How to Apply for an Internship Abroad the Right Way

How to Apply for an Internship Abroad the Right Way

Just like with a domestic or local internship, internships abroad require students to follow an application process. But, unlike your regular local internship, the process of how to apply for an internship abroad will vary slightly.

In addition to the typical resume submissions and letters of recommendation, international internships may also require you to have specific legal documents that will allow you to actually work. There are also other stipulations to consider while applying to help you decide whether or not you should proceed.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through every step of the application process. From nailing down the type of internship you want to obtaining the necessary legal documentation for work, we’ve got you covered.

Choosing the Type of Internship You Want

Before you even begin the application process, you need to have a solid plan for the type of internship you want. Just like with internships in the states, there are options that pay and others that offer university credit.

Before choosing, you should consider whether or not you can financially cover the expenses that come with living abroad. If so, you can open up your search to both paid and unpaid internships. However, landing a paid internship could help offset a lot of the costs of living in the country you’d be working in.

Let’s briefly cover the different types of internships available to you right here before we move on.

Unpaid vs. Paid

There are several positives and negatives in both paid and unpaid internships. For example, although unpaid internships don’t financially compensate you, they typically stand out more on a resume.

On the other hand, paid internships not only compensate you, but are more competitive in the application process. For that reason, a company may see that on your resume and be impressed by your ability to beat out everyone else for the position.

Unpaid internships also require extra planning because you’ll need to account for any living expenses that will come up while you’re working abroad. In some cases, internships abroad can be completed in conjunction with a study abroad program. If that’s the case for you, then you’ll likely be staying in a dorm or with a host family, so you won’t need to worry about rent or other large expenses during your time abroad.

Non-Profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations are among the easier internships to get and they also tend to look better on your resume. Working for a non-profit will typically happen within a school, charity, or other organization within the country your applying. The overall goal with this type of internship is to provide a helpful service to the community at large.

While these types of internships look great on resumes and CVs, they’re often unpaid due to funding restrictions. With that said, you shouldn’t write this option off completely. Non-profit organizations are entities that do incredible work and the skills you learn while interning with a non-profit will be wildly different than a corporation.

Credit-Only Internships

Non-profits typically fall under the “credit-only” internship category, but they aren’t the only sector that sits within the group. Credit-only internships are internships that don’t offer financial compensation but can be completed for credit toward your degree.

These types of internships typically need to be coordinated with your academic advisor or through your university’s study abroad office. While credit-only internships often don’t offer financial compensation, you may find one or two opportunities that will pay you to work as well.

Regardless of whether the internship pays or not, a credit-only internship can help you get a leg up on graduation by completing graduation requirements and receiving real-life career training in the process.

Summer Internships

Summer internships can be both paid or unpaid. These opportunities are offered during the summer semester and can last as short as a few weeks to as long as the entire semester. Usually, you’ll arrange this kind of opportunity with your academic advisor or study abroad office. However, there are also online databases you can use to find summer opportunities on your own.

If you choose to search for internships by yourself, you may want to consult with your academic advisor after finding one that interests you. Your advisor will be able to tell you whether or not it can count toward graduation credit. If it won’t, they may even be able to get an advisory board to create special circumstances to make it count.

Service Learning Projects

Service learning projects are typically unpaid and involve performing a service for the community in the form of a specialized project. The work done during service learning is very similar to the work done within a non-profit organization. In fact, the service learning project you do is likely spearheaded by a non-profit in the area.

The primary difference between a service learning project and a non-profit internship is that service learning focuses solely on a specific project while a non-profit internship is focused on the organization as a whole.

After completing a service learning project, students are typically required to create a presentation or write a paper about the project, what they learned, and how it impacted the community as well as themselves. These projects can also often be counted toward independent study credits if organized through your academic advisor.

How to Apply for an Internship Abroad: Navigating the Application Process

How to Apply for an Internship Abroad: Navigating the Application Process

Once you’ve found an internship that speaks to you, the next step is to begin the application process. If you want to give yourself the best shot to getting the spot, you should be sure to follow each step very closely. Skipping any step in the process could end up costing you an acceptance letter.

To avoid any potential mishaps, here is a step-by-step process for submitting your application to your prospective internship abroad.

Familiarize Yourself With the Requirements

Most internship opportunities will have the same general requirements. However, there may be additional requirements that are specific to the organization you’re applying to. When looking at the list of requirements, take note of any prerequisite classes they need, the grade level specified, and any requirements for foreign language before moving on.

In most cases, you don’t need to be fluent in the native language of the country the internship is in. However, it’s usually required to at least be proficient enough to function while working abroad. With that said, English is second language for many countries, so you may find that you won’t need to speak much of the native language anyways.

Perfect Your Resume Before Applying

Your resume is perhaps the most important part of your entire application. After all, this document is what shows your employer all of the skills and expertise you have to complete the job you’re applying for. Your resume is also the best place to highlight any work or volunteer experience that could set you apart from other candidates.

For example, let’s say we have two different applicants who are on a pre-law course track. Student #1 submits a resume with work experience as an assistant in two different law offices. However, Student #2 has work experience as an assistant in a law office and as a volunteer patient advocate for their local hospital.

Student #2 is more likely to be chosen over the other applicant due to the diversity of their resume. In the same vein, your resume should also be clear, concise, and free of any grammatical or spelling errors.

It’s usually best to keep your resume between 1-2 pages as anything longer than that can look bulky and turn potential employers off from even looking at it.

