Paying for Internships Abroad: Your New How-To Guide

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Like your dad, your econ professor, and political pundits always like to remind us: there’s no such thing as free lunch. And, even though you’ve chosen the (in some circles) more practical option of an internship abroad vs. traditional study abroad, one thing remains the same. You’re not quite sure about paying for internships abroad, and you find yourself wondering, do you have to pay for internships? Might seem silly, considering the idea of work experience is you getting paid, but all in good time! 

Now that you’ve found your internship program, sent off CVs, and started planning your experience abroad the dollar signs are really starting to line up. So, how can you pay for your internship abroad? Nothing a lot of planning, budgeting, scholarship-applying, and fundraising can’t fix! 

[First-time interns, you GOTTA download this ebook]

Women wearing a yellow jacket in line standing out from the rest of the crowd wearing black

Live footage of how you’ll stand out to employers with your internship abroad!

When it comes to paying for internships abroad, we’ve got you covered. From outlining any and all expected and unexpected costs, to nudging you in the right direction when it comes to making a budget (Google spreadsheets are your new best friend), consider this your new how-to guide to paying for internships abroad. Buckle up, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover and years of missing receipts to work through. 

Is paying for an internship worth it?

Perhaps you’re taking a break from “Philosophy 101” and until further notice, you can no longer ponder Kant or Socrates. Perhaps, instead, you are pondering “is paying for an internship abroad worth it?” Allow me, please: yes! 

The answer is yes without hesitation. Oui, sí, نعم فعلا, ja or whatever language you speak or have decided to study. Interning abroad will challenge you in ways that an internship at home cannot compare to—it wouldn’t dare to. Interning abroad might even change your life. And it will look great on your resume! Employers love candidates with international experiences and they will be blinded by the light reflecting off your international internship experience. There’s no need to further question the worth of paying for an internship abroad. With the right funding tools the price can become irrelevant.

As there’s an upside there usually is a downside though. Let’s be real. Sometimes, some of the better things in life aren’t free and when those occasions arise, we must find a way to fund these circumstances. Ponder no longer. It’s time to put those thoughts into action and find a sustainable solution. Allow the following to serve as your guide to paying for your internship abroad.

Passport on top of lots of coins from different currencies

ICYDK: Budgeting different currencies is a real skill. 😉💰💶💷

Expected costs for your internship abroad

There are a handful of expenses or costs that you can certainly expect to pay. Of course include the largest expense: the cost of your program. Some of you might need to pay your home school’s standard tuition fees too. Get informed. Anticipate other expected expenses like your round trip flight (unless you’re staying forever, and in that case a one way flight will suffice). Check flight prices now to give yourself a rough estimate of what your ticket to new adventures might look like. 

There’s also the visa and a passport if you’re new to this international travel thing. Speaking of passports, if you already have one, be sure to verify the validity of yours. Maybe you’ve already done your fair share of global galavanting and you need to request additional pages. Maybe that nifty passport that you received when you were 10 has expired or will by chance, expire while you’re abroad. Spend a moment with your passport to confidently understand your situation. Think about how nice your new stamp will look too. 

Have you thought about where you might sleep? Check into housing fees which are not always included in your tuition. While many programs include student housing or accommodation with local host families, verify what your internship offers. Build in these expected expenses to your new internship abroad budget.

Unexpected costs for your internship abroad

There are an abundance of unexpected fees that you should anticipate when paying for internships abroad. These are the not-so-obvious ones. Think about your daily habits at home and account for these. If you’re lucky and happen to live and intern on Avenue de Champs-Élysées you’re off the hook here. But for most of you, a commute involving more than your feet will be in your near future. 

High rise office buildings in Singapore

One of these high-rises in Singapore could just be could be YOUR next workplace. I think I see your coworker waving in the window! 👋

Think about in-country transportation costs. These little tickets can get costly day in and day out. Maybe you’ll find that a week or monthly transit pass is more economical. Pencil in internet and phone costs too. Perhaps you’ll snag an internal SIM card while you’re abroad. Add it to your budget! Depending on your locale, you might be obliged to a series of pre-departure vaccinations too. These. Add. Up. 

And your wardrobe! How could you forget. You might need new business professional clothes like a suit, or a pair of pumps...and then the more comfortable, professional walking shoes you buy when you break a heel on cobblestones. The day of rolling out of bed in pajamas with dirty Birkenstocks might be over for this internship abroad. Okay, okay, fake pearls will do, but do you see the point? Plan!

Get technical. Add in other small but unforgiving expenses like laundry and a lunch budget. And your morning ritual: coffee. You might want to add-in your afternoon snack at la boulangerie too. 

Think about travel insurance while you’re at it. You know what you need to keep yourself well and healthy. Maybe get right down to the point and add that membership to the gym, or those yoga classes if you know it’s one of your tools for success. No two budgets will look the same. Some of these costs aren’t so evident. 

Start creating your budget and revisit it a few days later. You might find that you’ve missed some expenses. A little investigation on your end might be helpful to find some of these expenses. Though it’s impossible to know exactly what your host country expenses will be, it is possible to have more than a rough idea. These expenses should give your budget a good start.

Woman relaxing on red hammock watching the mountains

INTERN-tain yourself with scenic views!

As your budget starts to take form you might start to realize that you will need external sources of funding when it comes to paying for internships abroad. Life happens, and so do emergencies. Add in an emergency fund to be prepared for the unexpected. It also might be relevant to check into credit cards without foreign transaction fees. These fees add up quickly each time that you swipe or withdraw local currencies. The idea is to minimize unnecessary expenses where you can. 

Most students rely on external sources of funding, you’re not alone. The above suggestions should help you establish your budget while the below should help you meet the needs of paying for internships abroad.

