Exchange vs. internships: Options for students

For students going into their third year of university or graduating, there are plenty of new opportunities to travel and even get a job in the process.

St. Thomas University is offering their usual international exchange program for those who want to take their degree to another country.

“The criteria is pretty basic for what we’re looking for,” said international student co-ordinator Carrie Monteith-Levesque.

“You must have an annual GPA of 3.0, of course send a complete application form by Feb. 13, and then a financial plan and recommendation by a professor, just to know you’re a good student and a good fit.”

Monteith-Levesque said new opportunities include travelling to Turkey, Spain and France. However, the most popular places among students are Korea, Australia, Malta, Sweden and Japan.

“A couple things to remember about this exchange program is that you are still a full-time student at St. Thomas University, paying tuition and fees to St. Thomas University,” she said.

“But you would go on exchange to the partner institution, and all your credits that you receive during your time on exchange would transfer back to St. Thomas.”

However, students must still pay for their own travel accommodations, living expenses and usual necessities like food.

Monteith-Levesque said it’s a great way for students to experience how education is operated in a different country while taking in some different cultural norms.

“The study system itself is going to be different in structure. For example, in Sweden, it’s module based … most people do say that it’s life changing,” she said.

But is it worth it? Will going on an international exchange lead to an increased chance of employment?

Alex Townley is the global head of marketing and VP at City Internships, a U.S.-based internship program which offers students graduating a chance to work with companies in 12 different cities around the world.

He said the program they offer, the global explorers program, is geared more towards getting a job.

“Employability is the primary focus for our program,” he said.

“We conducted a student employment outcome survey last fall, and we found that our interns will typically earn 30 per cent more than their peers, and will be hired three times more quickly.”

The eight-week program City Internships offers typically has you being matched with a “host company” who can best use your skillset, increasing your chances of employment.

Be warned, though: You’ll still have to go through an interview process with the host company. However, City Internships guides everyone in their program with the best practices for landing a position.

“We’ve really pushed for the students to make the most of their internships,” Townley said.

“We want them to be indispensable and be the hardest worker in the room.”

The internships can take place in New York, London, Boston, Austin, Miami, Hong Kong and more. Most of the places they offer are similar to what STU offers, minus the credits.

“We’ve really pushed for the students to make the most of their internships,” Townley said. “We want them to be indispensable and be the hardest worker in the room.”

Townley said students are often hired by their partner company after the program, or within the first three years after they’ve completed the internship.

Students who are hired within three years of completion also get a tuition rebate worth $2,500 USD. While that may not seem like much, it might pay for a quarter of the newest iPhone. That was sarcasm.

While it might seem like City Internships is the way to go if you want to start paying off your ridiculous student loan as fast as possible, Monteith-Levesque said STU’s program can still give you an advantage over other students looking for jobs too.

“Especially in an ever-changing global market,” she said.

“Having that exposure, employers of course would see that you have a global understanding and adaptability. Obviously you can adapt well to new things, new challenges. Employers do hold international experiential learning and exchanges in high regard.”

One thing is for sure, with whatever out of country program you pick, Monteith-Levesque said things are going to be a lot different than home.

“You’re going to be completely immersed in a different culture and language.”

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