Construct a Clear and Concise Cover Letter

The cover letter for your resume is essentially the first impression you want to give your potential employer. This is your opportunity to introduce yourself and explain why you feel you’d be a good fit for the internship position. You can briefly highlight any relevant skills and expertise you have and mention why you want to earn the position. While some poo-poo the importance of a cover letter, we think it is an essential part of the process when you apply for an internship abroad.

If you’ve been referred to the organization by anyone, you should also make a mention of that in your cover letter. Because cover letters are the first thing an employer will see, it’s important to make sure this document isn’t convoluted and cluttered with unnecessary information. It’s also essential to triple check for any spelling mistakes or grammar issues before sending it on its way.

Obtain Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation may not always be required, but they can help set you apart from others if you have trusted individuals who can vouch for you. A letter of recommendation can also carry a lot of sway if it’s written by someone who is close to the company or organization you’re applying to.

These letters are meant to highlight your academic and professional achievements, as well as give an unbiased judge of character by a third-party. Letters of recommendation can be written by a past professor, your academic advisor, or a previous or current employer you have a good relationship with. These people are going to be able to give honest opinions about your work ethic and overall character without it carrying biases that come from friends or family.

Get a Copy of Your Unofficial Transcripts

In some cases, an internship opportunity may come with requirements in the form of class prerequisites or a minimum GPA. If that’s the case, when you apply for an internship abroad you’ll likely be asked to include a copy of your transcripts to prove you meet the requirements in question.

Your transcripts are your record of classes you’ve taken and the grades you received for each class. Usually an unofficial copy of your transcript is perfectly sufficient, but there may be some instances where an official copy is requested. If that’s the case, just bear in mind that official transcripts tend to take longer to arrive and they also come with a small fee for every copy you need.

Because unofficial transcripts aren’t always accepted with applications, it’s important to double check the application overview to see which one you need. If an official transcript is required, you should be sure to plan for enough time to receive an official transcript copy and submit your application before the deadline.

Obtain Necessary Legal Documentation

Once you’ve gathered all of the necessary academic documentation, you also need to make sure you have the right legal documents too. A valid passport is required in order to travel between countries and some countries may also require you to obtain a work visa in order to start your internship.

Because each country is different, it’s best to consult with the government of the country in question to make sure you obtain all of the necessary documentation needed. This part can feel overwhelming, so you may benefit from asking for help from your academic advisor or your university’s study abroad office.

Where to Find Internships Abroad

There are hundreds of international internship opportunities available to students, but it isn’t always easy to find them on your own. For that reason, we recommend consulting with your university-sponsored programs or utilizing virtual internship boards to find the right fit for what you’re looking for.

University-Sponsored Programs

University-sponsored internship programs are typically spearheaded by a college or university’s international studies department. Within this department, students can access study and work abroad opportunities and the staff within the office will help with every step of the application process.

If your university doesn’t have a large study abroad program, you can also consult with your academic advisor. Your advisor can help you navigate any internship job boards to help you find what your looking for. They can also help you throughout the application process to ensure you don’t leave out any important information. Some applications can be tricky, which is why it is so helpful to have some guidance to help you apply for an internship abroad.

Virtual Internship Opportunity Boards

You also have the option to search for internships on your own. If you choose to do this, you’ll have much more luck finding a good match through an internship board than through a blind search. Here are some popular internship abroad job boards that students have found success with:

  • GoOverseas: This job board allows you to filter results by where you want to go, how long you want to intern abroad, and the industry your looking to work in.
  • GoAbroad: GoAbroad allows you to filter results by he country you want to travel to and the industry where you’re looking to work.
  • DiversityAbroad: This virtual job board allows you to filter your search results by job type, work type, job function, location, and any additional search terms to personalize your results.

You may also find that the career services website within your university’s online platform will also have an internship database for you to peruse.

How to Apply for an Internship Abroad: When and Where to Submit Applications

It’s always best to submit your internship abroad application at least 2-3 months before the internship deadline. Submitting your application early shows the organization that you’re truly interested in the position and it will increase your chances of being chosen over other applicants who submit their application at a later date.

The location to send your application will vary depending on what the internship overview states. While some may direct you to their website, others may include an email to send all necessary information to.

If you’re applying for an internship through you’re university’s programs, you may be required to submit all of your application materials to a specific office within your university and they will handle the rest for you.

Internship Abroad Application FAQs

FAQ graphics

Is it difficult to apply for an internship abroad?

While the application process is pretty straightforward, there are a few extra steps that can make applying feel more difficult. However, the level of difficulty that comes with an international internship depends largely on the company or organization the internship is for. If it’s a well-known and highly-regarded company, the internship is likely going to be far more difficult than if it isn’t. Paid internships are also typically harder to get into than unpaid opportunities.

What are the benefits of interning abroad?

Interning abroad is a great way to beef up your resume or CV and it can help you stand out from other applicants when it comes to job hunting after graduation. Not only that, but interning abroad also helps you see the world from different viewpoints and cultures, therefore expanding your mind on a personal and academic level.

Is it worth it to pay for a non-profit internship abroad?

If you have the means to pay for your living expense while taking an internship position with a non-profit organization, you should. Employers are usually more interested in seeing non-profit work from potential employees than not due to the passion and drive that comes from working in the non-profit sector. You may also find that a non-profit internship is far more rewarding than a corporate internship in the long run.

Parting Thoughts

Applying for an internship abroad doesn’t have to be difficult. By ensuring you have all of the right documentation and obtaining support from your academic advisor, you’re sure to score the internship abroad that you really want.

We hope this article has been helpful in showing you the ins and outs of how to apply for an internship abroad.