International placements are excellent opportunities to expand your horizons and push your comfort zones, but they are not for everyone.  The following questions may help you discern whether international placement is best suited to your interests:

What is your motivation for pursing an international Field Studies experience? 

There are many valid and different motivations for pursing an international experience. Some students are looking to explore a possible new area of interest, study or work while others hope to be able to contribute to addressing significant social problems. Still others are looking for an adventure. Whatever your motivation, it is important to understand the capacity of the potential host organization as not all have a support structure in place to help you accomplish your objectives. It is also important to remember that host organizations also have their own hopes and expectations about what you will accomplish and will necessarily have to invest considerable a amount of their time for your experience to be successful. It is therefore important to be very honest and transparent about your motivation to avoid misunderstanding and hard feelings.  

How much time can you afford to spend in an international setting?  

Students pursuing international field study frequently experience significant culture shock. The rule of thumb is that it takes about four - six months in a new culture for a person to become comfortable in that environment. While most interns are not able to spend six or more months in their placement, we recommend that potential interns plan to spend as much time on site as they can afford. An international experience is not one that can be effectively rushed if it is to be meaningful. How much time can you reasonably invest?   

Are you self motivated? 

In many placements, you may think you know what you’re going to do but find that what you had been told is very different from the reality of the job. You may find that you have nothing to do. Often there is the expectation that you do come with skills and the necessary drive and motivation to share those skills, thus the people may expect you to "make it happen". There are few assignments that are well structured, so if this is what you need, this kind of experience may not be for you.

How important is predictability for you? 

In many parts of the world, planning does not happen in the ways you expect. Relationship is held in higher esteem than punctuality. There is often much room for spontaneity and "emergency" problem solving. What one expects to do or what one expects to happen in a day may turn out to be completely different from what actually happens. Many people from a western culture find this way of "doing business" to be very frustrating.

How do you deal with hierarchical leadership, and likely male authority? 

The majority of placements internationally will be with organizations whose top leadership is male. Frequently these organizations will be a part of societies where men are given greater authority than women. For many westerners this is a challenge and can lead to conflict and frustration. As well, many of us who are willing to take the "risk" to live and work in another culture will be self-motivated and have leadership qualities. These must be tempered with respect for the cultural systems and expectations of the host.

Are you generally healthy?  

In some ways health standards in other countries can be more disciplined than in the west (e.g. diligence in washing hands), but at the same time life can be lived closer to the Earth so that there will be more opportunities to come in contact with germs and viruses. You don't want to spend your time with perpetual diarrhea so this should be considered as you discern whether this is a placement for you. Many places have common viruses and serious diseases (HIV/AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, etc.).  While most of these are treatable if you have access to the right medical care, they can still be devastating to a short term experience and should be considered as risks when going.

How do you deal with authority? 

Many countries have police and military authority systems which are part of the governing apparatus (and which you must respect), but who often behave in less than helpful ways. These authority figures may take advantage of the power they have – position and their weapon – to the disadvantage of others. This can involve being hassled, being asked for bribes, being falsely accused or even threatened. Experience with these individuals can lead to great stories after the event, but can also result in loss of property and much frustration.

Do you think a domestic field studies experience would be a good fit for you?