International Internship Programme, Experiential Learning and Career Planning
: Perception and Experience of Undergraduate Students in Hong Kong

  • Hy Y Leung

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This dissertation investigates the motivations of undergraduate students for joining international internship programmes and their experiences. A public university located in Hong Kong is selected for case study. Focusing on experiential learning, a classical education theory, this dissertation explores the discussions of Dewey (1938), Lewin (1948), Piaget (1970, 1971) and Kolb (1984, 2006, 2014, 2017), who are regarded as the founders of the theory. In particular, this dissertation attempts to review the experiential learning models of Kolb (1984) and Jarvis (1987) and investigate the unique learning experience that students gained from their international internship participations. In line with the calls for internationalisation and the urges for enhancing university graduates’ employability skills in the recent decade, this dissertation seizes a unique opportunity to study the factors that determines students’ internship choices and the impact of international work experiences on enhancing employability skills and intercultural proficiency. Using mixed methods research including survey and semi-structured interviews by the author in Hong Kong, a group of undergraduate students, with or without subsidies granted by a third party, were found highly self-motivated to join international internships. Many participants enjoyed immersing themselves in another culture and work environment, in which they described the work cultures in places outside Hong Kong ‘more humane’, ‘fun’ and ‘less stressful’. Some of them said that they would consider moving to another country for career development in the future. However, the unforeseen challenges faced by the participants had disrupted their affected their willingness to commit and motivation to learn at work. This research concludes and argues that international internships provide opportunity of experiential learning experience and stimulate students’ thoughts about career planning, yet the classic models of experiential learning are insufficient to explain how learning occurs in an international workplace. The learning experiences in real contexts of international workplaces are far more complex and less positive than the situations described by the experiential learning research literature to do. In addition to knowledge transfer and practical skills development, cultural understandings and interactions have been found in the case study that students engaged in more critical self-reflection after travelled and stayed abroad for a while as an intern. On the whole, this research study serves as a resource for further studies on experiential learning, international internships and employability. It indicates that global work experiences not only enhance students’ employability, but also strengthen their adaptation to other cultures.
Date of Award12 May 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorLisa Lucas (Supervisor)


  • experiential learning
  • international internships
  • employability

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