Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Cuba is always great for a vacation but what about for education?

Hitting the white sandy beaches and listening to the sultry beat of Cuban mambo music is always a good vacation idea.  The people, the festivals, the excitement; it is all there.  But if you are going to be a serious student, do you really have time to take a vacation,  hit up the local art scene and soak up the local culture?  No, of course not.  You are going to buckle down in that 5’ x 5’ dorm room of yours with 60 lbs of textbooks and study material and the messy roommate who leaves dirty socks everywhere for the next 6 months.  You are a serious student and that is what serious students do.  Right?


A recent article from the The Chronicle of Higher Education by Lacey Johnson stated that “many employers believe colleges aren’t adequately preparing students for jobs” and that students need to start making a “distinction between getting skills and getting an education.”  One is not enough.  People need to do both.

It is a common complaint circling the water cooler if in fact you are one of the fortunate few who have managed to find employment and therefore have a water cooler to stand around.  Our parents told us to go out and get an education and everything would fall into place.  Well, mom and dad lied.  They didn’t know they were lying so we won’t blame them entirely but the truth remains.  That crisp, crumple-free diploma you receive at the end of your education is only a piece of the puzzle.

Employers want people with on the job training.  They want tangible skills, references, and three to five years of industry related work experience.  To put it bluntly, they want proof that you are not completely useless.

So here is the problem, how do you get experience when no one will hire you?

The answer:  an internship.

Sounds obvious right?  Well, it kind of is to recent graduates and those going through college right now.  It is why every fresh faced student is out there offering up what basically boils down to free labour in exchange for three or four lines that they can put on a resume. 

And now arises the second issue.  Suddenly everyone has an internship listed on their resume and you get pushed right back down to the bottom of the pile because what you did, really wasn’t that interesting.

The new answer: an international internship.

You heard me.  An internship at a local newspaper looks great on your resume if you want to get into journalism.  But you know what looks even better?  An internship at a newspaper down in Havana where you not only learned the ins and outs of investigative reporting, but you also learned about international issues, cultivated a respect for another culture, practiced your Spanish, (hola señor) and picked up some pretty impressive salsa dance moves.

Think about it.  With technology ever closing the gap between overseas markets, it doesn’t matter whether you are in journalism, business, marketing, healthcare or education, the need for a global perspective is becoming a must along with that ever so popular thing employers require called workplace experience.  So get why don’t you get both?  Open your choices up beyond what the local economy is telling you is possible.

If you are interested in participating in an international internship, here are a few resources that you can check out:

International Career Studies:
Ministry of Education (Ontario):

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