Think of going abroad and you might think of lazy days by the beach, backpacking through South America, Full Moon Parties in Thailand and groups of lads wearing dubious matching t-shirts. However, these exciting lands overseas are also great places to do internships.
Forget the gap year tragic, we bet the next couple years will spawn a new generation of internship abroad tragics. Oh yes, people harping on about that AMAZING internship they did in South America, swapping hareem pants for briefcases, “life experience” for work experience.
In any case, like travelling, doing an internship abroad is a fantastic way to experience life abroad and pick up some good skills at the same time.
Why should I do an internship abroad?
Why ever not? Internships abroad not only develop language skills, communication skills and other work-based skills but they also really give you an insight into an industry from another cultural perspective. After all, these days most industries are truly global. All these bonuses give you a big fat tick on your CV from an employer’s perspective.
Furthermore, working in a country is a great way to immerse yourself in their culture, far better than traipsing around with a backpack hanging from your sunburnt shoulders. You don’t have to be stuck in an office either; for example, you could work on conservation or international development projects.
What do I need to think about?
You’ve decided to take the leap and do an internship abroad, so what do you need to think about now? Well firstly, you need to think about what kind of internship you want and what you want to get out it.
Don’t just pick a country you’ve always fancied going to; look at the quality of the internships on offer. You might want to choose a country with a burgeoning market, or somewhere that’s renowned for the sector that you’re interested in; for example, Silicon Valley in California is a great place to get an I.T. internship.
When are you going to do your internship? Is it over the holidays? How long is it for? You might even want to consider doing an internship as part of the Erasmus scheme. You need to think about funding too; even if your internship is paid, you’ll need to budget carefully and work out how much money you’ll need.
Other niggly bits…
Different countries will have different VISA regulations. UK nationals can work in the EU without obtaining a working visa, but if you’re looking for internships in countries outside of the EU, then you’ll need to find out what the visa regulations are.
It also certainly helps to be proficient in the mother tongue of the country. Some internships will be offered in English-speaking offices, but it certainly won’t hurt to pick up a few useful phrases. You could even do a language course. In fact, some internships will require candidates to have a certain proficiency in the local language, so make sure you find out before applying.
You should also do a bit of research about the country. Find out more about their cultural practices. Scour the internet and bookshelves for information about the town or city where you’ll be staying. If anything, solid research will soften the cultural shock when you start out. After all, it’s bad enough starting out at a new work place, let alone having to navigate the tricky world of cultural differences.
How can I apply? Where can I find internships abroad?
Unless you’ve got globetrotting relatives or friends who can set you up with an internship, there are numerous different avenues you can explore. Big companies in your chosen industry are likely to have offices in other countries, so it’s always worth looking for internship opportunities through them. A significant number of companies in our list of graduate employers have international offices and you can find a handful of opportunities on our jobs board.
You might want to try big organisations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, UNICEF, the Council of Europe, the British Council and the European Union. Alternatively, you could approach smaller charities or NGOs that work abroad. AIESEC also runs international internships. Moreover, your university might have links with organisations which offer international internship opportunities.
When it comes to applying for internships, the application process will vary from country to country. Not everyone expects the same thing from a CV or a covering letter, so make sure you research what employers in each country will expect. Use our International CV article for more guidance.
How can I fund my internship abroad?
Some universities offer travel bursaries, so it’s worth checking out these bad boys. If you’re using an agency to get an internship abroad, shop around, some charge extortionate fees and you’ll be able to find cheaper deals elsewhere.
If you do a work placement as part of an Erasmus year, you’ll be eligible for an Erasmus grant. Or you could apply for funding or support from the Leonardo Da Vinci programme.
Of course, if your internship is paid, that will ease some of your funding worries. There are plenty of paid opportunities out there, although you might have to fight off stiff competition in order to secure a place.