How to Get an Internship Abroad

by Published | Updated

Admit it. While all of your friends are stressing about their lack of professional experience, you’re sitting in class and dreaming of hopping on a plane. It’s pretty obvious that lounging on the beach in Thailand isn’t exactly a resume builder, but what if you could boost your career prospects while also living in another country, perfecting your foreign language skills, and having an insane amount of fun?

Interning abroad is the holy grail of international experience: you gain all of the benefits of studying abroad while also acquiring hard skills related to your degree. So how do you go about actually making it happen? Can I really find internships around the world?

Eight steps to get an internship abroad

It is going to take some work on your part to make an internship abroad reality, but it can be done. Following these eight steps is a foolproof way to get you there: 

Step One: Contemplate Like You Mean It

Before you jump into any internships around the world, it’s important to think about your goals. Why do you want to do an internship abroad, anyway? What skills do you hope to acquire? Asking yourself questions about what you hope to gain from your experience will help you start to narrow down your options.

You’ll also want to consider logistical questions. How much time can you allocate to your internship? Could you swing a whole year or is a summer internship best? How much money can you budget toward the experience? As you make these calculations, keep in mind all of the benefits of interning abroad. Many of them, like foreign language skills or waking up to a view of Table Mountain every morning, are priceless — so be sure to suss out your goals, needs, and desires before plundering down the path of how to get an internship abroad.

European city center in the morning light

This view could be all yours on your morning commute. (Seriously– pin it to a vision board right now.)

Step Two: Make Your Resume Shine 

Now that you’ve determined what you want to get out of your internship, turn it around and let your potential employer know what’s in it for them. How can your public health knowledge assist practitioners in a rural health center in Tanzania? Why would that big investment banking firm in Shanghai want to hire a finance major from California?

You’ll need to sell yourself through your resume and cover letter, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your school’s career center may provide workshops or free resume review sessions, and the internet is an unending treasure trove of resume templates. Whatever you do, make sure you convey your excitement for the position while keeping it professional. 

Step Three: Narrow Your Search 

Now’s the time to pull up the spreadsheets and start researching opportunities. Are you dead set on interning in London, or are you willing to go anywhere as long as you can get the best journalism internship?

Unless your country choice is intricately related to your professional goals, it’s best to cast a wide net and search for positions related to your studies. You never know what unexpected options might pop up that you’d never have thought of initially (like missing out on that trip to the Atacama desert if you’d gone to Geneva instead of Santiago for your poli-sci internship). 

[Still stuck on your search? Our online advisors can help you out!]

By the end of your search, you should have a small pool of options that promise to launch your career forward while also making you want to do a little dance of excitement in your dorm room.

You can filter by all types of internships — from art internships abroad to tech internships abroad — with our handy database here.

workspace with laptop, coffee, camera lenses, bright artwork

Before you start feng shui-ing your workspace, you need to earn that desk space. Here’s how!

Step Four: Sweat The Small Stuff. Yes, sweat it.

No, really! This is the perfect time in your quest to determine “how to find internships abroad” to get into the nitty gritty and consider the pros and cons of each internship opportunity. There are a lot of things to consider aside from the job tasks themselves. Do you really want to intern in Moscow in the middle of winter, or would you prefer heading to Madrid in the spring?

If you’re looking at a country that speaks another language, take an honest look at your skills and the position’s requirements. If your work will be based around providing agricultural training to locals, make sure you can hold a conversation! That said, many programs offer language training along with your internship so you can jump start your progress on arrival. In the meantime, get friendly with the DuoLingo app and start memorizing verbs. 

Step Five: It’s All About The Benjamins (Or Is It?) 

In a perfect world, all internships would pay enough for you to live in a sweet apartment with money left over for weekend trips and fancy desserts. In the real world, most internships aren’t paid (and some even cost money), but don’t lose hope!

There are paid internships out there if you do the research. While it can be some extra work, finding an internship that pays your expenses is a fantastic resume builder and one way to make an internship experience a feasible opportunity, especially if outside assistance is limited.

But don’t forget that the benefits from an internship go well beyond the paycheck. If you’re asking yourself if unpaid internships are worth it, the answer is absolutely— if you do it right. Look for placements that offer other perks, like free housing or college credit, that can make the experience cheaper in the long run. Don’t forget about scholarships and fundraising sites that can help you out too! 

dark office, desk with mac computer and tablet on stand grey weather out window

Get down to the nitty gritty. Put in the work in your internship search and you will be rewarded!

Step Six: Apply, Apply, Apply! 

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, figured out what you can afford, and decided which programs best fit your goals, it’s time to submit your applications! This isn’t the time for mistakes, so make sure that you’ve reviewed your resume, cover letter, and any other application materials for errors.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear anything back right away, and try to be patient as you wait for your application to be reviewed. Just like a job search, landing an internship can take awhile. Instead of anxiously refreshing your inbox, remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place (see: step one), and then go read up on how to be the best intern ever. Your future company will thank you! 

Step Seven: Prep For Your Interview 

Some internships may require an interview as part of the hiring process, so make sure you’re prepared. Spend some time learning about the company and its values, come up with some good questions to ask, and research the country’s business culture to avoid any embarrassing faux pas.

There’s nothing worse than showing up late for an interview in a country that thrives on punctuality! 

[Download our FREE E-book for meaningful travel tips for first-time interns abroad! Be the Bad@$$ you were meant to be!]

Step Eight: Go Get ‘Em! 

You made it through the daunting application process, sat through a couple awkward interviews, and now you’ve received an offer (or two, or three!). Congrats!

Once you’ve weighed your options and accepted an offer, now the real work (and fun!) begins. As you begin working through visa paperwork and international travel logistics, keep in mind your goals and the ways you plan to make your experience meaningful.

[Overwhelmed? MyGoAbroad is your jam]

minimally decorated, modern office hallway in Munich, Germany

You won’t be a big fish in your office, but you’ll learn a lot walking these halls!

Recommended internships abroad

There are hundreds of internships abroad out there — but here are some of our favorites:

Summer Internships Abroad

Ah, yes — summertime, the perfect time to score international internships and spend less time Netflixing without a purpose for weeks on end. Summer internships abroad are a popular bunch, so lucky for you, your choices are grand!

Recommended summer internships abroad:

Paid Internships Abroad

Paid internships abroad for college students might be harder to find than the others, but it’s still worth a shot if you’re deadset on earning some green while you go. It’s a whole different beast, so make sure you know everything you need to about paid internships abroad before you start your search.

Recommended paid internship programs:

Free Internships Abroad

Are free internships abroad even out there? For these experiences, we recommend you forego a traditional internship in lieu of a volunteer program. You can find ways to volunteer abroad for cheap or scour the internet for a locally owned non profit or non governmental organization (NGO) in need of some help that your skills match.

Recommended free internships abroad:

  • Teaching and community development internships in South Africa with GVI
  • Internship opportunities in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Peru with Maximo Nivel
man sitting at desk stretching and smiling

You’ll get to sit at your desk (or maybe not at a desk— up to you!) and smile knowing you’re doing great work.

Getting an internship abroad - check!

While your primary motivation for going abroad may be to gain professional experience, use your time abroad to explore your surroundings, learn about the local culture, and practice a new language, too. You get out of your experience what you put in, so why wouldn’t you want to maximize your time to the fullest? Avoid these common intern regrets, and you’ll return home not only with a shiny new resume, but also with a newfound understanding of your host country and the ability to take whatever life throws your way. You’ve got this!  

Find the perfect internship program today

Topic:  Travel Tips