January is that time of the year where for most, there’s little excitement. Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are over, the weather is cold and miserable, and exams and deadlines have actually come around. So, why not give yourself something to look forward to in the summer? Most students are lucky to have around three or four months off each year, this being the perfect time to gain incredible experiences abroad. Being a modern languages student, I have been involved in various experiences overseas during the summer, and there is no reason why any other student couldn’t do the same.
For those who want to spend their summer earning, working as a seasonal worker is a very popular option. This summer, I spent two months working for the camping holiday company Al Fresco, on the Costa Brava. I was accompanied by my boyfriend and we were responsible for the company’s mobile homes. Advantages included constant sun, the beach being a five-minute cycle away, having a great social life and being able to work together. Yet, cleaning and maintaining mobile homes was not so enjoyable in 30-degree heat, which is a big disadvantage to be considered. For more information on this kind of opportunity, research Holiday Rep positions with Al Fresco, Eurocamp, Canvas or Lifestyle (to name just a few!).
Alternatively, you could consider flying across the pond with Camp America, who employ over 7000 people to work on the hundreds of camps across the States each year. Endless energy, positivity and desire to be with people (whatever age) is said to be a necessity for this job. Mainly because the role involves working with children and in a team. Just go onto the www.campamerica.co.uk website or attend various recruitment fairs across the country to sign up.
Au-pairing is another popular option; this involves looking after and talking English to the children in a family for a few hours a week. In exchange for this you are given accommodation, food, some “pocket money” and a true cultural experience in a entirely new and exciting country. Luck is a prime factor with this route however; I have one friend who was au-pairing in Italy and had to quit because the children bit and hit her and then another in France who was simply used to distract the child from her parents’ messy divorce. These are only the minority though since most people come back with many memories and friends for life and can’t recommend the experience enough. To look more into this opportunity, the British Au Pairs Agencies Association has a list of reputable companies, and www.aupairworld.com is a popular platform used to find families.
Some students need to prioritise using their summers to gain experience in their future career field to fill space on their CV. Of course, the jobs already discussed will set you up with transferable skills for life but a career-specific internship abroad may be of more value to some, and their future. It can be very difficult to find exactly what you want; competition from all around the globe can be fierce, especially with the big companies such as Deloitte, L’Oreal, H&M and Goldman Sachs that offer advertising intern opportunities abroad. The selection process can be long-winded but, for those who believe they have a chance, it would definitely be worth researching these opportunities. It is usually even harder to find an opportunity that is well-paid, so living costs also need to be fully considered.
In the summer of 2015, I was lucky to intern for six weeks with ClubMed Business in Geneva. Working 45 hour weeks in an office with people of different nationalities and languages was hard work, and extremely tiring, but the skills that I gained made it worthwhile. A family friend and employee of the company helped me get this opportunity, and provided me with accommodation. Therefore, my top tip for finding the ideal internship would be to consider who you already know: have you got any connections to the country you want to spend your summer in already?
If not, research is key. You need to fully research different countries and the areas of work that interest you, and give any trustworthy opportunity a shot. This can take a long time but consider websites such as www.gooverseas.com and www.studentlanguagebureau.com to help. Also, don’t forget that the university may be able to give you advice: ask lecturers, ask classmates or those in higher years and maybe even read those emails from the Careers and Employability Service…
Finally, volunteering abroad is another very popular option; we all know that person who spent their summer in a developing country helping in an orphanage or trying to prevent the extinction of some endangered animal, while feeling guilty that we were at home doing nothing of the sort. Of course, there is no reason why you can’t, it’s just important to highlight that this kind of thing also needs intensive research. Volunteer tourism is often becoming something that creates more harm than help nowadays, therefore multiple things should be considered.
Firstly, your reasons: are you volunteering because you actually care about the cause or because you want to look like a caring person to others? Also, will your skills be a true help to the cause? Secondly, money: obviously you won’t be paid so living costs need to be counted for, as well as possible payments for volunteering for a short time period.
With ethical volunteering in mind, a few recommended websites to get the research started would be www.podvolunteer.org, www.vsointernational.org/volunteering/ICS-youth-volunteering and www.questoverseas.com/. Before signing up to anything at all, it is important to meet or speak to the organisers, asking specific questions about your role and where your donations are going. Also helpful is finding reviews from past volunteers because they are less likely to not sugar coat the experience.
Of course, there are still many other ways to spend your summer abroad: summer schools, language academies, inter-railing, teaching English through TEFL and other schemes, the list goes on. I just hope the opportunities I’ve discussed are a good starting point for your ideas, since they are undeniably a fantastic way to boost your CV and life experiences – there really is no downside to doing something productive in a new country!