Overview of Interning Abroad


WHY. Consider your motivation for wanting an international internship. Do you want to work abroad, or do you want career-related work experience? If your motivation is primarily the former, many other work abroad opportunities exist which may be easier to get or less expensive. These include Short-Term Paid Work Abroad programs, Teach Abroad, or Volunteer Work Abroad.

WHERE. If you seek experience related to an international career, you might consider doing an internship at a U.S.-based office of an international organization, many of which are located in major centers of international activity such as Washington D.C. or New York (see the excellent Foreign Policy Association's web site for listings). But it is certainly possible to combine an Internationally focused internship with an overseas location, which is the subject of this article.


  • Tuition-charging study abroad internships are sponsored by universities. In return, study abroad internships provide credit towards your degree. (Make sure U-M will accept the credit before going). For U-M-sponsored programs, financial aid can be used to help meet expenses. Note that there is a huge variation in tuition fees, and programs may cost more, the same, or sometimes less than studying in Ann Arbor at U-M.
  • Unpaid internships account for the majority of internships, both in the U.S. and abroad. Special internship abroad programs offer placements for a fee. Alternatively, enterprising students may find their own internships abroad, though this is not easy. In either case, unpaid internships can be somewhat less expensive than tuition-charging internships, but without the benefits of credit and financial aid. The main benefit here may be in terms of personal development and career preparation.
  • Volunteer positions may seem indistinguishable from internships at first glance. The term volunteerusually means working directly with individuals or a community whose needs are underserved, whereas the term internship tends to denote working in a professional setting or in a field that is related to career goals or interests. Volunteer programs sometimes provide room and board, which can make these actually less expensive than unpaid internships. Paid volunteering is possible (e.g.Peace Corps) for those able to make a two-year commitment. Volunteer positions may be the best option for those interested in careers having to do with development work or service in developing countries. Repayment of educational loans can sometimes be deferred during volunteer work.
  • Paid overseas internships are much less common (just as in the U.S.), and tend to be in developed countries. Refer to Short-Term Paid Work Abroad for paid internship and work abroad programs.

FUNDING FOR INTERNSHIPS. For U-M students, funding is available from a number of U-M units. Refer to Funding for International Internships and Research.

WHEN TO APPLY. For summer internships, it's often best to apply in the fall to become aware of application deadlines early in the year. For example, the U.S. Department of State has a November 1 deadline. Other organizations or programs have various deadlines throughout the fall and winter semesters, so it is important to determine this information early on in the research process. Study abroad internships usually have application deadlines during the semester before the term of the internship.

FINDING YOUR INTERNATIONAL INTERNSHIP. Along with persistence, the other key here is knowing where to find information about international organizations and internship possibilities. Explore the information and resources offered in the Work Abroad section of this website, including those in the Language and Profession-specific sections, as well as the Volunteer and Service section. U-M students can benefit from the U-M International Career Pathways series, which includes the International Opportunities Fair, which we co-sponsor with many other U-M units.