Small Town or Big City? Choosing the Right Internship Location for you

Small Town or Big City? Choosing the Right Internship Location for you

Share this article on :

The abundance of companies offering internships in exciting destinations across the world can make choosing the right internship location challenging. Even once you’ve chosen your ideal country and which sector you want to work in, there’s still a big decision to make; would you prefer to live in a large city or a small, less developed area?

While your professional goals are important, don’t forget that no matter where you do your internship, it will boost your resume. What’s important now are your personal aims and which kind of environment you will be happiest in. To help, the team at Intern Asia have put together a list of factors to consider when choosing between life in a big or small Asian city.

Language, culture, immersion

It would be a mistake to assume that small cities are the only places offering an authentic cultural experience. Though it’s true they represent a more traditional way of life, big Asian cities are the heart and soul of the contemporary culture emerging from economic expansion. Before you decide life in a big city isn’t the ‘real deal’, remember that modern-day Asian culture isn’t going anywhere. In fact, as the East continues to develop, it will only become more relevant! Wherever you choose to go, you will gain a valuable insight into local culture, whether it’s traditional or modern.

intern in Asia

Depending on how immersed in your host city’s culture and language you wish to be, certain destinations might suit you more. Large cities are magnets for both young, globally minded nationals and foreigners from across the world. This multicultural population is catered for by an array of English-speaking restaurants, cafes, bars and shops offering foreign food, drinks and products. It’s not hard to find home comforts and English speakers in these cities, making it possible (and tempting) to enjoy a comfortable and familiar lifestyle without learning the local language. Of course, you don’t have to live like this; with a bit of discipline and determination you can enjoy a local lifestyle that puts your language skills to the test.

If you’ve got the desire, but are lacking the discipline to push yourself out of your comfort zone, a small location is a good choice. Small cities are far less international than their bigger counterparts, meaning fewer foreign-style establishments and English speakers. It might sound scary at first, but rest assured it’s an extremely rewarding way to spend your time abroad. Opting for an internship in a smaller place is a sure-fire way to avoid the temptation of a western lifestyle, learn about the culture and language, and gain new skills.  


Cost of living

As most internships are unpaid, it’s wise to factor in your budget when deciding where to live and work. Much like in the West, the bigger and more populated the city, the higher the cost of living. This includes things like food, transport, clothing, activities and alcohol.

Though it’s perfectly possible to budget in both big and small cities, it’s considerably easier to spend excessively in the former. If you are hoping to spend as little as possible, but aren’t sure you can resist the temptation of western-style bars, restaurants and cafes, perhaps look at smaller cities. Not only is the cost of living in such places lower, there are fewer global brands and foreign restaurants to tempt you to splurge.

Despite this, how much you spend largely depends on your lifestyle and self-control; it’s possible to spend just as much, if not more, in a small city by living an extravagant lifestyle!

If you’re on a budget, why not take a look at our partner organisations. They all offer accommodation as part of their internship programs, taking away the burden of monthly rent.


Networking and meeting people                                               

The people you meet during your internship will have a big impact on your experience. It’s important you mix with a variety of people during your stay, for both professional and personal reasons. When choosing your city type, consider the social circles you wish to be a part of; foreign, local, or a mixture of both.

Large international Asian cities are hotbeds for networking with and meeting people from all over the world. This can be a great help when settling in to your new city, particularly if it’s your first time abroad. However, it might also mean you are less likely to venture outside of your comfort zone and get to know the locals. Big cities offer ample opportunity to do so in the form of sports clubs, meet ups and networking events – you just need to make the most of it.

Smaller locations are often home to sizable expat communities, but the less international feel of the city can make it easier to venture out of your comfort zone. Although foreign communities have found their way to small cities, they remain a minority, so you’re likely to attract attention. Take for example Kathmandu; the Nepalese capital is less developed and home to fewer foreigners than other Asian cities, so locals will take great interest in you. This provides the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, make friends with the locals and practice your language skills.



Internship in big asian cityFood might not seem important, but you’d be surprised by how much it can influence your impression of a place. This is particularly the case if you have any special dietary requirements; nut allergies, vegetarianism and religious dietary requirements aren’t as commonplace in Asia as they are in the West, meaning most restaurants don’t cater for them.

This applies mainly to smaller cities, where, no matter how good your translation, your requests may not be understood. On the contrary, the multicultural population of large cities has inspired the launch of restaurants catering to particular diets. If you’re looking for the reassurance of knowing you can stick to your diet, consider a larger city.

Dietary requirements aside, larger cities offer a lot more variety in terms of cuisine. In places like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai, you will be able to find restaurants serving food from the country you’re in and from around the world. Whatever you fancy eating, you’re sure to find it in a big city! On the other hand, less developed destinations like Kathmandu and Okinawa are home to a greater number of family run restaurants offering delicious local food for very low prices. A couple of places may serve foreign cuisine, though it’s likely they’re of a lower standard and not as readily available or cheap as local food.



internship in Asia ruralAn internship abroad is about more than just work, so you should factor in what you would like to do with your free time.

Asian cities are vast, built up lands, that, aside from a few parks, don’t offer much in terms of nature or escape from the hustle and bustle. Large populations, busy roads and round-the-clock action make them very noisy places that are both exciting and overwhelming. There is always something to do in a big city, and they are great for nightlife, shopping and sightseeing.

On the other hand, smaller locations are less built up, less populated and quieter. Nightlife exists but isn’t as western, shops cater more to locals, and things to see and do are usually nature-based. If you think city life might have you climbing the walls after a couple of weeks, consider living in a smaller city that offers the best of both worlds.



Your Sector

Though your personal preferences are important when choosing your city, it’s still worth giving some weight to your professional goals. Certain places are best for certain sectors, so if you know what field you wish to work in you should take this into account. For example, if you are looking for a tech role, Hangzhou, a medium sized city in the south of China, is ideal. Alternatively, if you want to work with local communities, check out somewhere like Nepal for your internship.

Competition in large, popular cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo is greater, while fewer people tend to apply for internships in less developed locations. So, if you’re planning to apply for a position in a field you have no previous experience in, you might stand more chance of success in a smaller city.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that an internship in a big city will look more impressive than a small one. Wherever you work, you’re sure to gain valuable skills and experience that won’t go unnoticed by future employers. Ultimately, this is what employers are looking for – where you do your internship is almost irrelevant to them. The important thing is you choose a destination that’s right for you and that matches your personal and professional goals.

Share this article on:

Related news

Ready for an internship in Asia?

Our goal is to find the perfect internship match for you.

Discover our destinations

Do you want to be represented on InternAsia?

Join InternAsia now to show your program and destination to people looking for internships

Join InternAsia