When considering an international internship, follow the same decision-making process as you would for a domestic internship, with a few additional criteria. For example, no matter where an internship is being offered, you will need to assess your career goals, skillset, finances, time commitment, housing, transportation, work schedule, etc. and ensure that they align with the internship job description and the employer offering the opportunity. You may also want to factor in things such as core values, strengths and weaknesses, and personal interests. All of these things are relevant to any internship opportunity in any geographical region. For foreign locales, you will also need to factor in things like potential language barrier(s), currency exchange, cultural norms, climate, and time zone differences. Don’t forget to factor in which parts of the world you really want to experience! The ability to travel and immerse yourself in another culture is one of the great benefits of interning abroad.
Expectations of Working Abroad
Conditions, laws, policies, and practices vary from country to country. When it comes to internships, the specific location (ex. hemisphere, country, urban, rural, etc.) along with the socio-economic and political states of that area will contribute to the quality of the experience. Characteristics of the employer such as company/organization size, age, industry, and sector will also play a part in defining your experience. For example, when you assess yourself, you may find that a small company with limited resources in a remote area of a country with political instability is not right for you. Or maybe it’s exactly the kind of challenge you’re looking for! Perhaps a mid-size company in a coastal area with moderate temperatures, where English is commonly spoken and the country has a stable economy, is more aligned with your wants and needs. Or maybe you prefer a big city with a lot of attractions and high culture. Think through the details without over-thinking and accept that there will always be a degree of unpredictability.
Ideally, internships abroad should comply with best practices and hold the same core benefits, or more, as internships offered in the United States.
Start Your Search
Once you are clear on where you’d like to intern, Berkeley Career Engagement is the best place to start your search for internships in any location. Employers that attend our career fairs and post positions on Handshake are often looking to fill positions in multiple geographical regions. For your convenience, we’ve also curated a collection of Internship Listing Sites that you can link to directly from Handshake. Another robust resource that we recommend is GoinGlobal which provides country guides, career guides, and global employment and internship opportunities. A diligent online search can help you discover even more resources than what is presented here.
You may also earn academic credit while gaining practical internship experience in locations around the world through the Berkeley Global Internships program. This program offers project-based in-person and virtual academic internships in a variety of industries and is open to students of all majors and class levels.
Internship Programs and Work Permits
The U.S. Department of State accepts students for non-paid internships in their embassies around the world. Additionally, there are many global opportunities for college graduates with a BA degree to teach English.
Be aware that many governments, seeking to protect jobs for their own citizenry, have employment restrictions against hiring citizens from other countries. However, there are short-term exchange/internship programs that students or recent graduates can participate in which enable them to obtain a short-term work permit that allows them to work legally in a certain country. Once you are in a host country, you would be in a better position to network and find potential employers who might be willing to sponsor your work visa so that you can stay there longer.
Steps You Can Take To Prep
- While working toward the goal of interning abroad, it is wise to build yourself up professionally. Devote time to acquiring professional skills, knowledge, and experience related to your chosen career. This will strengthen your resume and give you a competitive advantage when applying those international opportunities. A great way to accomplish this is by and by interning or volunteering here in the U.S.
- Network in the career fields that interest you and let people know what you want to do and what you have to offer. If you plan to study abroad, take advantage of that opportunity to intern in your career field in that host country- cultivate your contacts, leads, and network!
- Work on refining your resume (both the U.S. and the host country’s version).
- If you are interested in working abroad by going through a particular organization, check out the information carefully. Find out if you can talk to any recent participants and ask them tough questions about what they liked/disliked about the organization; get a clear idea of what the organization can offer in terms of an internship/job so that you know what to expect; determine what, if any, support the organization can give you in the host country.