International Internships | Make Your Dream a Reality

International Internships | Make Your Dream a Reality was originally published on Idealist Careers.

Do you dream about traveling to far off lands? Do you want to be immersed in another culture? And do you want to build up your resume and network while doing it? Then an international internship might be for you.

Despite some common misconceptions, gaining work experience abroad may be easier than you think. Read on for tips on how to make your dream come true.

Research what options work best for you

Whatever your passion—teaching, community health, working with children, or advocating for international human rights—there is an opportunity for you. If you’re thinking about applying and don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. There are tons of resources out there to point you in the right direction. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Conduct a search on Idealist to see what’s available, or filter options by location. There are opportunities all over the globe, from Mexico to Peru to Thailand to Italy.
  • Sign up with an international volunteering organization like Globe Aware or Global Experiences. The International Volunteer Programs Association is a clearinghouse of these types of programs, so check out their site for more information about specific volunteer placement nonprofits. You will have to pay for these, but because they are nonprofits, your contributions may be tax-deductible.
  • Check with your school. The career services office at your university—or someone in your specific department—may have connections with social-impact employers abroad, so be sure to let them know about your international aspirations.
  • Visit sites like Go Overseas and Go Abroad. These resources have numerous articles, reviews of programs, and other tips to help you get started.
  • Check out the United Nations. Several programs that work with the United Nations offer internships in places like The Hague, Netherlands, and Geneva, Switzerland, among other global locations. And you can apply directly.

Secure funding through paid programs or stipends

Paid international internships in social impact are hard to find, but not impossible. With a little research, you may luck out.

Some government internships offer stipends; for example, students from the United States can get paid internships in Germany through a program at Cultural Vistas. Another set of internships that sometimes pay are those that allow you to teach English in schools. And, of course, on Idealist you’ll only find paid internships.

But if you can’t find a paid gig, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford to go. There are a variety of scholarships to help cover the cost of living abroad. And if you can obtain academic credit for your internship, then you can often apply your school’s current financial aid or scholarships to the program.

Combine an internship with a study abroad program

If you are already thinking about studying abroad, try combining your experience with a part-time internship, says Johnathan Pierce, Curriculum Coordinator for the University Study Abroad Consortium. Based in Reno, Nevada, USAC is one of a variety of study abroad programs that works with students who attend universities in all 50 states. Combining an internship with study abroad is a great way to immerse yourself in another culture and explore your new city, he says.

USAC has partnerships with organizations across the globe and helps guide students to the best match. Some typical social-impact internships he has helped students obtain include working at local health departments teaching community health, at environmental organizations conducting ecological tests, and at charities working with the elderly.

Another benefit to combining an internship with study abroad is that whatever funding you are receiving for your academic credits and living credits can also be applied to credits obtained for your internship. Johnathan says that in addition to a student using scholarships or grants they already have, there are a slew of other options for scholarships just for studying abroad.

Add language skills to your resume

In many cases, you may not need to know the local language before starting your international internship; if you’re teaching English to students or working with organizations who want to have a presence in English-speaking countries, your native English skills will be extremely beneficial to your work.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t grow your foreign language skills (and add them to your resume!). As you live and work in a new country, make an effort to experience the local culture through language classes, or spend time with co-workers to pick up on work-related vocabulary.

An international internship will not only be an eye-opening experience; it will help you build up your skills and networks to advance your career. Whether you decide to work abroad or stay stateside, future organizations will be impressed with your diverse experience.


If you want more tips about working abroad, be sure to check out Applying for International Jobs? Keep These 8 Tips In Mind right here on the Idealist Career Advice blog.