About a year ago, I was in the midst of trying to figure out if I wanted to study abroad: where I wanted to study abroad and how I was going to find a summer internship before I even began studying abroad. The pressure to pile up on internships while in college and the daunting process of choosing a program and place to study abroad stressed me out. This culminated in me deciding that if I was going to study abroad, I was going to get an internship to put on my resume while I was at it.
Being one month away from actually starting my study abroad/internship abroad program, I can’t yet tell you about the experience of studying and interning abroad. I can, in fact, tell you about how to go about finding an internship abroad. It can be stressful, but there are effective strategies for doing it.
1. Find a Program That Offers Internships as Part of the Curriculum
There are many companies out there, like the International Institute for the Education of Students (IES) or GoAbroad, which offer study abroad programs geared specifically toward student interests and have internship components to their programs. These study abroad programs are really great and can be designed for you, but they can also be one of the more costly options. If you can afford to do them, they’re a great option for interning and studying.
2. Connect with Companies that Coordinate International Internships
Some companies offer programs for students who want to take a semester off from college just to intern as opposed to studying. Connect123 is a good and affordable option for this. Essentially, they help connect you with a company or organization that matches your interests for a program fee, and then they also help you find housing and connect with other interns while you’re there. These programs can be great for some people, but some also critique the model that requires interns to pay for their experience as opposed to getting paid for doing work.
3. Research Multinational or International Companies that Offer Internships and Apply Directly
Some American companies are multinational and offer internships abroad. Other companies in foreign countries offer internships that are open to international students. If you’re willing to do the grunt work to apply for the internship and then figure out the details of living on your own, this can be a great method (and may even include getting paid)!
4. Look at Your Home School’s List of Cohort Programs to See if They Offer Internships
I have to admit that this is the type of study abroad program I’m doing. Essentially, I’m traveling with a group of students to Europe and we’re taking classes at a host institution, but that institution also sets us up with organizations that offer internships to the students from our school each year. This option is convenient and can be a lot cheaper, especially for students, like me, who are relying on hefty scholarships to pay for college. Because my school offers this program directly, all of my normal academic scholarships apply, so the only additional costs I’ll have are the amount I normally pay, travel expenses, and a minimal program fee. Many colleges in the U.S. have programs that are comparable.
However, there are downsides to this kind of program. The internship I’ll be getting may not match up with my interests very well, and I may end up doing grunt work like filing documents or fetching coffee. The group of students in my cohort was essentially given a list of partner organizations as options, and we listed our preferences and will deal with whatever placement we get. My program is politics-focused, and I’m not interested in going into politics, so who knows what I’ll end up doing. Ultimately, I recognize that my abroad internship may be something to list on my resume as opposed to a life-changing experience. But, it could also end up being unexpectedly amazing. There are trade-offs, but sometimes, this option is the cheapest and the best way for students, like myself, who want the comfort of familiar faces from their home school while going through culture shock.
5. Study Abroad First and Find an Internship Once You’re There
Some students find a typical study abroad program and plan to stay longer than the program lasts. Then, they use connections that they make while they’re studying to find companies that offer internships in the summer. This option can be really awesome, but it’s also risky and requires diligence to make sure you actually find something once you’re there. If you’re shy and worried about making connections, this option may not be for you. If you’re incredibly proactive and confident, then go for it.
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