Exploring Intern Abroad Programs


Start with Your Campus Resources

Does your study abroad or career office have internship abroad programs specifically for students from your university? This is an important first step as these programs may be well aligned to your needs and fit in with your academic plan and schedule. Better yet, the hard part of reviewing and approving has already been done for you to narrow down the options. If you don’t find the ideal fit in the preapproved options it may be time to look further. When doing this initial campus exploration it’s also a good time to gather resources about options for credit, scholarships, or other support whether you’re doing a program through your school or independently. Find out who can help you and how and be sure to reconnect throughout your process.

Finding Your Own Internship Abroad

While this document is focused on fee-based internship placement programs you can also find an internship abroad on your own and future versions of this document may expand upon that. Some multinational companies or government and non-government organizations have global internship options through their recruiting websites or you may approach an organization directly about opportunities, or even connect with alumni working overseas. This is a much more independent option which will take more legwork, but can result in a great opportunity as well. It can be a good option for an independent student who has lived abroad before.

Some of the questions below about fee-based programs may also be relevant to identifying an opportunity on your own.

Fee-based Internship Placement Programs 

Fee-based internship placement program helps to match you to an internship opportunity in your field in the location of your choice. They charge a fee for the services they provide you in this process. There are many programs out there so it can be overwhelming to review and select one. The next few pages will give you some things to keep in mind and to ask when comparing programs and making a selection that works best for you.  

Things to Keep in Mind About Fee-based Programs

  • Location > Internship: Unlike applying directly to an internship position, you are usually applying to a program in a specific location and then being matched with your internship. If you are set on being in a specific country this can be ideal, but you do need to be ready to wait on the internship placement and be comfortable with some ambiguity until it is finalized.
  • Placement timelines: Depending on the program and your field of interest, the placement may be part of the application process or you may not get final details until right before (or right after) you arrive.
  • Compensation: Most internship placements will be unpaid. There are some cases when lunch or a stipend may be provided, but you should not expect payment as it is the exception.
  • Extras: Some programs may include (or have optional add-ons) of local excursions, networking events, language classes, or other academic options. This is an important comparison point, depending on your interest in these extras.
  • Visas: In some countries, it is required that you obtain a specific visa in order to legally complete an internship. While the internship placement program will usually help you with this process, be prepared to pay for this in addition to your program fee. In some cases the visa fee may be included in the program fee, but do not count on it. Note that visas can be a very complicated part of the intern abroad experience - whether you're with a program or going independently.
  • Scholarships: Some programs have scholarships available for students. It is good to apply early and ask about any opportunities.
  • Academics: There may be language or other course options included, or they may be not-for-credit. If you need or want credit from your university or to transfer credit for your internship program, you will need to speak to the appropriate people at your school about the steps for this process. (This may be your Study Abroad Office, Career Services Office Registrar's Office, and/or your academic advisor.) 

Things to Consider When Exploring Fee-Based Intern Abroad Programs

There are many, many programs out there that can help place you in an internship abroad.Even though some internship abroad programs may come recommended and be pre-approved by your school or university, not only are there are many more options to consider, but you should ALWAYS be doing your own research to compare the programs available to you so that you feel confident that the program you select is worth the cost and services they are providing you. These questions will help you get started.

Organization's Track Record

  • How long has the organization been around? How long have they run programs with an internship component?
  • How many interns have they placed over the years? What percentage of applicants are successfully placed?
  • How long have they operated in the city that you are considering?
  • Where is the organization based?
  • Which universities do they partner with?
  • Do they have a social media presence? Photos of interns, blogs, etc.
  • Can you talk to alumni/references? Do they have data and details on participant satisfaction?
Understand the Internship Placement Process
  • What meaningful projects will I be asked to complete? Do you have examples of past internships in my field?
  • What is the matching process? Will I be applying to specific positions or matched? Will there be an interview with the host?
  • Will I be the only intern at my site or are there usually multiple students at each site? If so, how many?
  • What language level, if any, is required? How does language level affect my placement options?
  • What are my options for duration? 
  • Will the internship be full-time or part-time? If part-time, what other things will I do while there? 
  • How many students are usually in this country/city at the time I want to go?
  • Is there a guarantee of placement (and in your desired field)? When should I expect to hear about my placement?
Assess the Organization's Support and Accountability
  • Do they outsource placement matching to other partners? Who will you work with on-site?
  • Is there a solid team behind the nice website?
  • Do they have direct relationships with the supervisors at the host companies?
  • Will you have a dedicated point of contact when in-country who is available 24/7?
  • What are their health and safety protocols?
Clarifying the Internship Program Features, Cost & Logistics
  • Does the program help with the visa process? What visa is required? (If you are not a U.S. citizen ask how your visa requirements may differ.)
  • Is housing included? Where is it located, and what are the housing options? How do the options affect cost? Will I be living alone, with a family, or with other students? Are the students local or are they other students from abroad? How are homestays approved?
  • When is an application fee or deposit due? Is this refundable? When is the total balance due? What is the cancellation policy?
  • What is the total program cost for what I am seeking? What is included in that?
  • What are my additional expected expenses beyond that cost (e.g. airfare, meals, local travel, etc.)? 
  • Can I use financial aid? What scholarships are available to me?
  • Ask yourself: how does the total cost of participating on this program compare to the time and cost of finding and coordinating an internship abroad independently (which may also be unpaid)?
  • Is academic credit included? Do you offer academic options like language classes, internship reflection, career development or culture classes?
  • What happens after the program? Is there an alumni network to tap into after your program? Will you get a certificate of completion or a recommendation?

Where to Search for Internship Abroad Programs


Rather than using Google, your time will be much better spent with a targeted search engine. There are two good search tools that offer listings for programs, including internships abroad (mainly fee-based). Use this to identify programs that you can vet using the questions above. The sites may include reviews or other information, but as with anything you will need to ask the questions that are important to you to compare as each person's experience is very different.



During & After your Internship Abroad

Remember the resources you identified early on and get support that's available to you. This may include advising, credit, scholarships or anything else.

Whether your internships was through your school or not be sure to circle back to these resources upon your return to take advantage of their support post-internships. Your study abroad or career office may office workshops or advising to help you process and incorporate the experience into the next steps in your career exploration.