Securing an Internship Abroad

According to, 75 percent of college students complete an internship before they graduate.

There are approximately 9.2 million diplomas are given out; SO… can you stick out from the everyone else vying for the same job you are? 

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:


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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, but there are many more:



Global Experiences

Virtual Internships


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.).

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!


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.


Going With A Friend and Location Selection With Nick Trifelos

Nick Trefelos Butler University

“No matter where people come from, they always have bad experiences that have taught them important life skills, and you can always learn from people by gathering and asking them what their experiences have been and what they learned from them.” Nick Trifelos 

Nick Trifelos

  1. Nick (@nick.triff) understood his international internship better than anyone I’ve interviewed to date, bar none.
  2. He went against the grain and traveled to Europe with a friend. (Why not, right?!)
  3. Him and his accomplice strategically selected their study abroad location as if they were setting out to conquer Europe. Really analytical stuff, but check out maps. Trieste is smack dab in the middle of it all.

Mic drop 🎤

“If I were to solve a problem, I would spend 99% of my time identifying the problem, and 1% solving it.” – Albert Einstein


  • Choosing to study with a friend in Trieste, a Northern Italian town with easy access to transportation around Europe 👫Refugee Bears Trieste, Italy


  • Using ISEP to study abroad via a direct exchange 💱[6:59]
  • School life and interning as an English teacher at the American Italian Association 👨‍🏫 [9:39]
  • 10 countries, 35 cities in close to 90 days of studying abroad 🇪🇺 [16:40]
  • Hectic transportation to hike in Zagreb, Croatia 🚘 [18:51]
  • Learning from other people’s experiences and journeys in a foreign country 🧐 [21:19]
  • Aperol spritz – the drink of Trieste 🍹 [23:13]
  • The high rate of studying abroad and other great assets of Butler University 🏫 [26:11]
  • Recommendations and final quotes 🙌 [27:45]

4 Ways To Travel Europe Infographic [Infographic]




How to Choose the Perfect Study Abroad Program To Accelerate Your Career

You know how when you go to a restaurant; usually Chinese food or a diner, and the menu goes on forever and you think to yourself ‘how am I ever going to decide? I wish I could try everything!’

Image result for diner menu

At first glance, deciding how to study abroad can be as daunting as deciding where.

The amount of options available can seem limitless. The good news is that there is an entire staff on campus dedicated to helping you select the perfect program the same way your high school counselor helped you find a perfect college.

I wrote this so you can be informed before you walk into that office for your initial meeting. So if you give me 10 minutes here I promise the entire process will be easier from start to finish.

But first, let’s start with the why


Studying abroad is one of the most memorable opportunities you’ll ever have – a life-changing experience where you can complete part of your university degree program while exploring the world outside your home country.

There’s nothing like it. I studied abroad during my senior year and can tell you that it was the most enriching adventure of my life.

It’s difficult to sum up the full impact of studying abroad, but one of its the biggest benefits is the opportunity you’ll have to meet new friends and live like a local in a culture that’s totally different than your own. 

How studying abroad will help your career

You’ll also gain confidence by improving the skills that help you connect and interact with others. Skills like leadership, team management, relationship-building, and problem-solving – all of which, by the way, can give a big boost to your job search after graduation.

It doesn’t matter if you select an academic year, a semester, or summer term, you’ll discover that the experience will be an exhilarating challenge of educational and cultural immersion.

Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun. But, I’m sure you’re wondering how to choose the program that’s perfect for you.

What are the Requirements to Study Abroad?

First things first. To ensure that students get the most out of the study abroad programs they choose, every college or university has eligibility requirements. These can vary by school, the country where you want to study, or your major. At a minimum, though, all programs require that you submit an online application and transcript of your grades.

Meeting your school’s eligibility requirements is not difficult and your advisor will help you through the entire process.


Eligibility requirements can vary, but these typically are the ones all potential study abroad students are expected to meet at the time of application:

1. Maintain the Required GPA (usually 2.5 or Above) 

2. Be in Good Academic and Class Standing

3. Meet Program Specific Requirements 

4. Have Established Major Plans

5. Demonstrate Study Abroad Readiness

(such as maturity, responsibility, and preparedness for an international program)

6. Meet the Application Deadlines

Keep in mind that this list isn’t set in stone.

Take the language requirement for example. While many departments do not allow students to to fulfill the language requirement through study abroad, exceptions do exist.

The best thing to do is to consult the appropriate department for specific details and a determination. It’s pretty much your responsibility to learn whether the language courses you take abroad will be credit-worthy or not.


Specific eligibility requirements also may be altered by the type of study abroad program you have in mind: academic; internship; volunteering; exchange program; or study abroad through a third party or affiliate program. Finally independent study or a combination of any of the above. And if you really want to see the world a Semester at Sea is quickly becoming a popular option. 

Rely on your advisor’s expertise to help pinpoint the exact requirements you’ll need to fulfill your goals and achieve the learning outcomes you desire.

Let’s break down the program options: 


Finding an internship abroad

Students sometimes opt for an international internship. The work is usually with a company, government or non-government entity, a research group or institute, or some other organization and allows hands-on experience in a field relevant to your studies or career interest.

It is a terrific option for students who would like to integrate academic credit with real world on-the-job experience.

Internships can span a diversity of fields – from business administration to the arts to public policy, with full-time and part-time options available. . They are for-credit and usually are included in program fees.




