Mason students gain global experience with GEO internships abroad


Gaining hands-on experience is an important part of George Mason University students’ college years. Through the Global Education Office (GEO), students can learn much more by taking their internships abroad.

Andrea in Mason gear posing by a lake
Mason biology major Andrea Johnson interned abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo provided

The GEO global internship program allows undergraduate and graduate students to learn more about their field and earn course credits with travel, virtual, and hybrid options during the summer, fall, spring, and winter terms. Students are placed with companies that align with their field of study and spend the term absorbing knowledge and the country’s culture.

“Our existing programs cover 35 different career fields with many crossovers,” said Kelly McNulty, experiential programs manager for GEO. “Students also have the opportunity to create their own internship by finding and applying to an internship and working with our team to set it up for course credit.”

The top travel and virtual destinations this year were Japan, South Korea, Ireland, Spain, United Kingdom, Argentina, Czech Republic, Morocco, and South Africa.

Traveling abroad lets students gain valuable insight, but sometimes, the cost is a limiting factor. “Going abroad can be expensive, but we want to make it accessible,” says McNulty.

There are many affordable options, including some that are the same cost as in-state tuition. Many Mason-funded grants and scholarships are available to help cover the cost of the courses and travel—$43,000 worth were awarded last year, and McNulty and the GEO team help students find external funding for their programs as well. 

Biology major Andrea Johnson didn’t know if going abroad was an option for her, but through the support of the GEO office, Johnson found and received a prestigious Gilman Scholarship for her summer abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. 

“In my last year, I started to consider it. I wanted to be in a different area and experience more life than what I see in my day-to-day,” Johnson said.

Adel Batterjee in Saudi Arabia, wearing local attire
Mason business major Adel Batterjee interned at the Riyali Foundation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo provided

Johnson, who has a longtime interest in women’s health and aspires to become a gynecologist, worked with the Perinatal Mental Health Project, an organization that focused on women’s mental health around pregnancy. The internship showed her that mental health is an important part of women’s health, and she said she’s  glad she took the leap across the Atlantic to learn more about this issue.

Adel Batterjee, a junior business major, participated in the build-your-own internship program that comes with a guaranteed travel grant. Batterjee found an internship at Riyali Foundation, an organization in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, owned by SEDCO Holding that aims to teach everyone about financial literacy. He worked on financial and technical proposals, communicated with vendors, and helped collect data when their website crashed.

“The worst part about this internship was that it ended,” Batterjee said. “It was a great environment. Riyali offered many engaging activities for employees.”

Batterjee’s grandparents live near the area, so he got to stay with them while completing the program, which was another benefit.

Batterjee and Johnson agree that everyone should consider going abroad and that Mason offers plenty of resources for each step in the journey.

Applications for the internship abroad program are now open, and McNulty and her team are here to help every step of the way. The GEO office seeks to support students throughout the application process, finding funding and housing, packing, and even planning ahead for a program later on in students' academic career. All GEO internship students take an online course abroad to earn credit through Mason, helping them get another step closer to graduation.

“We’ve seen a recent increase in people going abroad,” said McNulty, adding that there were 58% more students going abroad in 2022-23 than the previous year. She would like to see even more students take advantage of the opportunity study abroad provides. “Even if students are vaguely considering it, we want them to set up a meeting to learn how it’s possible.”