Working and studying abroad can boost your employment prospects, further your education, and satisfy your personal yearning for travel and adventure. Paid internships provide all these benefits and include a salary, stipend, or coverage for other expenses, so you don’t need to dig into your savings during your work-study program.
You may find it difficult to know where to start looking for paid internships. Jobs for students and recent graduates can be scarce even in a good economy, and positions for students require employers to provide both work and educational opportunities to their young employees. Nevertheless, many businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and non-profit groups offer opportunities to intern as part of their recruiting outreach. Here is an easy guide on how to successfully find paid internships abroad.
Tip #1: Understand What You Want from Internships Abroad
Whether you are a student in the U.S. looking for student job opportunities in other countries, or you are outside of the U.S. and want to work and study in an American city, you should take the time to understand why you want to travel abroad. Working and studying abroad provides many opportunities that students and recent graduates cannot get at home:
- Adventure: Leaving your comfort zone for new experiences can satisfy, or feed, your sense of adventure.
- Culture: You might want to experience a specific country’s culture or just experience something different from what you grew up with.
- Educational opportunities: Some countries have unique educational experiences in business, science, engineering, and the arts.
- Job experience: You can boost your resume by adding a specific job or employer.
- Money: If you can find an all-expense-paid internship, you can save up some money for the next school year or your first job.
- Give back: Some work-study programs, particularly those for NGOs and non-profits, allow you opportunities for community involvement and helping those served by the organization.
Also, be sure you understand the differences in the type of programs you will find:
- Internship: Usually full-time work in your field of study with a private company, government, NGO, or non-profit. Credit is usually not offered unless you make arrangements with your school before you leave.
- Work-study and student employment: Usually a blend of on-campus work and classes. For example, a research assistantship would be a form of work-study. Credit is almost always offered.
- Study abroad: A program primarily focused on courses at a foreign school. However, study abroad programs may include student employment or internship.
Tip #2: Keep an Open Mind About Internships Abroad
Once you know what you want from your internship, you will be able to prioritize the opportunities you find. As you look for student job programs, keep your search as broad as possible, then use your priorities to narrow down your choices.
At the same time, however, you do not want to pass up an opportunity just because it does not meet all your criteria. Depending on your professional field, work-study programs might be scarce, and you might need to compromise on your selection criteria.
For example, you might find an internship in your field of study, but in a country you had not previously considered. Similarly, you might find a work-study program that meets all of your wants but is unpaid. Use your priorities to decide if the limitations on the opportunities you find are deal-breakers or can be compromised on.
Thus, an internship in a country you had not considered may provide you with an opportunity to learn about the culture and history of a new country. Even better, if the country is near your location of choice, you can spend your free time traveling to other places in which you have an interest. For example, countries in Europe are connected by rail, which allows relatively quick and easy travel from one country to another.
Benefits of Unpaid Internships Abroad
Although these tips are directed toward paid internships, keep an open mind about unpaid internships. Other than saving money for the next school year or your first job in your new career, unpaid work-study programs provide all the benefits of paid student employment opportunities, including job experience, cultural experiences, and educational opportunities.
For certain careers, you may make up the lost earnings from an unpaid internship many times over your professional life. For example, a business or finance student might be in a much better position for a high paying job after gaining experience in an unpaid work-study program at one of the major banks in Hong Kong.
An overlooked benefit of all internships, whether they are paid or unpaid, is the opportunity to network with others in your field. According to research conducted in association with LinkedIn, 85% of jobs are filled through networking rather than online employment sites, job fairs, or other impersonal methods of recruiting. Spending an unpaid summer working with and getting to know others within your chosen profession will connect you with exactly the people who could offer you a job someday or refer you to a colleague who is hiring.
Negotiating for Covered Expenses During an Unpaid Internship
If an unpaid study abroad program provides exactly the experience you want, you have a few options for covering your expenses. Under some circumstances, you might be able to negotiate with the business or organization offering the unpaid internship to cover certain expenses in lieu of salary. A longer-term intern might be justified in asking for the employer to cover some expenses or provide other financial aid to help you pay for your living expenses during your stay.
For example, your prospective employer might be willing to pay for your moving expenses, housing, or other hard costs that you would incur for the unpaid educational opportunity. Alternatively, you might negotiate for a stipend that is less than you would be paid if you were offered a salary but would be enough to offset some of your daily expenses like food and transportation.
Seeking Other Funding Options for an Unpaid Internship
Another option would be scholarships and grants. You might be able to apply for a grant through your current school to cover your program abroad. You might also be able to apply for a grant or scholarship program offered by the U.S. and non-U.S. governments. The U.S. Department of State provides listings of scholarship and grant opportunities offered by specific countries for cultural exchange.
Yet another option is to take part-time work in the country where you will intern. In many cases, your unpaid study abroad program may allow you enough time off to take part-time employment, such as tutoring or teaching English, to help you to cover your living expenses.
