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The Ultimate Guide to Internships Abroad


Internships are valuable opportunities to gain experience, professional insight, and practical skills for the workplace. Many students do not realize they can apply for internships abroad, but as long as you have the time to spare with your courses, there’s no reason not to!

What will you get from an international internship?

  • Practical, hands-on experience
  • Enhanced resume or CV
  • Networking opportunities
  • Experienced mentors in your field
  • University credit or stipend (in some cases)

Oftentimes, internships can also directly lead to employment opportunities that you may not have known existed before. If the internship provider doesn’t have an open position for you, they can usually point you in the right direction and provide you with a great recommendation. Otherwise, with an international internship on your resume, employers around the world impressed and eager to book you for an interview.

Aside from the professional opportunities, an internship abroad can provide valuable insight into the workplace culture and customs of the country in which you are living and studying. For example, there is a huge difference between a workplace in Sweden compared to the United States, and you’ll only be able to experience them firsthand if you join the workforce yourself! After your internship is complete, you will then have a much better sense of the values and work ethic expected of employees in your host country.

Are you excited to start an internship abroad yet? First, there’s still some things to consider! Read on to get a better understanding of all the internships available to you as an international student studying abroad and how they work.

Choose an International Internship

Types of internships Abroad

There are many different types of internships available for you to choose from depending on your area of study or personal interests.

International Internships for credit

Universities and colleges work collaboratively with companies to offer students internships for academic credits. These credits provide you with hands-on experience while fulfilling your academic requirements. Internships for credits are a great way to accomplish two goals at once.

Academic internships can be arranged through your academic adviser and may last 1-2 semesters in duration. To receive credit, students may be asked to keep a journal, write an essay, or make a presentation about the experience.

Summer internships Abroad

Summer internship programs are normally shorter in duration and can last from a few weeks to an entire summer. These internships provide academic credits or experience in your field.

Most commonly, summer internships are arranged with your school, but independent internship opportunities can be found in fields such as tourism and hospitality.

There are many types of summer internships offered to students. You may choose from paid summer internship programs, high school summer internships, or internships based on location.

Non-profit internships

Non-profit internships are normally for organizations such as charities, schools, government agencies, religious organizations, or hospitals. The aim of non-profit internships is to provide a public service for the community. Internships at non-profit organizations are typically unpaid but look impressive on a resume or CV.

Browse non-profit internships:

Service learning

With this unique type of internship, you work for an organized community organization such as a library, a shelter, or a community center. Service learning programs are structured in a three-step process which require participants to:

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

Examples of service learning projects could be taking part in a reading assistance program at a library, working with veterinarians at an animal shelter, or designing a playground at a community center. Through service learning, you receive transferable skills while benefiting the community.

Job shadowing

Job shadowing is also known as an "externship" and is similar to an internship but shorter, only lasting from a few days to several weeks. Job shadowing is used as an activity for high school or university students to explore different career options.

Students taking part in job shadowing will spend time observing their mentor while working together with other professionals. Job shadowing is a great way to gain insight and experience while helping you decide the direction of your career.

Whichever type of internship you choose, you’ll have the chance to transfer your academic knowledge to real life experience.

Is an Internship Abroad Right for You?

Paid vs. Unpaid Internships Abroad

Depending on the company or the organization, compensation may be offered. Internships without financial benefits still offer many rewards to candidates.

Paid Internships Abroad

Paid internships provide you with the opportunity to gain experience while getting paid to work! Companies offering paid internships are usually in the private sector.

Paid internships are offered in specific fields such as engineering, law, or IT internships. Therefore, a great way to gain the practical experience you need to find a job in your industry after you graduate is to find an internship within your chosen field. That way you get the most out of your international internship!

For obvious reasons, paid internships are the most sought after and companies often use them to recruit new employees. Compensation paid during these internships is not comparable to a full-time salary but is similar to a stipend to cover basic living or traveling expenses. This also means that getting accepted for the internship is more competitive.

Therefore, it’s important to demonstrate to the company that you’re the best candidate for the position. Highlight the fact that you are studying abroad and carry with you valuable critical thinking, problem solving, and cross-cultural communication skills. In today’s globalized world, language skills are in a particularly high demand, so don’t forget to mention any language you speak as well!

Unpaid Internships Abroad

Unpaid internships are a great way for students who do not have permission to work in their host country to still gain the work experience necessary to successfully find a job after graduation. Before moving abroad, students should consult with the government agency who approved their visa to see which work opportunities they can take part in while living and studying abroad.

Although you are not compensated financially for your time, you can reap many other benefits, such as the experience you can put on a resume. Experience aside, you can also expect to make a lot of friends and professional contacts that you will have long after your study abroad experience is over. This is especially important considering many students begin their studies knowing no one.

