If you’re interested in traveling and getting internship experience, the family of AIFS programs offers three options: internships abroad, virtual international internships, and Study Abroad + Internship hybrid programs where you do a part-time internship while taking classes. I did a Study Abroad + Internship program in Granada, Spain in Spring 2019. These are also offered in Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, England, France, Germany, Italy, and New Zealand.
Since I want to be a teacher, I chose an internship teaching English in a school (there are also options in many fields, including business and medicine). The preparation before going abroad was a little nerve-wracking; I needed to fill out a supplemental application and get a background check since I’d be working with kids. Thankfully, similar to the process of getting my visa, AIFS helped walk me through everything I needed to get done and the experience was well worth the paperwork.
AIFS also structures all their internships so you get training in the field before jumping in. For the first month of my semester abroad, the internship met as a regular class twice a week. This seminar was helpful to build background on the education system in Spain and form connections with other students with similar interests to mine! We had some interesting conversations dissecting the differences between American and Spanish schools and it was a very supportive community when it came time for our final presentations about each of our teaching experiences.
For the next three months, we were placed in schools based on whether we wanted to teach primary or secondary grades and how much autonomy we wanted in our teaching. My internship ended up being about 8 hours per week on Tuesday/Thursday mornings. This worked well because my study abroad coursework was on Mondays and Wednesdays. I am used to balancing school and work study in the U.S., so I found that time management was no problem. If anything, I wasn’t used to having so much free time and was glad to have my internship to fill some of it!
Any internship abroad will help you make local friends and learn more of the host language. I mainly talked in English with my students, but some of the teachers were more comfortable lesson planning with me in Spanish, both in person and over Whatsapp. I also made friends with some University of Granada student teachers from Spain and ended up hanging out with them outside of the internship!
I cycled through eight different classes from grades 1-6, four classes on Tuesdays and a different four on Thursdays. It was interesting to work with four different teachers and adapt my role based on what they were looking for. With the younger grades, I often pulled out small groups into the hallway to play review games with vocabulary. In my fifth grade class, I was mainly an observer who would help students individually during their work time, while in my sixth grade class I was at the front of the room, in charge of telling stories and leading listening comprehension for the entire class period.
I learned to be flexible not only with my role in the classroom, but also with cultural differences. For example, I found that punctuality in Spanish schools is more flexible than in the U.S. Rather than stressing about switching to the next subject exactly on schedule, teachers let their students continue working to a good stopping point. While I naturally follow a more regimented agenda, my internship allowed me to reflect on how, at times, that style is too rigid.
Overall, my internship was very useful for trying on my future career and it ended up transferring back to my home university as a 3-credit internship in both the English and Spanish departments! It has been a resume builder, a job interview talking point, and an experience I will continue to reflect on in future roles. My students also made me a thank you book with personalized notes and drawings that I keep close for encouragement on days when teaching gets tough. I highly recommend doing an internship as part of your study abroad experience!