The best internship abroad can be a stepping stone to a new career path, life inspiration, or a realization on what you do or do not want in life. The process to find them is no easy feat, and can even be more difficult than securing internships and fellowships in your home country. I’ve held over 10 internship and fellowship experiences, so I’m familiar with the tedious process of researching opportunities domestically and internationally. Yet, with these tips and resources, I make it easy for you to get your research started to find the internship abroad you’ve been waiting for!
One of my favorite databases to find internships and fellowships abroad is ProFellow! Not only can you find long-term fellowships abroad, you can also find internships of a variety of lengths from a few weeks to a few months. ProFellow is also a winning resource on how to find internships abroad because they divide them by your interests after you sign-up. This makes it easy to tailor your search to your experiences and internship needs. I recommend this resource to anyone, student or non-student, who is interested in working abroad. ProFellow is a keeper for sure.
A hub for meaningful travel, GoAbroad is another excellent database to finding internships abroad. They divide internships by your field of interest, country of interest, and more. From STEM and conservation internships to animal caretakers, future foreign service officers, and tech geniuses, GoAbroad wins for field variety. You can find paid and unpaid internships abroad on GoAbroad’s platform too, so be sure to look closely!
Side note: if you want to break into travel writing, GoAbroad also has a writing academy that I myself participated in! It’s a few months of intense, remote travel writing experience with modules on SEO, writing to the style of the publication, research, etc. Feel free to connect with me for more information.
Social Media: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
The silver lining to finessing all the bad that comes with social media is taking a social network to build your own professional network. I see Twitter random tweets from organizations, or their employees, posting their internship opportunities. Instead of following gossip accounts, follow organizations that support causes you care about to watch for internship postings. Reply to their tweets, comment on their Instagram photos, share their content on Facebook, etc. to engage with them. You never know who is watching.
With that said, make sure you read the internship submission postings. Don’t slide your resume, CV, and/or cover letter into their DMs unless noted otherwise. Proper etiquette still applies. You can let them know in the official submission material (such as a cover letter) via email or online application that you found them on Twitter. It could make you a more memorable applicant.
International NGO Intern Postings
While people think “volunteering abroad” and “interning abroad” are the same thing, they’re actually not. Yes, you could very well volunteer abroad and call it an internship. However, there are many international NGOs who have offices that intentionally put out calls for interns (not volunteers, even if it’s unpaid). You can work in conservation and environment, communications, marketing, evaluation, teach, be an assistant, you name it! Target your interests and skillset to find the best match.
Though there are a few international NGOs that offer paid internships abroad, many of them are unpaid. Therefore it is extremely important to vet the country and/or city you’re applying to in order to understand the cost of living. It is a privilege to go abroad, let alone do an internship abroad, so be sure to calculate if it’s financially feasible for you.
People always say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Whether you agree with that or not, it rings true when you want to break into the workforce and internships abroad. To help with networking, create a 30-second to 1-minute pitch about yourself, including your interests and aspirations. Have 3 main points ready, don’t talk too fast, and as my time in AmeriCorps/Public Allies reinforced in me: always start with your why. For example, if you’re headed to a networking event with an international NGO that focuses on working with youth, start with why you want to work with them, then go into the skills you offer. Starting with your why will get their attention quicker.
I didn’t take networking seriously until after undergrad, so don’t be like me! Get out there, use Eventbrite and Facebook Events (their “Local” app is really good for finding events based on your interests), and start mingling. You never know who you’ll meet and what connections you’ll make. They could lead to an internship abroad!
Technically, LinkedIn could also fall under networking. However, I think it deserves its own breakdown because of how amazing it is. LinkedIn is free and easy to set-up, especially if you already have a resume or CV. Plug in your education information, past job or intern experience, a nice personal introduction, some awards or projects if you have them, and a volunteer experience or two to start. Get a clean cut profile picture where your face is clear and start sending connections. Use those same international NGOs you’ve been eyeing and search for employees who are doing the work you’re interested in. When you send a connection inquiring about what they do and possible internship opportunities, I’ve left a sample message below to send as a note with the invitation to connect:
“Hello ____________. My name is ______________ and I’m interested in learning more about your work at _____________ due to me finding you all on *insert where you found them here.* If you wouldn’t mind a 20-minute informational interview, or answering some questions via email, I would love to connect. Best, _________”
In the same arena as GoAbroad, another option is Go Overseas. You can narrow your search by location, from Spain to Oman to Senegal and more. You can also search by industry, which includes internships on nutrition, marketing, digital media, engineering, business, etc. For those looking for financial information, Go Overseas also filters out the internships abroad via which ones are unpaid and paid. Be sure to read their many reviews as you research a program! Reviews from past participants are beneficial in deciding where to go and which one to choose too.
Utilize your college or university
If you are an undergraduate student, graduate student, or recent graduate (congrats), I highly recommend you tap into the Alumni or Student Career Services on your campus. Colleges and universities are breeding grounds for internships, with external organizations or with students assisting professors (like me, in Berlin). Take those networking skills and use them on your campus. Find out who is doing external research abroad and connect to see if they need an assistant. There are so many loopholes to try, start asking around to see which professors or career services employees have connections abroad.
Finding an internship abroad takes time, patience, and accepting the possibility of failure. People seeking international internship opportunities are up against a larger pool of interested participants. There is a higher chance that an organization will reject you, but remember on to the next one! Don’t give up and keep pushing through those internship postings. You won’t know what’ll happen if you don’t apply. Get to it.