Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) focuses on integrating students’ course-based learning with real-world practical situations and experiences. Internships are a specific example of WIL that allow students to apply their academic studies to relevant experiences at companies, organizations, and nonprofits, small or large.

In spring 2023, I had the opportunity to intern with a public relations organization. Not only did I get to apply what I have learned from my communications courses, but I got to do so while I studied abroad in Sorrento, Italy for the semester. I joined the About Sorrento team as a Communications Writing and Photography Intern, creating content about the towns along the Sorrento and Amalfi coasts. I wrote a weekly blog called “My POV Sorrento” that highlighted my own personal and unique experiences living and traveling abroad.

Interning while studying abroad was such a unique experience. This opportunity allowed me to navigate two unfamiliar environments, ultimately positioning me to excel in diverse and dynamic professional settings while broadening my global perspective and enhancing my adaptability in the professional world.

The Internship Experience

An internship is one kind of experiential learning that incorporates structured and supervised work experience to give students the opportunity to gain practical knowledge. Internships are designed to offer a hands-on learning experience that allows students to explore career interests, develop industry-specific skills, and aid in decisions about future academic and career progression. During my internship, the many benefits of the experience were apparent from the beginning, and they fall in line with what makes internships a high-impact practice (O’Neill 2010).

Hands-On Experience
Internships provide an opportunity to apply classroom learning to a work environment where a tangible product for distribution can be worked on.As a communications intern, I wrote ten articles that were published on the About Sorrento website with pictures that I photographed.
Skill DevelopmentPlacements allow for learning new skills and industry standards from an employer.I was introduced to blog-style writing, as well as writing for an international audience.

Interns are in an environment where they may connect with industry professionals who can lead them to future career opportunities.I was introduced to many members of the About Sorrento team, as well as other professionals from similar media organizations.
Resume/Portfolio BuildingInterns can highlight their experience on a resume as well as create a portfolio to showcase their work.I have included the articles I wrote during my internship on my portfolio website.
Increased Job ProspectsHaving prior relevant work experience increases candidacy for future positions.I can apply what I have learned and accomplished to future opportunities.
Personal GrowthInterns gain skills unique to the environment in which they are learning and working.I saw improvement in my writing and photography skills, and I gained cross-cultural communication skills.

Combining the Internship and Study Abroad Experiences

Interning while studying abroad provides a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in an unfamiliar work environment. This practical exposure not only enhances students’ skill sets, but also fosters a deeper understanding of global workplace dynamics by preparing interns for careers in an increasingly interconnected world. This type of internship also promotes cultural immersion and cross-cultural communication skills by encouraging students to adapt to different work cultures and social norms, thus broadening students’ global mindsets and enhancing their intercultural competency.

Exposure to diverse perspectives and practices is integral in developing skills of both flexibility and capability to be open to new ideas. These combined experiences also demonstrate a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone and an eagerness to embrace new challenges. These are valuable skills that showcase a potential intern or employee’s ability to navigate unfamiliar environments and work collaboratively in diverse teams. An international internship can be a transformative personal growth experience. It encourages independence, self-reliance, and resilience as students navigate a new work culture, language, and living situation. Overcoming the challenges associated with interning abroad can boost self-confidence and equip students with a heightened sense of adaptability, which can serve them well in both their personal and professional lives.

Overall, interning while studying abroad is a multifaceted opportunity that enriches a student’s academic, cultural, and professional development. It provides practical experience, fosters cultural immersion, enhances employability, facilitates networking, and cultivates personal growth. As such, it is a highly rewarding endeavor that can significantly enhance a student’s overall educational experience.


O’Neill, Nancy. 2010. “Internships as a High-Impact Practice: Some Reflections on Quality.” Peer Review 12 (4) (Fall): 4-8.

Gianna Smurro is a journalism and cinema major at Elon University. She is a 2022-2025 CEL Student Scholar working with the 2022-2024 research seminar on Work-Integrated Learning.

How to Cite this Post

Smurro, Gianna. 2023. “Interning Abroad: Work-Integrated Learning in a Global Context.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. October 10, 2023.