International internships are a great way to distinguish you from other grads entering the job
market; they add depth to your resume and provide opportunities for work and cultural
experiences you could never get in the United States. Here are some guidelines to help you
choose an internship experience that’s right for you:
1. Define your internship goals
a) Paid vs. Unpaid: Not surprisingly, the majority of paid internships are found in
the world of big business. Consulting, investment banking, commercial banking,
accounting, information technology, venture capital, entertainment, and marketing
offer some of the highest paying internships.
For those of you who are completely turned off at the thought of working for
nothing, there are some alternatives. Increasingly, organizations are realizing that
although some students are motivated by paychecks, many just want enough
income to cover basic necessities. In response, many unpaid internships now
come with one-time stipends to help students defray their costs of living.
Even if you are not paid for these internships, you'll get connections, training, and
an understanding of the field that makes the lack of pay less significant.
b) Credit vs. Not-for-Credit: Some colleges, hoping to steer students toward the real-
world experience an internship provides, grant college credit for approved
internships. Other cooperative education colleges and universities require students to
do internships as part of their curriculum. Find out if you can receive credit for your
internship and/or if an internship is required for your field of study.
c) Term-Time vs. Summertime: Many internships are only available in the
summertime. Organizations want to ensure that they have enough work to keep
students busy and don't want students to compromise the quality of their
academics while interning.
However, if you're interested in learning outside the classroom during the
academic year and are confident your schoolwork won't suffer, an internship for a
semester or year will provide you with more work experience and longer cultural
immersion than a short-term summer internship.
d) Part-Time vs. Full-Time: Do you want to take classes while working, or do you
want to devote yourself to your internship full time? If you’re interning for a
semester or year, can you afford to work full-time and not take courses? Working
full-time in your internship will provide you with more work experience for your
resume and enable you to learn more on the job, but it also requires a greater time
2. Decide what type of internship you want: First, ask yourself this question: is it more
important for you to spend a summer abroad and experience the adventure of working
and living in another country? Or is your primary objective to land a pre-professional
internship that will further your career goals? Here’s a quick guide to the most common
types of internships.
• Cooperative Education (co-op): a three-way partnership between a student, an
employer, and a college or university. It allows students to integrate work experience
into their academic studies for credit. Many colleges endorse cooperative education
by partnering with a variety of employers to provide career-related opportunities.
• Field Experience: provides an opportunity to develop skills by observing, recording,
mapping, and interpreting data. Research may be limited to one subject or may
encompass a number of different, limited topics. The best fieldwork experiences
combine supervision and education (lectures, note-taking, and directed observation)
with independent research practica (designing a research methodology, collecting and
recording data, and drawing conclusions that result in the acceptance or rejection of
an original hypothesis).
• Service Learning: allows you to work in organized service within a community. You
might work in an elementary school, secondary school, institution of higher learning,
or community service program. Service learning is usually structured as a three step
process in which students outline their proposed service term and objectives, perform
the service work, and then present conclusions based on an analysis of their
3. Do a little digging to find out the quality of an internship. Explore books, reviews
and websites prior to any application. Once you have an interview, continue to research
the program to ensure that the internship and your needs are a good fit. Here are some
questions that will help you to ascertain whether or not the internship is right for you:
Who will supervise me? What will supervision be like? How often will we meet?
What skills do I need for this internship?
What skills will I gain from this internship? What can I expect to learn?
What types of projects will I be working on?
How will most of my time be spent? What percentage of my time will be spent on
clerical work such as photocopying, preparing mailings, data entry, etc.?
Have you ever had an intern before?
What are your expectations of me?