Putting together a rough budget for yourself

The best way to turn a dream into a reality is to plan. Plan, plan, plan. Get yourself organized to alleviate some of that unnecessary stress. You can never plan too far in advance for your internship abroad. Now that you know you need a budget, here’s how to put it all together. 

Create a nifty spreadsheet to see what your internship abroad looks like financially. Since you’ve outlined all possible costs: expected and unexpected, it’s time to put it all together. That way you can really start eliminating those extra expenses (maybe you don’t need to get coffee out every morning, just buy yourself a french press!), and keeping yourself fiscally responsible. Yeah, that’s right, you use grown-up words like “fiscal” now. That’s what participating in an international internship will do for you. 

How to pay for your internship abroad

Paying for internships abroad might not be so black and white. Often times, students are faced with this dilemma where they ask themselves time and again, “is paying for an internship worth it?” Well, let the list below assure you that there are many ways to pay for your internship abroad. What’s the saying, something like, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, like Rome, you might need to spend some time solving how you will pay for your internship abroad. Luckily, you’re not building Rome, but maybe you’ll be an intern there.

cat typing fast on laptop

Search away for those scholarships! 🐱👓

1. Scholarships! 

There is so much money available for students. And while it’s not a free for all, there are funds available for students eager to intern abroad. Take the time to find a scholarship or grant specific to you. Maybe you’re of a first generation college student. Or maybe you’re gay. Perhaps Mexican-American. You have a thing for Arabic art from the Ottoman Empire. Use your diversity, your uniqueness, and your interests to lead you to the fountain of study abroad scholarships. Find something that’s you. 

Check with your home university to see if they have a scholarship specific to your program. And while you’re at it, look into your future host institution as well. Have you thought about your local government? Go wide and far in your scholarship search.

2. Schedule an appointment with the career center. 

Your university has a career center just begging you to take advantage of all their resources. That office should become your new best friend. Most personnel have connections to university alumni who have lived, worked, studied and/or paid for internships abroad. Send an e-mail or make a phone call to schedule a time for a chat. 

Take some notes before heading in so you have your questions and concerns outlined. Or even better, your newly created budget so they know what it is you are in need of. Before you know it they are telling you stories about their stint in West Africa or their masters degree in China and funding goes out the window. It is their job to get you safely and surely off-campus and out of the country.

3. Give mom and dad or grandma and grandpa a call. 

“Mom, hey, it’s me. This is URGENT. I need help paying for my internship abroad.” Reach out to your family! Think about those that you are closest to and see if they are able to help support your internship abroad. If that’s not possible, maybe that well-off aunt on the other side of the county will accept your collect call—the least she can do is tell you “no.” Maybe you can offer to pay them back once you’re on your feet and earning an income. Have the conversation.

4. Student loans 

What you might not know about student loans is that many student loans cover programs abroad. Look into your financial aid situation and add this to your list of questions for when you meet with the international office. Often times your study abroad office will facilitate this transfer of money to get the dough in your hands. Be sure to apply for FAFSA too, so that you’re eligible for this option.

Woman holding mug that reads Like a boss

Seeing the world is an investment in yourself. Experience it!

5. Fun, fun, fundraise!

You know what I’m talking about. Maybe you don’t have those awesome cookies that come in color boxes to sell, but think of how you can fundraise your way abroad. Think about one of the many websites that can act as your fundraising platform. Make an account with FundMyTravel and share the link with everyone and their brother. Consider a fun, little homemade video explaining your funding campaign. Save the cookies for a reward once you reach your goal.

6. Maybe you have personal savings? 

In an ideal world, you login to your online banking account and you see the largest sum you have ever seen. So, why not use that? Your experience abroad will be priceless, and there’s always more money to be made. Easier said than done, but you can make it happen, captain! Consider using personal savings to help fund your internship abroad.

7. Change your spending habits, now! 

Maybe go out to the bar one night a weekend rather than your current 3-night a week stress reduction plan not prescribed by your doctor. Or perhaps hit a local thrift shop for your next en vogue outfit. Rearrange your current financial situation. While you might not be able to earn more money at the moment, you are capable of changing the way you spend the money that you do have and/or earn. Every dollar counts and even setting a small sum aside each paycheck will help you accumulate a nice internship fund. Dollar, dollar bills y’all...

8. Use your student ID to reap the benefits of student discounts. 

We so often forget about that school-issued ID that most of us received freshman year. Blow the dust off this card and start putting it to use like it’s your new interest-free credit card. There are many websites that offer discounts for student. Sites like STA travel can help you find the cheapest flights and travel deals too. Use your student-status while you can to help yourself out.

Money shaped into a ball

Time to dig up wadded bills and forgotten coins from the dark depths of that old couch. Anything to make this internship abroad happen! 😉

9. J-O-B. Find one! 

Maybe you’re not working. Maybe you don’t want to work. Or maybe you haven’t even thought about working. A job is an efficient way to put money into your hands. Finding a job will not only help fund your internship abroad, but it will also help you gain valuable, professional experience.

Having a budget will help you in paying for your internship abroad. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be a bit more financially organized too. This budget can also play an active role in your financial campaign. Family and friends, online funding platforms, and even the bank will be more likely to give you a hand if they understand your financial needs and where your deficits lie. As an artist has their portfolio, you too, will have yours in the form of a budget as you prepare for this internship abroad. Create a case for your cause and fight for it.

Paying for internships abroad—not the end of the world

Being organized and financially prepared is a foolproof way to assist you when paying for your internship abroad, but also a way to enjoy your internship to the fullest. Now that you’re thinking about your funding options, it’s time to hit the ground running. Don’t delay! Whilst this list isn’t exhaustive, it should help you along the way. Afterwhile crocodile! And remember: pro-budget for the win!

Paid Internships Abroad: Everything You Need (and Want) to Know