Volunteer work abroad.

Volunteering abroad is a component that’s frequently overlooked so don’t automatically omit it when making your international study plans; it can take your program to the next level by providing a way to connect deeply with the local community where you’ll be living.

You can sign up for a regular academic study abroad program and augment it with volunteering or you can enroll specifically in a study abroad volunteer program from the start.

If you don’t think you’ll have time while classes are in session, a third option is to find short-term volunteer opportunities to join in during your academic breaks.

Talk to your program coordinator, advisor, and professors to learn about available options.

Going the volunteer route will get you out of your comfort zone and offer new cultural experiences you might otherwise miss.

The conversations you’ll have with staff members and other volunteers just might lead to a job opening either abroad or back at home.

And don’t forget the positive impact this experience will have on your resume. Graduate school, for example, can be extremely competitive and many students use volunteering as an opportunity to punch up their credentials.

Exchange Programs

Asking your advisor about available exchange programs
Dan Colleran and I at my alma mater, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater

These tend to be the most popular option because of the .

As I learned in my interview with Ben Mckelfresh, exchange means something different in high than it does in college. In high school it means that you switch houses with another student; you live at their house and they live at yours.

In college it means you study at a partner institution, also known as a sister school, while paying the normal tuition you pay at your homeschool. 

Talk to your advisor to see who your ‘international siblings’ are. The goal is to find somewhere you want to go while benefitting your career aspirations at the same time.

Third Party or Affiliate

With third party, or affiliate, programs you pay a provider (rather than the university) directly for study abroad placement and other services.

study abroad programs

Most programs feature on-site staff in your host city which means there’s always an incredible amount of assistance readily available.

Need help with…

  • Housing
  • Passport and visa
  • Transportation
  • Flights
  • Excursions
  • Credit transfer

Your provider will handle all of it.

Once you’ve landed in your new locale, they will be a great source of advice, support, and information. The down side is that you may never leave your comfort zone and could miss out on memorable personal experiences of your own.

Of course, all this added service typically comes with a higher price tag. But on the other hand, if you register with a provider that’s pre-approved by your university, they can access financial aid programs for you from back home while you are overseas.

Only third party providers working with accredited American schools are able to make this type of arrangement. More good news – most providers also offer scholarship opportunities for incoming students.

Here are some third party programs you may want to check out:

3rd party or affiliate study abroad prgrams

IES Abroad




Academic Program

This is discipline-specific learning through courses that can be applied toward your chosen degree. You’re essentially earning credits by taking the classes you need at a foreign university instead of your home school.

Just make sure your credits will transfer (they almost always do) and you’ll be all set. 

Independent Study

This is what I did and what I recommend. Read about my trip and how you can get the same results here. 325,329 students study abroad each year ( – how are you going to stick out?

Semester at Sea

If you can’t decide on one country (or even one continent, for that matter) Semester at Sea might be the perfect option for you. Students board a ship and then chug their way around the world stopping in at various ports. Yes, this is a thing. If you’ve never heard about it before I suggest you check it out.

Apply Even if You Don’t Meet the Requirements

What if you don’t meet certain eligibility requirements for a particular program?

Apply anyway and work with your study abroad advisor as there often is flexibility. For example, you can still apply if your GPA is between 2.0 and 2.5, but likely will need to consult with your advisor to determine your academic and personal preparedness.

Eligibility “glitches” may also be based on unique or specific requirements of a program.

If you encounter one of these, why not broaden your horizon – maybe there’s another program that will appeal just as much to you?

The popularity of the city you have your heart set on or the number of students interested in the same program can factor into eligibility, as well.

Whatever the barrier may be, don’t get discouraged. Apply to at least three universities even if they are in different locations. I guarantee you’ll find a host country that’s perfect for you.

Don’t Wait

Apply Yesterday…no joke.

Once you’ve made the decision to become an international student, get started with your application right away. 

More and more students are signing up for the study abroad experience so the earlier you begin, the higher the chances are that you’ll be accepted to the university of your dreams.

Applying a year ahead of time if you can is not too early.


Study Abroad Financing

This is the number one reason more students don’t study abroad and it goes something like this:

“I’ve already got a mountain of student loans, why on earth would I accrue more?”

Study abroad programs are standard offerings at universities of every size. But the cost – sometimes double what a semester at a private college runs – has become the single largest non-academic deterrent to students who want to experience this once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

Tack on living expenses like sightseeing, dining and traveling around and study abroad trips only get costlier.

Don’t throw in the towel! 

Yes, paying to fly across the world and set up housekeeping in a foreign country is definitely not a drop in the bucket. But financial aid IS available.

There are thousands of international and domestic organizations dedicated to funding student travel. That means every student can find a scholarship, loan, grant, or fellowship to fit their needs – including YOU. Your parents, too.

Researching these options would be a daunting task if it weren’t for  your advisor who will simplify the process dramatically by filtering programs according to field of study and country.

Hopefully This Simplifies Things

In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper published a remarkable study. On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. The large display attracted more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display. — HBR

When you know the location, length, and amount you’re willing to spend it will be a lot easier to narrow down your search. So don’t get overwhelmed!

The next step is to set up an initial consultation with your study abroad advisor. All things considered, you should walk out with about 3 or 4 options to pick from.

That’s what happened with me.