For approximately 50 percent of college students, graduation is inevitable.  

And when you’re ready to enter the job market, you know how important it will be to set yourself apart from other applicants. That’s something studying abroad can help you accomplish 100%. So, how would you like to ramp that up to 200%! By adding an international internship to your resume, you can do exactly that. HR and hiring managers zoom in immediately when they see you’ve had hands-on experience in a particular field.

More and more students are realizing the benefits of interning while they study abroad. Maybe it’s something you’re considering, too. But right about now I bet you’re thinking, “How in the world can I study and do an internship at the same time? Isn’t that too much to take on?” The answer is “Absolutely not!” In fact, it’s easier to do both (and do them well) than you might imagine.

Here’s how to make an internship work for you while studying abroad:

  1. Choose an Internship that Offers You Value

All internships are not created equal. Even at home, every single one isn’t exciting, awe-inspiring and perfectly sensational. The same holds true for the internship opportunities available abroad. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for just anything. If you’re going to be spending a good chunk of your precious time abroad as an intern, choose something that’s worth your while and will provide you with a valuable work experience. This definitely is one time when it pays to be picky.

  1. Stay Flexible

Since you’ll be studying and interning at the same time, it’s safe to say you might encounter some scheduling conflicts, particularly if you find the internship on your own. There’s a chance you may need to switch (or possibly give up) a certain class, or to negotiate your work schedule with your internship host. Flexibility is the key to making it all work so go with the flow and don’t panic if you need to do some shuffling around.

  1. Know the Difference Between Interning and Actually Working Abroad

In some countries, there’s a fine line between what’s considered an internship and an actual job, so when you seek out the available opportunities make sure you’re legal. Seriously, there are countries where you could be breaking the law if you’re getting paid for your internship services. In some places, paid internships really are considered a no-no for foreign students. Conversely, it may not be legal for students to hold unpaid internships where they work without getting paid. To be sure you’re making the right choice, simply follow the rules of your VISA and you’ll be fine. Your study abroad advisor can help you sort this out.

  1. Use the Internship to Develop Yourself Personally and Professionally

One of the greatest benefits of interning abroad is the opportunity to really experience the local culture and customs first-hand. There’s no better way to do this than by being immersed in it. So dive right in and use time on the job to sharpen your language skills. And connect with the people in your workplace. The relationships you build just might come in handy in the future.

While you’re at it, keep track of what you’re learning and make sure you understand it. Later, you’ll be able to relate your accomplishments, as well as how you progressed and developed, on your resume and in job interviews. It’ll be so worth it career-wise.

In short, take every opportunity to make every minute of your internship count.

Now that you know you can study abroad AND intern at the same time, how do you get the show on the road? Here are some tips to guide you through your internship search and help you land the opportunity of your dreams:

  1. Talk with Your Study Abroad Advisor at Home

I’ve said this many times in my posts, but, hey, it’s worth repeating one more time (that’s how important it is!): your advisor is one of your most valuable resources for all things study abroad. This includes international internships. Many universities help arrange internships for their students, or at the very least, work with organizations that do. If this is the case at your school (and I hope it is), they probably will come through with some great connections for you. There might even be an alumnus of your university who lives in your host city or country and can help facilitate an internship, or is affiliated with a company that accepts interns.

  1. Contact Your Host University

Most established universities have internships in place for their local students. If you’re pretty adept with the native language, you, too, should be able to take advantage of this service. When you’re signing up for classes, ask about internship placement and whether the university can help make arrangements for you.

  1. Work with a Third Party Program Provider

International internships are becoming more popular every day. Because the demand is growing so rapidly, many program providers have built the internship option into their offerings.

If you go this route, it’s likely you will be able to organize an internship in your host country without having to exert a lot of effort yourself. It’s the easiest option, by far. But, as with just about anything, you may encounter a few roadblocks. For example, internship options may not be offered by program providers in the city or country where you want to go. Or they might not be able to find that “just right” position to match your interests.

And of course, we can’t forget about cost (darn!). Most third party program providers charge a premium for this service. That makes it important to discuss global internships with your family ahead of time and pre-determine if this will fit in your study abroad budget.

A few program providers that offer internship services:

API

IES

Global Experiences

Virtual Internships

Find Your Own Internship

There’s no rule that says you can’t arrange an internship on your own. Go for it! Check the internet for internship postings in your host city, or research local companies, multinational companies and corporations in the area, and other appropriate business organizations. Non-profit organizations, too. Then contact them yourself. (By the way, contacting the HR departments of international companies can prove to be an especially good option if you aren’t fluent in the language.).

Make a Positive First Impression

 

Introduce yourself by submitting a strong resume or CV, along with a persuasive cover letter. Explain your motivation for seeking an internship, what you hope to learn, what you can bring to the organization, and how your study and work experience relate. Some employers also may ask for recommendations.

If you’re a good candidate, an interview could follow either electronically (via Skype, Facetime) or in person upon arrival at your destination.

I guarantee that every potential employer will be impressed by your ambition and, if you sell yourself right and receive an internship, may even offer hours to fit your class schedule.

Don’t forget that you also can scope out internship availability once your arrive in your host country. Review local internship listings and spread the word to everyone that you want to to intern as part of your study abroad program. Talk to professors, classmates, neighbors, shopkeepers, potential employers – and make connections. You never know who knows someone who has an uncle who works at a company that would jump at the chance to have you on board.

Note: Even if this type of internship isn’t considered “official” by your home university, or doesn’t earn you academic credit, you’ll still have the professional experience under your belt. In the long-run, that could provide a big pay-off career-wise. Foreign study AND a hands-on international internship – picture that on your resume!

Study Abroad or an Internship…

 

It’s the Chicken or the Egg of Global Education

For most students, learning through an international experience is the most important aspect of their decision to study abroad. It also can be the most challenging. After all, you want to make sure you are continuing to reach your education goals with credits that transfer and count toward graduation.

On the other hand, if gaining professional experience through an internship is your number one priority, you may need to alter your focus by organizing that first and then fitting in coursework around your work schedule. This is likely to mean signing up for classes that will accommodate your work-free times like days off, evenings, or even weekends. Although a little unconventional, shifting your focus in this way is a viable option and just might be the best route for you.

And finally… If you still can’t decide between a study abroad program and an internship, don’t fret.

There’s one more way to get the most out of both experiences.

Do them back-to-back. Some internships are more beneficial if you work full-time (or close to it) and some classes will require your rigorous attention. If you feel you can’t appropriately split your time between the two, or really can’t work out a schedule, just pick one or the other. That’s right! Consider doing an internship before or after your study abroad experience. Or during the summer. Or do one semester of each. How great would it be to extend your time in the amazing country you have selected. You’re already there – go ahead an reap the benefits of both course credit and an intern abroad experience on one airline ticket.

Note: We can’t forget that you’ll have living expenses no matter where you are. If taking an unpaid internship is too challenging for you budget-wise, but interning abroad is important, think about working the summer before to build up your funds. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Interning While Studying Abroad vs. Studying While Interning Abroad

 

Whichever you choose, there’s only one thing to remember – it can be done! The key is to be flexible. It also doesn’t hurt to be bold and ask for a little flexibility in return. This could mean tweaking class schedules or negotiating internship hours to make things work. As long as you do your best, you’re sure to have a rewarding and productive time abroad.

Along the way, don’t forget to have some fun. Make time to hang out with your friends at school and socialize with your co-workers. Juggling it all can be a challenge, but this is your one-time chance for the experience of a lifetime, so kiss any thoughts any thoughts about being tired good-bye and make the most of it.