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Excerpted from Work Abroad by William Nolting, With permission from Transitions Abroad

Why. Do you want an international internship to live and work abroad, or to gain specific career-related work experience? If the former, many other work abroad opportunities may be easier to get or less expensive. These include short-term paid work abroad programs, teaching English abroad, or volunteering abroad.

How. Tuition-charging study abroad internships sponsored by universities provide credit towards your degree. Tuition costs range widely. If living costs are high at the location, tuition may be as expensive. Volunteer positions abroad sometimes provide room and board, which can make them less expensive than unpaid internships. Repayment of educational loans can often be deferred during volunteer work (check with both your lender and the volunteer agency). Volunteer positions may be the best option for those interested in careers having to do with developing countries. Paid internships are somewhat rare abroad and are available mainly in applied fields such as business and engineering.

When (to Apply). Study-abroad internships usually have application deadlines the semester before the term of the internship.

1. Types of Internships and International Organizations.

  1. Study Abroad Internships: Hundreds of overseas internships are sponsored by universities and are among the most easily available options. Advantages may include credit, applicability of financial aid, and a wide variety of subjects and locations. Disadvantages are cost and sometimes unpredictability of placement.
  2. Internship Exchange/Work Permit Programs: A few reciprocal exchange programs offer paying internships in applied fields. If you find your own internship abroad, these organizations can also assist in obtaining a work permit. AIESEC (80 plus countries), a student-run international organization with chapters on many campuses, offers business-related internships open to all majors. AIESEC members have preference in getting these internships. The Council on International Educational Exchange and work abroad programs are the only ways to get a work permit without having a job offer. The programs are available for people from Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Ghana, Jamaica, and New Zealand. IAESTE (60 plus countries) and the American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF, Scandinavian countries) have placements in engineering and natural sciences, while the Association for International Practical Training (AIPT) offers hotel and culinary programs. The Carl Duisberg Society (or CDG, as it's known in Germany) has several different programs in business and technical fields for undergraduates, graduates, and professionals; applicants must know some German. These organizations accept applications directly from students.
  3. Internship Placement Programs: The International Cooperative Education Program (ICEP) is one of the few paid internship programs available to liberal arts majors and also offers placements in engineering, business and other fields. Knowledge of a foreign language is usually required (e.g., German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese). Internships International, the Center for Interim Programs, and others offer low-cost placements in unpaid internships.
  4. Internships Directly with International Organizations: Some organizations in all international sectors have ongoing internship programs with a centralized formal application process. Many others do not have formal internships but often respond positively to applications from individuals who propose their own "internship." In general, the larger and better-known the organization, the more competitive the application process for internships will be. Smaller and more locally-based organizations, often overlooked by applicants, may offer some of the best internship experiences.
  • Public Multinationals: Multi-government giants such as the United Nations; the European Commission, the World Bank, and many others offer internships. They tend to be unpaid and highly competitive (paid positions are usually reserved for graduate students). The above links lead to the official internship information pages for the various organizations. Certain organizations have been designated as officially-recognized international organizations.
  • Private Enterprise: Organized international internship programs are sponsored by large multinational corporations. These are sometimes restricted to graduate students studying business. Many undergraduates, however, have successfully arranged overseas internships with companies, especially by using the Council or BUNAC work abroad programs (above). Most internships with private industry pay enough to cover basic living expenses, though usually not the cost of airfare.
  • Non-Government Organizations (NGOs): Typically nonprofit, NGOs run the gamut from humanitarian or human-rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International to health care providers like MSF, CARE, and CONCERN, to research institutes such as the Bermuda Biological Station, to organizations supporting international educational exchange such as the Institute of International Education or the Academy for Educational Development.
  • Educational Organizations: Teachers are needed worldwide. Positions generally available fall into two categories: Teaching a foreign language, for which no other credential than a university degree is usually needed, and teaching through secondary school (K-12) level in overseas schools, for which teaching certification is usually required. Most teaching positions require a commitment of at least one academic year. Teaching at the university level nearly always requires an advanced degree.
  • Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs): offer a large number of overseas placements and are one of the only possibilities for work in developing countries. Positions are typically designated as "volunteer" or service positions, rather than internships. These range from a few secular organizations, such as Amigos de las Américas, to religiously-sponsored groups. While some religiously-sponsored groups insist on affiliation, others do not. Short-term placements (of less than one year) will often charge fees, or at best provide room and board.

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