Although your time is unpaid, it also means your schedule is often more flexible. This is a great for students studying abroad because it gives you the flexibility to gain experience at their international internship, attend lectures, and still enjoy their new city with all of their new friends they’ve met.

Work Placements Abroad

Work placements are normally shorter than internships. These types of placements are offered to those still enrolled in school. Work placements are usually part of your program or can be completed in place of a course.

In comparison, internships normally are longer, typically lasting up to a year. Internships are not only completed by students but are also for recent graduates and those looking to change careers.

Overall, paid internship, unpaid internships, and work placements allow you to apply your academic knowledge in the workplace. This experience undoubtedly gives you an advantage when entering the job market and building your resume.

Internation Student Internships

Applying for an Internship Abroad

Applying for internships requires some time and patience, but you can increase your chance of finding the right internship abroad faster if you know what to expect. Preparation is key, so make sure you have everything you need to make a great first impression. It starts with a professional CV or resume and a well-written cover letter. Then once you score the interview, it’s just up to you to impress employers with all the skills, knowledge, and experience you can bring to the internship.

Start with the following checklist to put yourself on track to finding your ideal international internship:

  • Perfect your resume. Make it clear and avoid errors in formatting, grammar, and typos.
  • Use your network–find internships by asking professors, friends, and family for professional contacts.
  • Gather documentation for internship applications, including transcripts and possibly letters of recommendation.
  • Ask your professional contacts if you can put them down as a reference. Or, ask professors for recommendations.
  • Have someone you trust go over all your documentation to check for mistakes and give feedback.

Don’t forget, the earlier you begin searching for internships, the better!


When applying for an internship, take time to clean up your resume or CV. Avoid lengthy resumes and try to make it easy to read. Ask a mentor or teacher to read over it for suggestions and to double check for errors.

You can start by making sure your resume is organized in clear, logical sections so that employers can quickly and easily see your education and experience. Don’t forget to make sure all the information is up-to-date as well. Be sure to include your most recent job experience and which program you are attending at university. It doesn’t hurt to quickly check to see that all your contact information is accurate too.

Since you’re studying abroad, it’s great to highlight the skills and knowledge that studying abroad teaches you to set yourself apart from the rest of the candidates. These are skills that can’t be taught in the classroom, only through first-hand experience, making them valuable to succeeding at your international internship. However, it’s easy for this particular type of experience to get looked over if it’s not done properly on the resume.

To increase your chance of scoring the interview to do an internship abroad, consider the following tips when putting study abroad on your resume:

  • Highlight any languages you have learned during your experience.
  • Include any international social organizations you joined or ran
  • Demonstrate the skills you learned in and outside the classroom while studying abroad

You can also read our article on putting study abroad on a resume or CV to get even more tips and advice for making your study experience speak for itself!


Cover letters for internships are a one page document which introduce yourself and highlights why you are the best candidate for the position. Just like a job application, internships require a cover letter attached with your application.

The 3 common types of cover letters are:

  • Standard cover letter
  • Referral cover letter
  • Letter of interest

A standard cover letter demonstrates your ability to effectively communicate why you are qualified for the position. You should mention the position you are applying for and how your skill set will benefit the company.

The second type of cover letter is known as a referral letter. This type of cover letter is used when someone has referred you to the position. When writing a referral letter, you should mention the person who referred you to the company right away. Referral letters are a great introduction to the company, and may help improve your chances of being noticed in the application process.

The third type of letter is called a letter of interest. This is written when there is not a specific position advertised but you write to express your interest in the company.

Keep in mind that cover letters are the first thing an employer will read, so invest time in crafting the best letter possible!


A transcript is a record of your academic grades and achievements and is one of the most common components of applications for internships. There are two types of transcripts: official and unofficial.

Official transcripts are issued directly from the university and are sealed and delivered directly to the recipient. Official transcripts may take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to arrive, so make sure to order them in advance so it has time to arrive. This type of transcript also usually requires a small fee for the copy.

Unofficial transcripts can usually be printed directly from your the university website. This type of transcript is not issued or sealed by the school and are not always accepted for applications.

Make sure you carefully read which type of transcripts are required for your application and plan enough time for delivery to meet the application deadline.


Recommendation letters are written by a third person and highlight your skills or academic merits. The letter should address your professional strengths as well as your strengths in character. The best people to ask for recommendation letters are teachers, employers, or organizations you have been involved with.

Letters of recommendation for internships are an important aspect of the application process so give the writer plenty of time to prepare. We recommend asking at least 3-4 months in advance.

In conclusion, internship applications can require many types of documents. You should make sure you read each application's guidelines very carefully and that you allow yourself adequate time to gather everything you need to apply.

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Last update: 19 Mar 2020

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