Like expat-moths to a flame, people from all over the world are attracted to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Home to 9.2 million people, there are 7.8 million foreigners living in the UAE, representing nearly 75 countries (talk about the cradle of civilization!). This cross section of the Middle East, where sleek city skylines meet vast desert landscapes, is the perfect place for a truly international internship in business, finance, IT, tourism, and more. Ready to tackle a hodgepodge of world wide cultural norms in one fell swoop? Head abroad to work in this modern day Babylon; it is time to find an internship in the UAE!
The UAE, though comprised of seven individual emirates (all united and arab, get it?), has two major powerhouse cities that attract foreign interns. While internships can be found in smaller cities, such as Sharjah, Al Ain, Ajman, or Ras al Khaymah, more experience-driven interns are drawn to the big boys: Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Dubai is the most populated city in the UAE, which makes it perfect for interns seeking a range of opportunities to work (and network!). The city’s vast matrix of buildings (including the world’s tallest, the Burj Khalifa), distinctive and multiple business districts, and burgeoning international workforce give way to a parade of familiar international franchises and chain businesses. Some people joke you can see the entire world without ever leaving Dubai (at the very least your stomach can). If you dream of interning in the UAE literally in a skyscraper, your odds are good in Dubai, you have no less than 300 to choose from. Whether it’s dubbed the “city of gold” because of its obsession with luxury or because of the shade of the sun-soaked sandy coast is for you to find out!
Abu Dhabi is not only the capital of the UAE, but it is the second most populated city (and home to the palace from Aladdin, but seriously). Your chances of bumping into a local Emirati are increased in Abu Dhabi, as fewer foreigners are drawn to Abu Dhabi’s relatively laidback ways. Abu Dhabi is spearheading the future standards of the world’s next great capitals (it has Ferrari World, so it’s off to a good start, right?). Abu Dhabi’s forward thinking agenda includes progressive attitudes toward health care, environmental sustainability, human rights and development, and increased equality for women. Despite claims that Abu Dhabi is living in the shadow of its northerly neighbor, this city definitely holds its own.
Internships in the United Arab Emirates
Tourism and hospitality are both very popular sectors for internships in the UAE. With the world’s biggest international air carrier, Emirates Airlines, bringing travelers in droves, it’s no wonder there is a clear cut demand for world-class tourism. The UAE is a bridge between the Middle East and the West, giving newcomers a taste of what life can be like on this desert peninsula. The UAE is exciting, exotic, and in high-demand. The UAE is the place to be for travel and tourism internships abroad, particularly if your primary market interests lie in high end or luxury tourism. Who knows, maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the Royal Family’s fleet!
If hospitality ain’t yo’ thang, there are still plenty of other internships in the United Arab Emirates that may suit you. Home to a number of regional and international banks, media corporations, manufacturers, software companies, and of course oil and gas companies, it’s no longer a question of if there’s an internship available for you, it’s what internships you’ll apply for and which one you’ll land. The UAE has one of the most diversified economies, which means it is perfect for diversifying that resume of yours!
Internships in the UAE can last between three and six months, depending on the company, job placement, and the internship structure, and may be either full or part-time. Expect to work more than your scheduled hours as an intern in the UAE. While making coffee runs is an internship cliche, it’s not outside the realm of potential day-to-day tasks, especially when interning in the UAE. Residents drink nearly twice as much coffee as any other country in the Gulf!
Salary & Costs
Typically, internships in the United Arab Emirates are unpaid; however, many companies and organizations may offer a stipend or other benefits for interns. Benefits may include airfare reimbursement, housing, or food, as well as a paid visa. You’ll need to learn some steadfast budgeting strategies during an internship in the UAE. Since Dubai and Abu Dhabi are some of the most expensive cities in the world, both cities, therefore, have a very high cost-of-living. But don’t worry, interning abroad in the UAE will be worth every dirham (especially in the moment when you first lay eyes on the Burj Al Arab!). In the end, you never know if an internship connection or your work ethic will land you a high paying, full time, permanent gig in the UAE in the future!
On average, an inexpensive meal costs around $6.80 and ranges between $4.90 and $10.90 in the UAE. However, if you are working full time, many companies and organizations will cover the cost of meals. Rent costs average around $1,700 per month for a one bedroom in the city center, so being compensated for housing is a huge plus for those who intern in the UAE. Be sure to discuss the details of your internship placement and program with your company or placement provider before departure. As an intern in the UAE working full time, you might not have a lot of free time to explore, but you’ll still be able to squeeze in shopping sprees on Sheikh Zayed or a trip down the slopes of Dubai’s infamous indoor ski resort.
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodations for interns are usually arranged relatively close to the office, and range from dormitories to small apartments with personal bedrooms. Since the UAE is growing and developing at such a rapid pace, new apartment buildings are coming up faster than palm oases. You’ll have the luxury of air conditioning wherever you live, to manage the scorching desert heat, but make sure to turn it off when you are gone so that you don’t pay through the roof costs for electricity!
Non-Emirati citizens will need a labor card, or employment/work card, in order to intern in the UAE. This is usually arranged by or through host companies or internship placement providers. Visa costs will generally be covered by your employer (especially if the internship is unpaid). You cannot intern in the UAE on a study visa. You should make sure you have a valid passport before applying for your internship in the United Arab Emirates, that is valid for at least six months after your planned date of departure.
Benefits & Challenges
Putting the international in international internship. Personally and professionally, interns will be exposed to people from all over the world. Network it while interning abroad in the UAE to set yourself up for success in the job market. Speaking of markets (and segues) take time to wander the souks along the Dubai Creek for more intercultural fun!
It’s not just you, it’s hot. It may seem like all fun in the sun in the UAE, but remember it can sometimes reach extreme temperatures. Don’t ignore the weather report, and pack smart for the heat so you’re comfortable, but also dressing appropriate for your internship.