Internships Abroad: Best Practices for Finding, Landing, and Succeeding in an Internship Abroad
By Ellen Zhang
Chief Marketing Officer
In today’s globalized economy, there is a growing demand for international graduates to join global workforces. An internship abroad could prove invaluable when it comes to getting a job as it will stand out on your resume. In addition to real-world career experiences, interning abroad also offers the enticing prospect of traveling to new locations, meeting different people, and immersing in a different culture.
How can I find an internship abroad?
1. Go through an official school program. If you’re in university, ask a career advisor at your school if they offer official internship programs. Some universities with robust study abroad programs also offer the opportunity to intern abroad. This will give you the chance to combine your coursework with your intern work. For example, Boston University offers several such programs around the world throughout the year.
2. Try an agency or third-party internship placement program. Using an agency to find an internship may be the easiest method, but it’s definitely not the cheapest. There are many companies that source international internships for a fee, and a quick Google search will connect you to them. However, watch out for some agencies who promise the world and then place you in an unknown company in the middle of nowhere, with little to no pay.
3. Find one yourself. Again, Google can be your best friend! Be prepared to email a lot of companies, and possibly only hear back from a few. There are some incredible opportunities out there, and you won’t get them if you don’t try. Email companies large and small, but don’t feel disheartened if they don’t reply. Large companies generally have more organized internship programs, but get many applications. Smaller companies may reply back but lack in pay or ability to sponsor your visa.
4. Use a job board. These can come in handy for sourcing international internship opportunities. Check out Indeed, LinkedIn, and Idealist. Look specifically in the countries that you are interested in interning. Make sure you read all the specifications on the application before turning it in.
5. Reach out to your network. If you’re in school, ask your professors if they know of any internship opportunities abroad. Our CTO’s sister, Radhika Gupta, found her internship abroad by connecting with one of her professors. You can read about her experience here. Post on your social media, email people in your network, and ask others to share that you’re searching for an internship abroad. You never know who might have the right connections.
What are the top considerations for interning abroad?
1. Know what companies are looking for in a candidate. Many businesses want young, inspired, English-speaking graduates. An I.T. company in particular would want to see that you have in-demand technical skills, including math, science, engineering, and business. Have you taken the right courses? Do you have any other work experience? Make sure you craft your resume and your cover letter in an honest way that speaks to these criteria and puts your best foot forward.
2. Ask for references. Before you accept an internship position, see if you can speak with a former intern. Internships abroad are an investment. You may be earning some money but you will also probably have to cover the cost of living, including housing, transportation, and meals. Before you invest all this money, make sure this internship is really worth it.
3. Meet language requirements. If your language skills are lacking, workforce communication will be challenging – especially with global cultural differences. If you’re applying for an internship in a non-English speaking nation, you may not necessarily have to be fluent in their native language. Many international internships are conducted in English. You should still take a class and learn the native language to show interest and help you get around. If the internship will be conducted in the location’s native language, make sure you have working knowledge of it, especially any terminology specific to your industry.
4. Understand how internships work in the countries you want to intern in and what legal criteria and government applications you need to meet and submit in order to temporarily work there. Each country has a different set of rules and laws that govern the actions you need to take to not only land an internship but start and finish one.
5. On a similar note, be aware of visa requirements. If you’re studying abroad and also want to intern there, some student visas might make you ineligible for employment with compensation, so do your research.
6. Know the culture. A large part of a successful internship abroad is cultural awareness. Understand the customs and be sensitive of old habits you might have that are considered rude or even taboo while abroad. As a foreigner you will stand out and it’s not a bad thing, just take time to understand the people around you and immerse yourself with locals.
7. Network. Make friends with your coworkers and tag along with them when they hang out outside of work hours. Don’t just stick with your intern cohort or coworkers who are also from your country. Make meaningful connections with people who might help you find a permanent job abroad, if that is what you desire.
8. Have fun! Interning abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. Don’t let it go to waste. Do your internship well and impress your company but don’t forget to have fun while you’re abroad.
For more tips on how to succeed during your internship, check out our blog post, Tips for Interns by Interns.
What if I can’t intern abroad?
Finding an internship abroad can be challenging and expensive. If this is not an option for you but you still want experience at a company not headquartered in your hometown, look for remote internships. While international internships can be an indispensable way to make new friends and connections, gain valuable experiences, and have fun along the way, keep your options open. Remote internships can offer many benefits as well, including time and location flexibility. The global workforce is becoming more and more remote so a remote internship could be a good way to prepare and discipline yourself for a future remote job.