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Internships Abroad: Why Companies Abroad Understand the Unpaid Internship Better Than Americans

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In North America, where the internship was pioneered and popularized, it seems as though the core value of the summer "stage" is being lost. When you ask your average college student about their summer internship, you're probably more likely to hear a nightmare story about eight weeks spent fetching coffee than you are to hear a story about a meaningful summer spent getting industry experience. I spent eight weeks interning for an Israeli company, and they understood what it meant to do an internship.

We're often told that Israelis don't understand internships the same way we do in North America. I actually disagree, I think they understand how we believe internships are supposed to be. We imagine internships to be an opportunity for companies to get useful labor while the interns work to get valuable experience and network to make meaningful connections. So when Israelis treat you like an entry level employee rather than asking you to fetch coffee, they've understood the concept better than you realize.

With all the legal and rhetorical fighting about whether or not unpaid internships should be allowed, we often forget the inherent value they give the intern when the company makes the process worthwhile. In Israel I worked for Headline Media, a leading international public relations and strategic communications firm. After proving my competence and my desire to work hard, they almost immediately gave me projects working with some of the top tech companies in Israel, including Wix and Powermat. Some would call that baptism by fire, others would call it having a job.

For two months I felt like I was actually working in my field. Some days were more exciting than others, but at no point did I fetch coffee for someone. Due to Headline Media's trust in me and my drive to succeed, I was able to prove myself and take on important tasks. I called and pitched stories to CNN, Techcrunch and more. I worked with diplomats and CEOs. I was part of the Headline Media team, because they actively chose to integrate me. My friends who interned at other Israeli companies have similar stories.

So it turns out that Israeli companies understand how internships are meant to be, even better than many American companies do. By actually making me feel like part of the team, I got the experience I was looking for and they motivated me to work harder, giving them a better return on their investment.

It's also easier and easier to go abroad for summer internships. I did so through Career Israel, a program designed to help students get internship experience in Israel, and the process was simple and rewarding. That meant I didn't have to spend as much time worrying about living arrangements and other considerations, and could spend more time focusing on my internship.

Now with my two month internship being over, I can thank Headline Media for believing in the Israeli concept of an internship (or rather, executing the North American concept properly), I can stick my tongue out at the employers who would have had me fetching coffee, and I can tell all my friends that next summer it's time to go abroad.