Overseas Virtual Internships: How to Gain International Work Experience From Home

This article is sponsored by University of South Australia

Internships are an important element of your education in Australia, and combining your internship with some travel is a popular concept for many students. 

However, Australia’s COVID-19 border policies mean international internships are not an option at the moment.

Fortunately, a new opportunity is available for students seeking international work experience in Australia overseas virtual internships.

Insider Guides spoke with CISaustralia Founder and Executive Director, Brad Dorahy, and current University of South Australia student, Vivian Ives, to find out what these internships involve, and how they can benefit you.

What is an overseas virtual internship?

An overseas virtual internship is an internship that is based in another country but conducted online. Through this method, you can gain international work experience at home.

Brad says for CISaustralia, overseas virtual internships were developed in response to Australia’s COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures.

“We developed virtual internships in five locations around the world [America, Japan, China, Spain, and South Africa], and in the last 18 months, we’ve been able to place well over 100 students across all these different programs,” says Brad. 

The types of internships available, and what industries are offering them, varies depending on the needs of individual countries. For example, Brad says America has plenty of opportunities in fields such as humanities and politics, while South Africa has more opportunities in fields related to community development and NGOs.

What is undertaking an overseas virtual internship like?

Brad says it can be hard to convince students to undertake virtual internships when many students are already having to take study online. However, the students who complete virtual internships are usually very satisfied with the experience.

While there are good internship opportunities in Australia, one of the best things about completing an overseas internship is that it can give you a different cultural experience, even as a virtual intern.

Learning at least a little bit of a new language might be a part of that experience, but you will still have guidance in English.

​​”All of our placements are in English, so [students] get an English supervisor, typically in a company that speaks…English very well,” says Brad.

“Quite often [students] can join in staff meetings and other meetings that are related to the projects that they’re working on…that’s all done by various technologies, particularly Zoom…WhatsApp, and Skype.”

Vivian, who is nearing completion of her Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management), completed an overseas virtual internship with an Indonesia-based company through another virtual internship provider. 

“The virtual internship gave me the opportunity to consolidate some of the concepts I learnt during my course,” she shares.

She says her remote work experience gave her more than just professional development, as her company immersed her in Indonesian culture through weekly quizzes, cooking lessons, language lessons, and virtual sightseeing.

What skills can I gain from an overseas virtual internship?

Despite not being physically in Indonesia during her internship, Vivian says the opportunities her company gave her to interact with people online improved her confidence and public speaking skills.

“I was being invited every week to be part of [the company’s weekly student] Zoom session, and I had a chance to also give my input… because they knew I was from another country,” says Vivian.

“Most of the sessions, we had between 100 and 150 people online. [This helped me] just to get out of my comfort zone by being able to talk in public to that number of people.”

Brad says students can gain a range of “soft skills” through overseas virtual internships. While these skills are typically the same as what you gain from a normal international internship, such as adaptability and open-mindedness, your communication skills will be particularly tested by the challenges of completing your placement online.

What should I look for in an international internship?

When you’re looking for an international internship, consider the same factors that you would for a normal internship. What do you want to learn? What field are you interested in working in? What will look good on your resume?

If you’re using a company like CISaustralia, they will try to match you with an internship that suits your goals.

For Vivian, who works with a lot of students in Asia in her role as an administration officer, finding a human resources-based internship in Asia was very important for her career.

“For me, because I do work with Asian students, I really wanted to learn more about the culture,” says Vivian.

How do I put a virtual internship on my resume?

If you’re wondering how to show remote work experience on your resume, just treat it like any other work experience you put on your university student resume.

“[Students] can highlight…the type of projects, tasks, and activities that they were involved in so that it jumps off the resume,” says Brad.

“[This] can really show a future employer that [the student] can work independently, that they can work across cultures, that their communication skills are highly developed — all these things that employers are looking for.”

Where can I look for virtual internships? 

To look for a virtual internship, you should speak with your education provider directly to find out what options are available to you.