Killing two birds with one stone: students immerse themselves in the international workforce while studying abroad

The Foundation of International Education (FIE) provides college students to not only study abroad and gain the experience from that, but also get real, international work experience. Morgan Harlan | Staff Writer

By Morgan Harlan

Many Baylor students and higher education students in the United States have the opportunity to study abroad but, very few also have the chance to immerse themselves in the international workforce. Fortunately, the Foundation of International Education (FIE), an international study abroad university, places American students in internship roles during their time abroad to experience cultural differences in the professional setting.

Madison Valine, a junior apparel and merchandising major from Atlanta, Ga., is currently studying abroad in London. Through FIE placement, she is interning at Love My Dog UK. Love My Dog UK is a small company operated in East London that specializes in creating and selling high end canine couture. Valine is currently in charge of marketing and public relations for the company.

“The UK workplace is much more relaxed. The U.S. was stringent and I had zero work-life balance where in London I have a great work-life balance,” Valine said.

Business Insider UK reported in their article, “6 major differences between how Americans and Brits work,” by Rachel Gillett, that US employees work more hours per week than employees in the UK.

“Work hours are creeping upwards in the UK, according to a recent estimate, full-time employees in the UK work an average of 42.7 hours a week, which is still fewer than the American average of 47 hours.”

Nicole Conca, a junior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is also a study abroad student in London at FIE. The summer before her junior year, Conca worked at Markel Corp, an insurance and investment holding company, in a marketing intern role. This semester she is interning at SpareFare, a discount travel agency, in another marketing role.

“We take a lot more breaks in the UK than in the US,” said Conca, “working here is a lot more low key than in the US.”

The UK also offers paid time off to every employee.

“Almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year” and “Most workers who work a 5-day week must receive at least 28 days’ paid annual leave per year,” Gov.UK said.

Paid time off contrasts in the United States, where there is no legal right of compensation for leave of absence. According to the site, “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave or federal or other holidays.”

In addition, the United Kingdom has different social norms in the workplace. For example, getting off work earlier, meeting at the local pub, and forming friendships are common practices in the professional setting.

“I think the social difference is that you are encouraged to get to know your co-workers more. In the U.S. people go to work to go to work not socialize,” Valine said.

According to Christian Science Monitor, “Americans are less likely than those in other parts of the world to socialize with their fellow employees beyond the workplace.”

International internships can vary greatly from US work normalcies but, they can offer many cultural experiences. According to Tony Johnson, president of the Academic Internship Council, “An international internship provides a chance for students to develop both personally and professionally—to be independent, and to discover the world of work at different levels and in different cultures.”

FIE has universities located in London, Dublin, and Amman. For more information on interning abroad visit: http://www.fie.org.uk/.