Tip #3: Use School Resources to Find Internships Abroad
Organizations looking for interns often reach out to colleges and universities that specialize in the fields for which they need interns. For example, a financial services company in London, Tokyo, or Frankfurt might reach out to business schools to find candidates for their internship programs. Similarly, an NGO that provides poll-watching or medical treatment in developing countries might contact law schools or medical schools, respectively.
Some schools handle international work-study programs through each departmental job placement center. If your department has a career center, you may want to ask the career placement experts about how to find paid internships abroad. The benefit of this approach is that you will likely qualify for every opportunity listed by your department.
Some colleges and universities have a school-wide study abroad office. This office assists students with international study opportunities and instructs students on how to find paid internships abroad regardless of their school or department. The drawback of this approach is that you may need to sort through a much larger pool of work-study opportunities to find the ones that suit your priorities. However, a study abroad office has the benefit of experience with sending students abroad. It should also be able to answer all your questions, from health insurance concerns to foreign tax issues to immigration visa requirements.
Networking with Students and Faculty
Another resource at your school will include both faculty and your fellow students. You likely know at least one international student in your department who can provide some insight into the businesses, NGOs, government agencies, and non-profits that might offer work-study programs in your academic field. Moreover, they might have connections back home who might be able to assist you in finding, or even landing, a paid internship.
Likewise, your faculty may have connections with international organizations that sponsor study abroad programs. Many faculty members have taken visiting professorships and sabbaticals to travel abroad for professional development. They may be able to share experiences with you to identify the types and locations of paid student employment programs that fit your career and educational plans.
Equally important, they may have written recommendation letters or assisted past students who had applied for international study programs. Faculty members may be able to leverage this experience to explain how to find paid internships abroad in your field and what you should expect when you apply for them. They may even have leads on all-expense-paid internships abroad for undergraduates that past students had found.
Tip #4: Target Specific Organizations and Locations for Internships Abroad
During your studies, you likely identified leaders in your field. As you look for paid internships abroad, you can target those organizations to research whether they offer employment opportunities to students and the terms of those student programs.
For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offers traineeships for students all over the world. If you aspire to work in medicine or public health, a paid traineeship with the ICRC in Switzerland would provide unparalleled experience and would make a nice addition to your resume.
Similarly, you might identify commercial or industrial centers for your chosen career. International students interested in film might look for paid student jobs in Los Angeles, California, just as U.S. students interested in finance might seek out paid work-study programs in London.
Another resource for finding paid internships abroad is the job search page of U.S.-based multinational companies. Multinational businesses often list both domestic and international job opportunities on their websites, and it may be possible that a U.S. company you are interested in working for has a paid job opportunity open to students in one of its non-U.S. locations.
Look at All Angles
When looking at leaders in your field for study abroad programs, make sure you look at all possibilities. For example, if you are a law or pre-law student, do not limit your search for clerkships to overseas law firms. Foreign and international courts, regulatory agencies, and international law organizations, like some branches within the United Nations, are all involved in legal processes. Many of these groups offer paid clerkships to students.
Similarly, if you are a business student, you can broaden your search for international work-study programs beyond private companies to include labor unions, trade associations, and industry lobbying firms. These educational opportunities would provide insight into business and trade that you might not obtain from working in a private industry.
Moreover, while your ultimate career goal might be to work for an NGO or non-profit, they may have limited (or no) paid student work opportunities because of their funding structure. If you are not in a position to accept an unpaid student job, you might want to look to a private business or governmental agency for a paid internship. They often have more resources for paying interns, and you can still parlay your experience as a paid intern into a position with an NGO or non-profit later in your career.
Tip #5: Talk to an Internship Sponsor About How to Find Paid Internships Abroad
Many countries, including the U.S., provide a role for sponsors in the immigration process used by international interns, scholars, and students. In the U.S., for example, sponsors are approved by the U.S. Department of State. The sponsors are responsible for screening all student and recent graduate applicants for visa eligibility and providing the necessary paperwork for the applicant to apply for a visa to intern within the U.S.
Sponsors in the U.S. often provide information about internships abroad as well as in the U.S. For example, the listings for overseas student opportunities provided by Intrax Global Internships can be filtered to display only paid opportunities and can be sorted by location abroad.
Tapping Multiple Sources When Seeking Advice on How to Find Paid Internships Abroad
These tips are not mutually exclusive. If you want to find paid internships abroad, you should pursue every lead you can think of. Many work-study programs are only publicized in a few places, so it is possible that you will find completely different opportunities when browsing your school’s study abroad office, talking with your professors, and searching online listings from visa sponsor organizations like Intrax Global Internships.
Your goal should be to apply for as many opportunities as possible since competition for paid internships abroad is often fierce. By casting a wide net and keeping an open mind, you should be able to find an opportunity that meets your most important goals.