The United Kingdom is a must-go destination for international travelers, and even more so if you are considering completing an internship abroad. A huge player on the world stage, the UK is a major hub for international business of all kinds and is sure to leave a lasting impression on your resume. Furthermore, it has a rich history that spans all the way back to the dawn of man, (see Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument over 4000 years old), and with four different countries for you to explore, there is no shortage of internship opportunities in the land that has given us Shakespeare, fish and chips, and the kilt.
Though the United Kingdom is made up of four distinct countries, each with a plethora of internship opportunities, the following are the most popular locations for internships in the UK:
London has the honor of being one of the most iconic cities in the world as well as the most populous city in the UK, and of course it is the capital of England, the most visited country in the UK. A modern metropolitan city, it is a leader in entertainment, fashion, the arts, and finance. Furthermore, there will never be a shortage of things to do for any intern in London. Interns will be able to see world-famous landmarks, visit museums whose halls hold artifacts that tell a story of England’s expansive history or just sit down and enjoy high tea, a British tradition including delectable pastries and finger sandwiches. If you are looking for a fast paced and modern internship in the UK’s business world, which has that unmistakable British flair, then London is the place for you.
Edinburgh should be your go-to destination for internships in the UK if you are a lover of history and Scottish culture. As the capital of Scotland and its second largest city, the city of Edinburgh has a beauty like no other. Fortresses and other remnants of its rich medieval heritage decorate the countryside, and to top it off, the world famous Edinburgh Castle looms over the entire city. Upon its seat on Castle Rock, the castle serves as a constant reminder of one of the most tumultuous times in European history.
Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, has a motto, Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus, which translates to “What shall we give in return for so much?” Sporting both lovely Victorian architecture alongside modern day towering skyscrapers, Belfast acts as the cultural capital of the UK, attracting tourists from all over the world. Interns who choose Belfast should be be sure to visit the recently redeveloped Titanic Quarter, which acts as a monument to the city’s maritime history, as well as the RMS Titanic, the doomed ship which was manufactured in the Harland & Wolff shipyard, the very place where the monument was built upon. If you crave an internship in the United Kingdom that is based around tourism and the arts, Belfast should be your top choice.
Wales. If you are an outdoors lover, The nation of Wales should be your destination of choice. With gorgeous rolling green landscapes, you can look forward to a variety of activities during your stay, including horseback riding, rock climbing, hiking, and watersports. As far as internships go, investigate Wales if you were looking for something related to manufacturing and industry, as its economy is primarily dominated by these fields.
Internships in the UK
As one of the top places in the world to do business in, there should be no shortage of companies offering internships in the United Kingdom. In London especially, you should expect to find plenty of businesses that work on an international level, providing you with the experience you need to get ahead in the interconnected world of today. Even familiar names that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find in the UK (like the NFL) have a home there. Some of the most common types of business internships in the UK, which are commonly hosted in large, international companies and organizations, are finance, marketing, and technology.
On the other side of the spectrum, the UK offers many internship opportunities in more manufacturing based fields, with specific specialties based on the exact location of the internship placement. For instance, Scotland’s whiskey is one of the UK’s top five international exports, bringing billions of dollars into the country and producing companies have supported around 35,000 jobs nationwide. Additionally, Belfast has a rich history of manufacturing textiles and ships, but it has also recently moved into more modern industries, such as aerospace manufacturing.
In major cities across the UK, interns will be able to find many internship opportunities in the tourism industry. In recent years, with the ending of Irish conflicts, Belfast has seen a massive influx of tourism causing an economic boom, with over 6 million people visiting Ireland in one year alone, like never before. However, with the many infamous landmarks and tourist destinations located in and around London, it remains the UK’s most visited city, pulling an average of 16 million international tourists a year and making tourism one of London’s vital industries.
The lengths of internships in the UK will vary based on the placement, host company, and many other factors, but interns can generally expect internships to last a minimum of two months, which also happens to be the perfect amount of time to gain real valuable work experience abroad.
Salary & Costs
Like many international internships, internships in the United Kingdom are typically unpaid and reward interns with experience rather than monetary gain. This is not to say that paid internships in the UK cannot be found, but it will often depend upon the field or company of interest. For instance, internships in the UK in law and finance are actually often paid.
It should be noted that living in the UK is slightly more expensive than living in most other places in the world. For example, it is around almost ten percent more expensive to live in the UK in comparison to the United States. That being said, average rent in the UK is about eight percent lower than the United States, making renting your best option as far as living accommodations go.
The cost of a tier 5 visa (which is explained in further detail below) can average around $400, but this does not include the fee that many sponsors will charge.
Accommodation & Visas
To get a visa to intern in the UK, one must first find a sponsor for a tier 5 visa. The sponsor will confirm that you are eligible for the visa and that you have a legitimate internship placement secured, thereby taking responsibly for your legality while in the UK. The company you intern in the UK with must prove that they have brought you to the UK for a professional learning opportunity, not just to fill a job vacancy or assign you menial work with little value (aka. non-monetary rewards with a positive spin: valuable, resume worthy experience, while contributing to company and society).
There is also the possibility of getting either a tier 2 or tier 4 visa instead. The tier 2 visa is a general visa that still requires a sponsor, but acts a general flexible visa for your time in country. The tier 4 visa may be an option for you if you plan to study abroad in conjunction with your internship in the UK, as it also allows you to work in most occupations. For more details on visa requirements for interns in the UK, check out this visa information page.
Since most internships in the UK are unpaid, as mentioned above, it is likely that interns will need to seek out flats or dorms. The good news is that there are many companies dedicated to temporary international housing that are easy to find with locations all over cities in the UK that are relatively affordable.
Benefits & Challenges
They Speak English in England. Who would have thought? There will be a lot on your plate when you enter the UK, but luckily learning the local language will not be one of your major concerns, since the large majority of people in the UK speak English. While it does have a bit of flair with words and accents that may be unfamiliar to Americans, nearly everyone should be able to be understood with ease. Finally, you will likely leave with new lingo and phrases like “damp squib” (Just trust us, look it up).
The London Underground. If you plan to intern in London, one of the most common forms of transportation is the large subway network known as the London Underground, or The Tube. While it is efficient and reaches nearly all parts of the large city, public transportation will be something most U.S. students or recent grads need to adjust to. Keep in mind: it is just one more skill you will leave with when you internship is over!
Work Hard, Play Hard. People in the UK have a very strong work ethic and place a strong emphasis on hard work in a very fast paced environment. That being said, once the work day is over, it is very common for employees to head to their local pub and relax after the work day in a very English fashion, with their co-workers often taking turns buying round after round of drinks for one another. Furthermore, travel is a large part of their culture and employees are often given plenty of vacation days, so you will have plenty of time to see what the rest of Europe has to offer.