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Combine your studies with an internship

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11th-Jun-2017       
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Elizabeth Koprowski :
If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: the job market is competitive and earning a top-notch degree is no longer enough to land you that dream job. Students today need to show initiative, skill, and creativity both in the way they have earned their degrees and in how they sell their talents. But luckily, education sectors around the world are evolving to meet the needs of both employers and students, and gaining vital, real-world experience in your chosen field is easier than ever. Many courses offer (and sometimes require) placement periods, and universities are forming partnerships with leaders in industry and business to make work-placements for students easier to obtain. Internships, traineeships, and apprenticeships are on the rise, and most students who participate in such programs find that they graduate with, at least, a head start and, at best, a foot already in the door of their career. Read on to find out more about combining your degree with work experience.
The benefits of an internship
An internship looks great on your CV, but work experience while you study shouldn't be just a talking point during an interview. Here are five good reasons to complete an internship or work-placements during your studies:
1. Gain real-world skills
Most jobs today require at least a few years of experience. If you complete an internship, you'll  come away with transferable skills that improve your employability. Combining your studies with an internship gets you those all-important years of experience so that when you enter the job market, you can hit the ground running.
2. Make up your mind
Many students go into a field of study because they enjoyed the subject or had good marks in high school. But classrooms are much different from careers. An internship or apprenticeship will give you the chance to decide if teaching (or marketing or accounting) is the right career path for you. Work experience can also help you find your niche. You might be studying history now, but an internship with the local planning office could reveal that you have a passion for building preservation.
3. Earn credits (and money!)
Internships have become such a vital part of higher education that many universities are adding them to course requirements and offering degree credit for completion. This is a win-win situation for you - you gain real-world experience and college credit. And, if you're really lucky, your internship will be paid, which means that you can also earn real-world money!
4. Make contacts and form a network
Network, network, network! We hear it time and again, but the contacts you take away from your studies will be one of your most valuable resources and an internship will help you expand your network and make contacts with those in your field.
5. Get a job
And those contacts can help you find a job once you've graduated. Or, better yet, your internship could transition into a full-time job once you've completed your degree. The possibilities are endless!
 How to include an internship in your study program
Okay, so you're sold on the advantages of internships, but how do you go about getting one? Many universities and departments are partnering with relevant industries to offer internships and work-placements to students, but some students still find opportunities on their own. Here are a couple ways to study and intern at the same time:
1. Combine your time abroad with an internship
International experience is just as valuable as work-experience, and combining the two is a great idea. Many study abroad programs have built-in internships but even if you choose a program without an internship, you may still have the chance to complete one while abroad. Just make sure your program allows it and check all your visa requirements - are you allowed to work during your studies? Can you earn while studying? Must you earn if you work?
2. Use your breaks
Internships and work-experience don't have to be long-term to be valuable. Many internship programs offer short-term or holiday placements. You can also target companies you're interested and ask for short-term assignments. Many businesses are short-staffed during holidays and summers and would be willing to take on an intern while things are quiet.
How internships work around the world
Getting work experience abroad is a good idea and many countries, like Germany and France, have standardized work-study systems, also known as dual education systems (DUS) or "Alternance". In DUS programs are nationally regulated, and students choose from very specific, and often highly-specialized, careers. Here are some of the highlights from DUS and internship programs around the world:
· In Germany, DUS students attend classes and receive hands-on training in their selected field. They earn a monthly salary (which varies according to region and trade).
· In France, "Alternance" students are designated a tutor, or support worker, to guide them through their studies.
· Students in Dublin's Corkscrew StartUp School work on real projects in companies throughout Ireland.
·    EDUCA Russian Language Center offers Russian-language internships for students in a variety of fields, including Art and Architecture.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and find an internship or apprenticeship that will give you the real-world skills you need to find your dream job!
(Elizabeth Koprowski is an American writer and travel historian. She has worked in the higher education system with international students both in Europe and in the USA).

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