assisted by Michigan alumni spread around the world, her program has arranged internships with a winery in France, an artist in Paris, a women’s group in Geneva and a school in Turkey.
Kai Norden, a University of Michigan sophomore majoring in business and environmental science, found an internship last summer at a London consulting firm where an alumnus worked; he got to research farming in Uganda for an apparel company that was setting up a fair trade program. The employer’s stipend covered housing and food; he paid only $1,400, for visa and flight. “It was a lot better than the whole pay-to-play program where you have to shell out a lot of money,” he said.
These students may have to find their own lodging and, without some programs’ bells and whistles, make their own fun. “We’re trying to set up something individual without having all that hand-holding,” Dr. Criso said. “You might have to find your apartment in the dark; you might not know where your key is coming from. But all of a sudden you’re a couple of inches taller. These can be some of the most enriching experiences.”
Steven Greenhouse is former labor and workplace correspondent for The Times.