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Jobs and Internships Abroad for Students and Recent Graduates

How to Find Work as a Student

Find an internship while a student or as a graduate in London, for example.
The best time to seek work overseas and to prepare for an international career is while you are a student or soon after graduation.

You may be considering an overseas work experience for many reasons: an adventure, a chance to gain in-depth knowledge of another culture and yourself, an inexpensive way to improve foreign language proficiency, or as preparation for an international career.

Keep in mind what you want from working abroad: Will an unpaid internship working with Americans in a U.S. embassy do as much for your French as working in an ice cream shop in Paris? Or would the State Department internship be the best choice if your long-term goal is an international career?

Also, keep in mind how challenging it is to be hired into a career position abroad unless you have scarce skills and professional experience.

Visas and Work Permits Abroad

One major obstacle to working abroad is the law. All countries require special permission for foreigners to work or reside for long periods. Short-term tourists sometimes do not need visas, and student visas are granted relatively easily. However, work permit visas are generally available only through application by an employer who has offered you a job. The employer must show that you have unique skills and abilities not possessed by local citizens. (Note: In the last few years, visas have opened up for digital nomads, covered elsewhere on the site..)

Employers find sponsoring visas expensive and time-consuming, so most firms, subject to heavy fines if they hire illegally, will only offer a job to a foreigner with a work permit. Work exchange programs are one of the few legal ways around this. Note: it is also possible to work illegally, i.e., without a work permit. Such jobs overseas may be in restaurants, agriculture, and teaching English. We cannot recommend working illegally because it puts you at risk of immediate deportation and potentially subsequent prevention from entering a given country, possible fines, lower wages (or no wages at all), and a lack of legal protection or insurance in case of injury or illness.

Study, Work, and the Cost of Living Abroad

Study abroad programs provide logistical assistance and a structured learning environment, which can be especially valuable if you are going abroad for the first time. They provide the quickest way to achieve fluency in a foreign language, a prerequisite for many international careers. For those interested in working abroad, a study abroad program can also provide a secure base to explore job possibilities and contact potential employers. Credit towards your degree is available if you check with the proper offices before going.

Cost ranges from about the same to considerably more than studying at home. Studying abroad might be impractical if you don’t need the academic credit towards a degree. Scholarships for undergraduate study abroad are relatively rare. Even fewer scholarships support work abroad (except for graduate students), and students report more success with fundraising through family, friends, and hometown associations (such as Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.).

Work abroad can be combined with study (before, during, or after), helping you to defray the cost and gain experience in a very different environment from academia. But two caveats:

1. Do not expect to finance study with part-time work. At best, it can provide extra spending money. Savings can be accumulated more quickly by working in the U.S.

2. You must carefully investigate whether and under what circumstances work is allowed for American students in a particular country. Most countries do not allow students to work and may deport those without work permits. However, student work permit programs for some popular European destinations allow work in combination with study. You must enter the country with a particular work permit provided by the work exchange program, which can only be obtained by applying in advance. Finally, a few countries (e.g., Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and Canada) permit part-time work for students directly enrolled in local universities. Other countries (e.g., France) generally only allow students to work if they participate in a particular student work exchange program (such as being an English Teaching Assistant) or go through the often-complex work permit process.

Study and Work Abroad After Graduation

Fulbright, Rotary, and other scholarships are available to support a year of overseas study (not necessarily for a degree) after graduation. These prestigious awards and the contacts they open up are often stepping stones to international careers.

Direct enrollment in a foreign university is another postgraduate possibility. Tuitions for direct enrollment are low in some countries but relatively high in Britain, Ireland, and Australia. Student status may allow you to work part-time or during vacations in some countries. However, the main disadvantage of attempting to “work your way” through an overseas university is that you may mark time, neither making headway towards a degree nor progress in a career. You also want to be sure that a degree earned from an overseas university would be recognized in the U.S. as one from a U.S. university.

