Internships and placements

Completing an internship abroad: your options explained

17 Aug 2023, 11:13

Seeking an internship abroad? Whether you want to be two metres from a beach or at the centre of global commerce, there will be something for you.

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Completing a voluntary or paid internship abroad can not only bolster your work experience, but it can also demonstrate to employers that you have sound organisational skills and a presence of mind to broaden your horizons.

We discuss your options for securing an internship abroad and the benefits that completing work experience in a foreign country can have for your CV.

A quick note: before you apply to an internship abroad or any other international work experience opportunity, check the current travel requirements for your destination country on the GOV.UK website.

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Find detailed guidance for taking a gap year, volunteering abroad, coming to the UK as an international intern and the laws around unpaid internships.

Here are some organisations that will arrange placements for you in different countries in exchange for a fee. This isn’t an exhaustive list, so make sure to thoroughly research your options.

If you are set on doing an internship abroad or any other kind of international work experience, this is probably the easiest way to go about it. Most of the practicalities are sorted for you, saving you the effort of having to organise them. However, this isn’t an affordable option for everyone.

Fees vary between providers and individual programmes, but you will usually receive an internship in your preferred discipline and location, and the visa application process is taken care of for you. It is important to look very carefully at what is included in your package. For example, some providers arrange accommodation and airport pick-ups, but others don’t – or only if you pay a higher fee.

Although the vast majority of internship-abroad programmes offered by providers such as the ones listed above are unpaid, you may come across programmes where the host employer does offer a salary, or at least a living allowance. Be sure to clarify whether you will receive any kind or reimbursement for working as an intern before you apply, as this will help you plan your finances for the experience.

It is also worth making sure you know exactly what is expected of you while on your internship; make sure you’re not just paying for a very expensive holiday...

Do some detailed and extensive research before signing up with any placement providers that charge a fee. Make sure to read their reviews and, better yet, try to get in touch with people who have previously been on the scheme, for example.

Note that many of the organisations that offer paid-for internships abroad offer opportunities to volunteer abroad too (also for a fee).

Applying directly to a large graduate employer for one of its internship roles means that you’ll avoid any middle-men providers that charge for facilitating work experience opportunities. It also means that you’ll almost certainly be paid too. Competition for such positions can be stiff and you’ll typically need to pass multiple stages of a recruitment process similar to that of a graduate job.

Depending on the employer, you can either apply directly to an individual global office or for a role in your home country that has international rotations or work.

Apply directly to an individual global office

If you have the appropriate citizenship/residency rights and language fluency, you can apply directly for a work experience vacancy with a company operating in your desired country. Some international organisations, including banks and law firms, offer placements to students from any country who meet the eligibility criteria. For example:

  • NatWest Group offers international internships in various European countries lasting from eight weeks to six months. You typically need a study agreement with a university in your desired country and fluency in the local language as well as English.
  • Investment firm Fidelity International offers internships in Italy and Germany, for those who can speak the required languages.
  • L’Oréal offers internships in a range of countries, including several European nations, Canada and Singapore, for which fluent English is required.
  • Automotive and aerospace company Saab typically offers a variety of ‘summer jobs’ in Sweden for those studying technical or business-related degrees who can speak Swedish and English.

Most international employers divide their early career opportunities into geographic regions, such as EMEA, so take a look at the opportunities in the region that interests you – and check whether they offer visa sponsorship (if required). Opportunities with large employers often include support with relocation costs.

An alternative is to apply speculatively to an employer in your target country (following that country’s recruitment conventions). Architectural student Georgina Naish previously told a targetjobs editor that she got a summer placement with construction company Wates in Abu Dhabi via a speculative application; she received the contact details of the relevant team through personal contacts, got in touch and asked whether they could take her on. You can find out how to make speculative applications for internships in this article .

Whether this type of informal work experience arrangement is paid usually depends on what you negotiate with the employer and the employment laws in the country in which you want to work.

Apply for a placement in your home country that has international rotations or work

If you apply to a graduate employer that works internationally, it is possible that your placement or internship may include some international travel or some time spent abroad. This usually comes about in two ways.

The first way is through a structured scheme offered by the employer. For example:

  • Global consulting firm A.T. Kearney offers a range of internships – some aimed at undergraduates and others aimed at masters students – in a variety of European countries lasting from three to six months.
  • Law firm Clifford Chance offers 11-day Middle East vacation schemes (the name solicitors’ firms give to internships) at its Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices. These involve working alongside experienced lawyers from two different areas of practice; Arabic language skills will make you a stronger candidate, but they are not essential.
  • J.P. Morgan offers a nine-week internship in investment banking in several countries around the world. You’ll need to be on track for a 2.1 undergraduate degree and, depending on the country you wish to be placed in, fluency in the local language along with English. Select countries require the correct residency status too.

Most employers will list such formal schemes on targetjobs and on their UK early careers recruitment websites.

The second way you can gain international experience on an internship is largely through chance: it could happen naturally through the project or tasks allocated to you. For example, you could be working on an international project and a visit to the client or project is deemed necessary by the business.

This is perhaps more likely to happen if you are undertaking a placement year rather than a short summer internship. However, in most cases employers will expect you to communicate with international colleagues and clients by video conference rather than visiting them in person.

Find opportunities through the British Council…

… and with other public sector bodies.

The British Council website lists internship opportunities abroad – as well as studying and volunteering options – and so is a good port of call in your search. Among others, opportunities include three- to six-month long English language teaching assistantships in various countries.

It’s also worth looking at opportunities with governmental organisations or non-profit organisations, such as the United Nations and IAESTE (although you could be pointed back towards the British Council website).

As with other opportunities overseas, do your own research and check that you meet any eligibility criteria and are aware of any hidden costs.

Undertake an internship abroad via your university and the Turing scheme

The Turing scheme is the UK government’s official programme for students who want to study or work abroad. Educational institutions apply for funding from the government and use it to provide international opportunities for their students.

You apply for opportunities via your university, which can include study abroad options or internships abroad, depending on the university. You’ll receive funding from the Turing scheme while on placement, with the amount varying according to the length of your placement and its location.

You can learn more about the Turing scheme in this article . To find out what Turing-scheme funded opportunities are available through your university, check with your student services.

Will an internship abroad improve my CV?

Any work experience will enhance your CV, no matter what or where it is, as long as you gain all you can from it (see our feature on making the most of work experience ). So, you do not have to gain an international internship to impress recruiters.

However, the fact that your internship is abroad may give you the chance to develop further skills and personal qualities that you may not be able to otherwise. For example, undertaking an international internship away from your usual network of support could:

Some recruiters might be more impressed by international internships that you’ve applied for competitively rather than paid for. But, in general, employers are more concerned with the fact that you have the skills they seek than how you've gained them.

Get more help from targetjobs

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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