Student Report: Making the Most of Your International Internship

Do not assume that the U.S. concept of an internship is meaningful abroad. Interns may be viewed as a regular employee or your supervisor may not be sure what to do with you. It is necessary to be very pro-active to make the most out of your experience. Take the first week or so to get acclimated and learn the ropes, then work on implementing the following suggestions:

  • Try to set up a work plan with your boss. Elements include: time schedule of work to be done, different departments or areas you want to gain experience in, setting up regular weekly/ or bi-weekly meetings to check progress, and flexible but realistic deadlines for completing projects.
  • Let your boss know what your skills are, what you can offer, what you are not comfortable doing.
  • Make yourself useful and do things your supervisor needs to get done. If you take on some of the grunt work, you are more likely to also get assigned challenging tasks. Ask your supervisor to let you help them with what they are doing.
  • Arrange informational interviews with people in other parts of the organization to learn what they are doing.
  • Have a set of skills or job experiences you hope to accomplish during the summer and check them off a list. Be flexible, and be prepared to add new things or modify your initial expectations.
  • You may want to take on one major long-term project such as reorganizing a part of their office, program planning (etc.), and work on this all summer. Couple it with day trips to other program sites or short-term projects in other parts of the office.
  • If overcoming language barriers or language acquisition is a goal of your internship, state this clearly in the beginning to your boss.
  • Let your boss know upfront if you need any time off or what your travel plans are. Leave a copy of your passport (visa if necessary) and travel itinerary with your supervisor for safe keeping.
  • Communicate often with your U-M faculty contact and/or department, before and during your overseas internship, and don't forget to communicate frequently and on a regular basis with your family and friends.
  • Have fun!


Written by Kristin Stewart, MPP Ford School of Public Policy & Peer Advisor, 
University of Michigan International Center