Types of Work Abroad Programs

Numerous special programs offer placements in specific jobs (paid or unpaid) along with a work permit, assist you in procuring a short-term work permit, and help with a job search once overseas. Work abroad programs are limited, lasting from two weeks for short-term volunteer programs to summer or six months, or as long as one or two years for programs for teaching abroad or long-term volunteering such as the Peace Corps. There are four types of work abroad programs.

1. International Internships. Internships offer the most direct connection to international careers. Available in various locations and disciplines, internships are equaled in this respect only by volunteer options. Internships for academic credit are plentiful (they charge tuition); paid internships are rare. “International” internships with international organizations may be located abroad or in the U.S. Virtual internships have become more common, particularly since the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The typical duration is a summer or semester. (See our Internships Abroad section for more.)

2. Short-Term Paid Work Abroad. Typical short-term paid work abroad includes restaurant work, temping, childcare (au pair), and farm work. However, enterprising students do find work of a professional nature. (See the Short-Term Jobs for a list of employers for short-term jobs and au pair placements for more.) Short-term paid work abroad programs for students or recent graduates offer the best chance to earn your way abroad; however, there are up-front costs for program fees, airfare, and initial spending money. These programs are located primarily in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, with a few programs offering other locations. The typical duration is up to six months.

3. Volunteering Abroad. Volunteers usually work and live together with ordinary local citizens. Types of work range from archaeology digs to social services in locations worldwide. Volunteering is excellent career preparation for those interested in working in developing countries or careers with non-governmental organizations. (See the Volunteer Work Abroad section for more.)

4. Teaching Abroad. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL or ESL) is one of the most accessible options for long-term (one to two years) work abroad. (See our Teaching English Abroad section for more.) Most programs require a college degree and may help you obtain a TEFL certificate if you don't have one. Jobs are typically in Asia or Eastern Europe (few such jobs are available in Western Europe for Americans, with the notable exceptions of Austria, Finland, and France). Experience in tutoring or teaching is recommended. Additional teaching abroad options are available for those with teaching qualifications at the K-12 or university level. (See the Teaching Work Abroad section for more.)

Work Abroad Calendar: When to Apply

(Important Note: Check the websites for the latest application dates.)


Of course, always visit the websites for the programs below for changes in deadlines and dates, which may occur.

Study Abroad Internships usually have Fall Term deadlines in April-May, Spring deadlines usually are October-December, Summer deadlines are generally March-April. Check the IAESTE, Cultural Vistas, and the American-Scandinavian Foundation (engineering and sciences) for dates. This is also the best time to contact organizations if you are lining up internships on your own.

Check the for U.S. State Department internships website for Summer, Spring, and Fall deadlines.

Short-Term Paid Work Abroad or Work & Travel Programs.

Apply to InterExchange, BUNAC, CIEE, Greenheart Travel, and other organizations several months in advance.

Private companies such as Global Experiences, CEA CAPA Internships Abroad, The Intern Group and others described in the Internship Section also offer a variety of internships providing credits with a variety of start dates, lengths, and costs..

Volunteering Abroad

Apply at least nine months in advance for Peace Corps and other long-term volunteer programs; apply in March-May for the broadest choice in short-term “work camps” such as Volunteers for Peace.

Teaching English Abroad

Apply in October for Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship positions; November for major TESL programs in Asia, including the JET Programme in Japan, Princeton-in-Asia in countries in Asia. It always helps to apply early. To work abroad, graduates generally need a TEFL certificate, available through programs worldwide and online, or may be offered such training by the actual placement programs.

William Nolting worked for many years at the University of Michigan Overseas Opportunities Office and was the International Educational and former Work Abroad editor for Transitions Abroad Magazine.

More Articles by William Nolting
International Internships
Long-Term Jobs Abroad
Related Topics
Jobs Abroad
Internships Abroad
Student Work Abroad Advisor
Student to Student: Work Abroad

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