While the obvious answer is always to check myExperience for new not-for-profit internships, because there are so many opportunities, some of them often do not fulfill the criteria to count as an International Co-op work-term (be it the pay or the number of work hours/week). Therefore, if you are choosing to complete an International Co-op with a not-for-profit organization, it will most likely be a self-directed work-term.
I know, I know, the term “self-directed” can seem frightening, but it’s not. It just requires a little more work on the students’ end, but trust me, it’ll be worth it in the end.
Now, you might be wondering, “well, where do I start?” and that’s a great question. Since many not-for-profit internships are not posted onto myExperience, your best bet is to keep an eye out for internship opportunities with some of your preferred organizations (e.g., Doctors without Borders, Red Cross, and the United Nations). Many of these organizations hire on a cyclical, ad hoc basis. Hence, check their websites for any updates or new postings. Next, you want to ensure that if you are successful and go to work abroad, that it counts towards your International Co-op work-term. So, make sure before accepting or even applying, you go see your Co-op Coordinator and ask them if the opportunities you have found are eligible as self-directed work-terms. For more information about self-directed work-terms, visit the Go Self-Directed page.
While most not-for-profit internships do not pay as competitively as corporate co-op positions, it should not deter you from applying. It is important to remember that there are various forms of funding available for students who choose to work abroad. As outlined in the International Co-op Funding Assistance page, SFU partners with many organizations to pool together money to help fund students.
There are many positives in choosing to work for a not-for-profit organization as it is a mind-opening experience and provides you with the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people from all walks of life. This ability to work with an eclectic group of individuals, all striving for the same goal, can truly be an inspiring experience. It gives you a new lease on life and allows you to consider things from a different perspective.
Since you will be working in a different country, you will be interacting with locals very closely. This will ultimately provide you with insights on their ways of life and the challenges that they go through. This experience will take you out of your comfort zone and dispel your sense of normalcy. Ultimately, working with a not-for-profit organization will give you a lot to reflect upon, and help with personal growth and development. It will allow you to gain inherent respect for different cultures, opening your mind to new experiences.
But of course, you do not have to take my word for it. Here is a video of students reflecting upon their experiences participating in International Co-op with a not-for-profit organization.
In my parting words, I will leave you with this: if your primary motivation for participating in International Co-op is to develop a sense of cultural awareness, make an impact on the world and ultimately help people, working with not-for-profits is worth looking into. It may not be the most glamorous job and may require a little more preparation and research than other opportunities, but it is an extremely fulfilling and rewarding experience.