IE3 Global internships: Connecting students to international professions

With over 200 study abroad programs offered at Portland State, students who are interested in going overseas may be overwhelmed with the amount of resources that PSU has to offer. For students that are looking for internship-based abroad experiences, however, IE3 Global may be the program for them.

IE3 Global works with Oregon universities and beyond to provide “high-quality study abroad, internship, research, exchange, and faculty-led programs,” according to their website. The Vanguard spoke to three advisors from the Office of International Affairs: Education Abroad to inform students specifically about the internship program IE3 Global offers.

“The IE3 internship program allows students to directly immerse themselves in a working environment in numerous locations around the world for a quarter or longer,” said Jennifer Hamlow, director of Education Abroad at PSU. “They are integrated into an organization, whether it’s [a non-governmental organization] or otherwise, and are given real life work experience.”

Students can choose from 200 different jobs in over 60 countries. People can easily navigate the website and choose an internship program that best fits them based on major, language, location and/or professional focus. Each internship page outlines what the program is about, qualifications, costs and even testimonials from other PSU students.

“We have a large portfolio of employment partners all over the world,” said Jerry Gaube, IE3 Global Program director at PSU. “We work with students to place them in opportunities that will allow them to get the professional, academic and cross-cultural experience that they’re looking for to make that next step in their university experience as they move toward graduation.”

Why internships?

Internships are a way for students to gain professional experience before graduating college.

“You’re learning all these soft skills like cross-cultural communication, dealing with ambiguity [and] just managing uncomfortable situations, [and] that can be very valuable to future employers to know that you already had that experience and succeeded in a foreign environment,” Hamlow said.

Gaube suggested that IE3 internships are not for everyone.

“There’s a major difference between going on an internship experience as opposed to going on a faculty led short-term program or even a university exchange program,” Gaube said. “This side of the experience is very self driven. It requires a high level of creativity and professionalism on the part of the student, a high level of competence and relationship-creating ability as well as the ability to deal with ambiguity in going into a professional situation in another country… It takes a special student at a certain point in their academic career and has a relatively good handle on some of the goals to reach. Specifically, we find that these types are students are able to go and make an impact in a short period of time, but also truly learn about themselves because they have to go through this process with nobody really holding their hand.”

IE3 has both paid and unpaid internship programs. Participants work 35 to 45 hours per week and can get internship credit that can go toward their degree. Because credits transfer, some students are able to graduate even sooner. The financial aid they receive can be used as well.

“Sometimes people don’t understand that for both internships or study abroad, students can access their financial aid,” said Alyse Collins, assistant director at Education Abroad. “If they’re getting a Pell grant or a Stafford loan, that money can go toward the cost of studying abroad or internship [abroad]. With internships particularly, some of these are quite affordable options depending on where you’re looking and which kind of internship. The fact of the matter is, you’re using your financial aid, you’re earning credit, so you can stay at Portland State for winter quarter or go to Costa Rica or South Africa—somewhere sunny and warm and interesting. [You] can take a little break from Portland and PSU, but still work toward your education.”

IE3 Global creates individual internship experiences for students—one intern goes to one company per term. During the year, 30 to 50 students participate in the program each term. Summer is the most popular term for students.

Gaube also pointed out that PSU is different when it comes to global internships, due to different profiles, demographics and interests than some of the other universities.

“I am currently sending students to Estonia, to Germany, to Kurdistan, to Latin America, and to Indonesia just for teaching,” Gaube said. “This is a program that is uniquely interesting to PSU students because we find that PSU students tend to have a little bit more work experience than your average university student, just as a general tip. They are oftentimes more suited to be successful emerging into professional contexts than many other university [students]. This would be wonderful for more PSU students to be involved in.”

Narrowing it down

Gaube advises individuals to have an idea of what profession they want to get into before even choosing the country.

“I would suggest that this type of program is a professional development program,” Gaube said. “Although the location can be important for many factors, perhaps because you have specific cross-cultural and linguistic goals related to the host culture. At the end of the day, those types of goals can be met going on a university exchange program. This type of program is about gaining professional skills.”

Collins prepares students by asking questions like whether they want to be in an urban or rural environment, where they feel comfortable living, what kinds of topics they are interested in, if they are well situated to being in a removed or rural environment, what kind of lifestyle they are looking for, if they are equipped to deal with these differences, and if they are ready and prepared for the adjustments they are about to make.

“It depends on the student flexibility,” Collins said. “People want to go abroad generally because they are interested in having an amazing experience that is life shifting and changing, but then you also have to be realistic about what that actual means.”

Doing research on the community, housing availability, what the climate is like, politics, safety and security, everyday living costs, daily life, different funding opportunities and so on can help narrow down the search.

How to apply

All prospective study abroad students must first attend an Ed Abroad 101 session. Ed Abroad 101 is five days a week during the school year and three times a week during the summer, located in East Hall. Then, students should schedule a meeting with both an education abroad program and an IE3 Global program to make sure all credits are aligned. All advisors have lived or studied abroad and “offer a high level of expertise,” according to Gaube.

“[IE3 program advisors] are the custodians of the relationship between our partners internationally and the universities to help make sure this is the best fit,” Gaube said.

The application is a two-part process: One must apply in the Viking Abroad system and also the specific internship found on the IE3 site.

Advisors suggest to start planning at least six months in advance to make sure future interns have all the credits, financial aid and scholarships they will need to make the next step toward their global venture.

International Internship Experience

A job is not always guaranteed after an internship, but Collins emphasizes that it will be beneficial toward the individual’s life goals, whether it is graduate school, starting a business or volunteering for the Peace Corps.

“It gives a student an opportunity to experience a different kind of worldview,” Collins said. “It expands everything and gives a lot of creative energy. It gives you a better sense of what you can do with your degree while gaining life skills toward graduating.”

IE3 Global offers PSU students hands-on professional experience on an international level. The classroom becomes larger than 30 desks and a projector screen—the world become the classroom.

“It’s the best time to go abroad because when else are you going to have financial support to go explore the world and get credit for it, too,” Hamlow said. “Going abroad is a life-changing experience. Whether it’s traveling, studying or working, I think it is just so important to open your eyes and see how big the world is.”