Internships: The Ultimate Advantage of College in Europe

As many of you know, Beyond the States was formed in response to my concerns about the state of higher education in the US. Of course, ever rising tuition and the high stress admissions process were my two greatest worries, but I was also troubled by the post-graduation prospects for many grads these days. For recent college graduates under the age of 25 has risen to 9%(compared with 5.5 percent in 2007) and nearly half of college graduates in their twenties are underemployed, meaning the jobs they can get don’t require a bachelor’s degree.


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I read these facts in There is Life After College by Jeffrey J. Selingo. This book gives recent and soon to be college graduates advice regarding ways to increase their employability. Selingo spends a good amount of time talking about the importance of internships. He noted that few schools in the US required internships or helped students find them and only 1 in 3 graduates had an internship in college. This, despite the fact that, internships are a fast track to a job. According to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, employers hire around 50% of the interns who worked for them as full time workers after graduation and in some fields it is closer to 75%.

Internships help students learn how to apply what they have learned in the classroom. They are learning relevant skills, seeing what others are responsible for and gaining exposure to occupations that they might not have known about. They are able to try out an industry, role or organization while also building contacts and gaining relevant experience for their resumes.

One thing that sets bachelor’s programs in Europe apart from those in the US is that most programs in Europe have at least one semester set aside for an internship. Often, internship semesters are required. Having a semester to do internships removes many of the obstacles that students in the US report. With the dedicated semester, students don’t have to choose between a paying summer job or an internship, they don’t have to juggle internship duties and class work, they aren’t competing with all the summer internship applicants, and the internships can be completed in countries outside of the one they are studying in.

Internship placements are often handled by the student’s study department, but some schools have an office devoted to handling internships, like IESEG School of Management in France. The Business Administration program has a really interesting internship. Each year of the three year program, the student has an internship focusing on a different level of management. The first year includes a one-month labor internship. The second year has a three-month internship at an assistant level and the third year has a three-month management internship. This allows students to have firsthand knowledge of how each level of an organization is impacted by the other.

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There are many international companies with locations and internships offered throughout Europe. Google offers internships related to business, software engineering, legal work, and customer service in many of their European locations. Others include BP, JP Morgan, Accenture, AIG, Deloitte, Bayer, Cisco, Bayer, and BMW. Many schools have partnerships with these companies that help place their students in internships. These are not limited to business related internships. Many of these companies have internships that related to engineering, science, and other fields of study.

I think the opportunities that are unique to Europe are especially interesting. Students can intern with the International Center for Counter Terrorism or the International Criminal Courts in The Hague. The World Health Organization is headquartered in Geneva. The UN Regional Center is in Brussels. Students who are interested in sustainable energy can intern with European Energy in Copenhagen. The options are truly extraordinary.

I often mention Estonia in my presentations and blogs. I could not have told you where Estonia was on the map a few years ago, but it is now one of my favorite places. It’s also a great place for students looking for engineering internships at places like NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center and the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. Skype was founded in Estonia and they have internships in Tallinn, Stockholm, and Prague.

I am really excited by the internship opportunities our members and my own children will have when studying in Europe. Selingo believes that “For American education to remain relevant to students, it must abandon the antiquated idea that schools and colleges broadly educate people for life, while employers train them for jobs. It’s not either or anymore. Given the amount of money parents and students spend on a degree, there is no reason colleges shouldn’t provide both a broad education as well as the specific training and skills needed for the workplace”. I have said before that I hope that reform does happen in the US and includes some of Selingo’s ideas about internships. That said, I am not optimistic that such reform will occur in the immediate future, so I am thrilled to have an alternative route that provides solutions to these problems.

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