Internship experience is practically invaluable on a CV or résumé. And in our increasingly globalized world, internship experience abroad is especially helpful. But the process can be intimidating, especially if you’re unsure what effect the internship will have on your studies (or wallet).
Meet Martin O’Hagan, a student at St. Louis Community School, a community college in Kiltimagh, County Mayo, Ireland. Martin had the opportunity to complete an internship in Boston, which spurred his decision to study Sports and Recreation at home in Ireland. Here’s how he got there, from discovering his passion to finding the perfect internship to enrolling in college and studying fitness full time—plus his advice for others who want to intern abroad.
Discovering a new passion
It wasn’t until 2013 that Martin realized his passion for fitness. At the time, he was working in Boston and decided to take some classes at a boxing gym in South Boston. The classes were high intensity, high energy, and high appeal—he enjoyed the challenge and found a passion for the business.
When he returned to Ireland, Martin began to work on earning certifications and taking more fitness classes to broaden his horizons in the industry. At the same time, he was building his work experience in the field in Ireland.
Finding an internship in the US
Before furthering his studies, Martin decided he wanted to better understand the fitness industry. He chose to intern in the United States to get a broader understanding of sports performance from an international perspective.
“In Ireland, most gyms have a focus on group classes,” he explained. “You don’t see as much personal training as you do in the States. I wanted to learn more about how sports performance training is run in the US.”
After a short search, Martin found a listing for an internship at AMP Fitness. A few days later, he went in for an interview and left looking forward to starting his six-week internship with AMP in the fall.
Related: 7 Tips for Finding an Internship
Inside a fitness internship
Martin started each day at 6:00 am, arriving and immediately helping clients who came in at that time. His intern schedule was to come in Monday–Thursday from 6:00–11:30 am, have a break, and get right back to it from 3:00–8:00 pm.
A large part of his internship was job shadowing. Martin was able to observe classes and semi-private training sessions as well as the many moving parts that go into the business of running a fitness studio. Though he didn’t work directly with clients as a trainer, through his job shadowing, Martin was able to impart the knowledge he was gaining to clientele.
“I would follow trainers around and take lots of notes,” Martin said. “I took notes on how they would correct clients and ways they would help clients understand the movements.” If a trainer was busy assisting someone else, Martin might help a client correct a movement, but the main focus was learning. “There was a line, and I made sure I didn’t cross it.”
When he wasn’t observing personal training practices, Martin would take part in group classes. Sometimes he would lead the class warm-up, while other times he would participate as part of the class to learn different techniques.
Related: What Are Internships Really Like?
Advice for interning abroad
Going to the States for internships is pretty popular for students studying fitness in Ireland, especially interning in Boston, according to Martin. While he was at AMP for only six weeks, there are plenty of opportunities for longer internships in the States.
However, many internships abroad tend to be unpaid. This can pose a hardship for students who can’t work an additional job to subsidize their living expenses. “I was lucky to have family in Boston,” Martin said. “But for people who don’t have that advantage, they need to have everything in place. They should build up a savings. If the savings won’t do, but they can get additional [paid] work, that makes a difference.”
Students should pay special attention to what visas they may need to apply for too. Note that if you’re a student with an F-1 visa, you can only work on campus for the first year, and there are further limitations for off-campus work after the first year. For more information on understanding your student visa, check with US Citizenship and Immigration Services directly.
Related: Step-by-Step to a Student Visa
After completing his US internship, Martin enrolled at the St. Louis Community School, continuing to work in fitness while earning his certification in Sports and Recreation. “I’m taking six modules—or courses, I guess—about three days a week,” he explained, “and I work the rest of the week.”
He’ll start work most days around 9:00 am—“late after starting so early at AMP!”—and teach different exercise classes. His long-term goals include working for the Connacht Rugby Academy and generally working more in sports training. Martin even expressed an interest in returning to the States to work in the sports performance industry based on his positive internship experience.
Want to learn more about internships in the States? Check out our Internships and Careers section!