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Young workers benefit from international experience

Sep. 21, 2012 - 12:40PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 21, 2012 - 12:40PM  |  
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For many young people, the economic downturn has been especially difficult because they're often competing with more seasoned professionals for jobs once reserved for the less experienced.

Adding to the dilemma is that employers also often profess a preference for those who have international experiences. If you're among those who haven't had a tour overseas during the past wars, you may want to consider an international internship.

Unlike some internship experiences, where a company will pay the intern for the work, in many cases, such as that of the Foundation for Sustainable Development, the interns pay for the experience.

FSD executive director Mireille Cronin Mather says interns pay on average about $4,500 to participate in internships, which can range from weeks to months. There are 228 interns working in six countries, such as Uganda and Argentina. They tackle a variety of community projects, such as microfinancing, she says.

The key to the FSD experience, Mather says, is intensive training and immersion in the local culture to best enable interns to help with critical community projects. FSD has more than 300 community partners and 17 university partners. The program is aimed at students "who want more rigorous training."

"You're not going to be teaching English," she says. "This is hard-core community development."

Mather says the organization doesn't just offer internships for young people, but also offers volunteering experiences of shorter times for professionals or groups.

"The professionals who participate find it renews their enthusiasm or just gives them a break from their regular jobs," Mather says. "They make real personal connections with other people and make a real difference."

Mather says that while many have criticized the work ethic of young people, she finds Generation Y "is not as jaded" as others and sees "everything with a fresh set of eyes.

"This generation sees the community in different ways. They've got a globalized perspective on life. While that perspective available to them has sometimes been negative, we're very positive and give them that new perspective."

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