How to plan out your international internship

Are you fired up about considering an international internship? Well, you have every right to be excited because this is an opportunity that can change your life professionally and personally. Internships, whether local or global, are valuable opportunities to gain practical skills, professional insight, and overall experience in your future work industry.

There is a lot that goes into interning abroad and ensuring that you have a successful, amazing, life-changing experience. Therefore, before making any final decision about having an international internship, we recommend that you go through this guide. 

In this post, we will try to cover all the bases to help you carefully consider the things you need to plan for your internship abroad.

How Does International Internship work?

Before getting deep into the specifics, it is crucial to understand how most international internship programs work and what they include. 

  • The first step is to get counselling from a professional and discuss your objectives in detail, any previous experiences, plans, the best locations for your career field, and any queries you may have. This is a crucial step to consider before taking an internship abroad. This will help you get a clear picture of what you want. 
  • The next step is to complete your application for the program you have chosen. Your application has to be unique and creative for it to be accepted. If accepted into the program, you will get an internship within your chosen location and career field. 
  • You will be enrolled and may or may not have to pay any deposit (depends on how you are taking the internship – on your own or through a third party). Once enrolled, you will have to prepare for your interview with your employers.
  • Since it is an international internship, you will have a Skype or phone interview. If everything goes well, the employers will offer you a position at their company, confirming your placement. However, if necessary, you can continue to have interviews until you find the right company.
  • That’s it! You can then go to your program location. If you have enlisted the services of a third-party organiser, your Location Coordinator will take care of everything from helping you adapt to local culture to facilitating social events and excursions, regularly checking in with you, and more. 

Is an international internship right for you?

An internship abroad is a valuable opportunity to gain professional insight, cultural understanding of the country where you are interning, and insight into the workplace culture. Often, it can directly lead to employment opportunities that you did not know even existed. If the employer doesn’t have an open position for the job post you are looking for, they can advise you on taking the next path and provide you with an excellent recommendation.

What will you get from an international internship?

  • University credit or stipend (in some cases)
  • Experienced mentors in your field
  • Networking opportunities
  • Enhanced resume or CV 
  • Practical, hands-on experience With an international internship on your resume, employees across the globe will be eager to invite you for an interview.

What are the different types of internships abroad?

You may be surprised to know that there are many different types of international internships available for you to choose from. This depends on your personal preferences and, of course, your area of study. 

Let us discuss different international internships in detail. 

Summer Internships Abroad 

Summer internships are programs that can last from a few weeks to an entire summer. It usually is shorter in duration than traditional internships and provides academic experience or credits in your field. 

In general, summer internships abroad are arranged with your college or university. However, independent summer internship opportunities can be easily found in industries like hospitality and tourism. 

There are several types of summer internships available for students. From placements based on location to paid summer internship programs and more, you can choose whatever suits you. 

International Internships for Credit 

Colleges and universities work collaboratively with employers and companies across the globe to offer students and undergraduates internships for academic credits. Students can use these credits to gain hands-on experience while fulfilling their academic requirements. Doing international internships for credit is a great way to achieve two career goals at once. 

In most cases, the academic advisor of the college or university arranges the internship for credit. To receive credit, you may be asked to write an essay, maintain a journal, and/or make a presentation about your experience working as an intern.  

Service Learning 

This is a unique type of internship where you work for a planned community like a community centre, a shelter, or a library. Such internship programs are structured in a three-step process requiring the participants to:

  • Present their experience with the organisation in a paper or presentation 
  • Perform the service work 
  • Define the goals and objectives of the project 

Through such a type of internship, you learn transferable skills while helping the community. Examples of service-learning internships may include designing a playground at a community centre, working with vets at an animal shelter, or taking part in a reading assistance program at a library.

Job Shadowing 

This might be something you haven’t heard of before. Similar to an internship, job shadowing requires you to work for an organisation. However, it only lasts from a few days to several weeks. This is an excellent option for students who haven’t chosen their career path yet since it provides them with the opportunity to explore different career options more easily. 

If you apply for job shadowing, you will spend your time observing your mentor while working with other professionals. It is a great way to gain experience and insight while helping you determine the direction of your career. 

Non-Profit Internships 

As the name suggests, non-profit internships are usually for organisations like hospitals, religious organisations, government agencies, schools, and charities. The main objective of such internships is to offer a public service to the community. While internships at non-profit organisations are unpaid, it looks impressive on your CV/resume. 

Regardless of the type of internship you choose, it will provide you with a great chance to transform your theoretical knowledge into a real-life experience.

Unpaid vs Paid International Internships

Depending on the organisation or company, financial benefits may be offered. However, international internships without compensation still provide numerous benefits to students. 

What are paid international internships? 

Paid internships are designed to provide candidates with the opportunity to gain insight and experience while getting paid. In most cases, only private sector companies offer paid internships to their candidates. They are provided in particular fields like information technology, law, and engineering. Thus, paid internships are a great way to gain the practical skills required to find a job specific to your industry after graduation. 

As lucrative as it sounds, it is one of the toughest and competitive types of internship. Since the employer will be paying you for interning at their company, they will expect you to boast elementary knowledge of the industry. It is similar to a stipend, which you will get every month or after the completion of the internship, depending on the employer. It is enough to cover your necessary living expenses and travelling.  

What are unpaid international internships? 

Unpaid internships are similar to paid internships, except for the fact that you won’t get paid. It is an excellent way for students to gain the necessary work experience to successfully find a job in their respective fields. The schedule is often more flexible when it comes to unpaid internships. However, you will have to check with the government agency of the country you are visiting to see which work opportunities you are legally allowed to take part in.

A Deeper Look into Why Most Internships are Unpaid.

Applying for an International Internship 

Applying for an internship abroad requires time and patience. Preparation is the key to getting a dream internship. Remember, first impressions matter, and that starts with a professional CV/resume, along with a well-written cover letter. Once you are granted an interview, it is up to you to sway the employers with all the experience, knowledge, and skills you can bring to the internship. 

Here are some pointers to consider: 

  • Perfect your resume. Avoid errors in formatting and try to make it clear. 
  • Gather the necessary documentation for internship applications, including letters of recommendation and academic transcripts.

The earlier you start, the better! 

What do the stats say? 

Research suggests that following an international internship, students possess a more optimistic outlook on their career and report having a clearer picture of their interests, goals, and talents. 70% of participants across the United States stated that international internships ignited their interest in a career direction. Benefits of an internship abroad include:

  • Increased self-confidence 
  • Independence 
  • Global competency 
  • Open-mindedness
  • Knowing how to be sensitive to other cultures 
  • General personal well-being and development 


Now you know why interning abroad is so valuable. It is not as easy as it sounds. It requires a sound mind and the necessary knowledge to work at a company. While an international internship may add a charm to your resume, you have to go through strenuous tasks to win the appreciation of your employer. So, we advise that you start preparing as early as possible if you want to do an internship abroad.


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Julia Hurtado

Julia Hurtado

Having spent an entire summer dedicated to travelling abroad, Julia now focuses on helping other students experience life outside their home country. As an American now working in London, Julia enjoys sharing advice on interning abroad, sipping tea (with 2 sugars, 1 milk please) and reading in her spare time.

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