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International Internships: Gain Career Experience

International internships are available worldwide

Why? What are your motives for an international internship — to live and work abroad or gain specific career-related work experience? Many other work abroad opportunities may be easier to obtain or less expensive if the former. These include short-term paid work abroad programs, teaching English, or volunteering abroad.

Where? Many internships related to international careers, especially with international organizations, are located here in the U.S. — especially in centers of international activity such as Washington D.C. or New York. However, combining an international internship with an overseas location is often possible. The options have increased significantly ever since the global pandemic drove many private organizations to offer virtual internships.

How? Tuition-based study abroad internships sponsored by universities provide credit towards your degree. Financial aid can usually be used to help meet expenses. Tuition costs range widely. Unpaid, non-academic internships account for the majority of internships, both in the U.S. and abroad. If living costs are high, these may be as expensive as tuition-charging internships but without the benefits of credit and financial aid. The main advantage of such internships will be professionally-related experience and better prospects for career positions.

Volunteer positions abroad sometimes provide room and board, which can make them less expensive than unpaid internships. The Peace Corps pays over $8,000 pre-tax, although this is a two-year commitment. Repayment of educational loans can often be deferred during volunteer work (check with 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 rare abroad and are available mainly in applied fields such as business and engineering, or what is now commonly known as STEM.

When to Apply: It's best to apply in the fall for summer internships. Some programs, such as the U.S. State Department, have deadlines as early as mid-October. IAESTE and others have deadlines in early December. Study abroad internships usually have application deadlines the semester before the internship term.

Types of Internships and International Organizations

1. Study Abroad Internships

Hundreds of overseas internships are sponsored by universities and, for undergraduates, are the most readily available option. Advantages include credit, financial aid applicability, and diverse subjects and locations. Disadvantages are cost and sometimes unpredictability of placement. You can find study abroad internships in the internship section of

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. Websites for finding these programs include Transitions Abroad's Internships Abroad section.

AIESEC (125-plus countries), a student-run international organization with chapters on many campuses, offers business-related internships open to all majors. AIESEC members have a preference for getting these internships.

BUNAC provides help to find paid work in Australia (18-30), New Zealand (18-35), and Canada (18-35). The work and volunteer abroad organization provides a work permit and job-hunting assistance. U.S. college students and recent graduates (within 1 semester) are eligible for internships in Britain. 

Cultural Vistas, with a rich history built on a longstanding relationships with other reputable international organizations, including IAESTE (described below), offers internships, fellowships, and work exchanges.

IAESTE (administered by Cultural Vistas) offers thousands of opportunities in 80+ official member countries that collaborate to host and send students abroad for technical (STEM-related) internships each year, usually offering salaries.

3. Internships Directly with International Organizations

Some organizations in international sectors offer internship programs with a centralized formal application process. Many do not have legal internships but often respond positively to applications from individuals who propose their own "internship." The larger and better-known the organization, the more competitive the internship application process will be. Smaller and more locally-based organizations, often overlooked by applicants, may offer some of the best internship experiences.

A) Government. The U.S. State Department and other federal agencies overseas and in the U.S. offer internships (usually unpaid) for undergraduates and graduate students. Application is competitive. A U.S. State Department  internship or fellowship is a great way to see if a career in diplomacy or government is for you, with posts both in the U.S. and overseas. Most are unpaid, but free housing may be provided. Please see the opportunities and apply via the U.S. State Department's site.

State and city governments have many internship possibilities, often overlooked by applicants, in their international trade offices. Internships with members of Congress who sit on international committees are also possible.

The U.S. Peace Corps is the best (and best-paying) entry-level job for anyone interested in grassroots development work overseas. Unlike in a State Department job, you live and work with ordinary local people. Eligibility: U.S. citizens, generally for those with at least a bachelor's degree; two-year commitment. The Peace Corps pays all expenses plus over $8,000 ("resettlement allowance") at the end of service. Full training and support is provided. Educational loans can be deferred, and some partially canceled. Some tuition support is available for later graduate study.

Other U.S. government departments that offer international internships and career positions include the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

B) Public Multinationals (also known as “international organizations”). Multi-government giants like the United Nations (search on "internship," and the World Bank offer internships. hey are often unpaid and highly competitive (paid positions are usually reserved for graduate students), and most positions for Americans are in the U.S. Some are designated as officially recognized international organizations. Work permits for these employers are easier to get. Again, the U.S. State Department has links to the jobs, internships, and fellowships with many major international organizations.

C) Private Enterprise. Many multinational corporations sponsor organized international internship programs. These are sometimes restricted to students in MBA programs. However, Some undergraduates and post-graduates have arranged overseas internships with host-country companies, especially using agencies who help with "working holidays" in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, such as the BUNAC agency. Most internships with private industry pay enough to cover basic living expenses, though usually not the cost of transatlantic airfare. Some websites require membership (often provided by academic institutions) and supply information about internship opportunities, such as the fine myWorldAbroad site hosted by Jean-Marc Hachey.

D) Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), typically nonprofit, include humanitarian or human-rights watchdogs like Amnesty International, health care providers like CARE, and organizations supporting international educational exchange such as the Institute of International Education. NGOs typically welcome interns in their U.S.-based offices and sometimes by direct application to overseas offices. Internships with NGOs are often unpaid. One excellent website for exploring training and job opportunities with NGOs is, which offers links to thousands of organizations worldwide.

E) Educational Organizations. Teachers are needed worldwide. Positions fall into two primary categories: Teaching English as a foreign language, for which a bachelor's degree and a quickly and easily obtained TEFL certificate are usually required, and  teaching K-12 in overseas schools usually taught in English, for which a 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. See also the websites of University of Michigan's International Center, and the excellent forums and job posting sections of Dave's ESL Café.

F) Private Volontary Organizations (PVOs) ooffer many overseas placements. Positions are typically designated as "volunteer" or service positions rather than internships. However, increasingly unpaid internship placements are available for positions where the participant gains skills and experience in everything from medicine to media to STEM. These range from secular organizations, such as Global Experiences, ELI Abroad, and Amigos de las Americas, to religious-sponsored groups. Short-term placements (of less than one year) will often charge fees, or at best provide room and board. A few long-term placements provide for all the expenses of the volunteer, most notably the Peace Corps (a U.S. government program which funds positions with host-country voluntary organizations). See the volunteer abroad section of Transitions Abroad.

William Nolting worked at the University of Michigan Overseas Opportunities Office in education abroad. He received two top awards from his professional association, NAFSA: Association of International Educators: Life Membership and the Education Abroad Leadership Award. He was the International Education and former Work Abroad editor for Transitions Abroad Magazine.

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