Internships abroad – which country to choose?

An internship abroad is a unique experience that can broaden your horizons.

When you are deciding which country to travel to for your internship, there are a few questions you need consider:

* Do I want to improve my language skills?
* What is the industry standard for your chosen field?
* What are the cultural differences?
* Can I get a Visa?
* How will I spend my leisure time?
* Is it safe?
* What is the cost of living?
* Will my University approve the internship?
* What is the climate at that time of year?
* Does the country match my personal interests?

Language Skills
If you choose a foreign country your language skills can improve dramatically during your internship. Not only will you get the chance to talk to locals every day, but you will also learn specific terms that are relevant to your business industry. This means you’ll get a whole lot more insight into a language than you would on a standard holiday.

Industry Standard
Research the level of development of your chosen field in the country you are considering
e.g. Germany is ahead of the rest of the world in Solar Engineering.
Always keep in mind that the internship should be beneficial for your future career and should be a learning experience. It is important to determine whether future companies in your home country will regard your internship experience as beneficial. Ensure that your host company can compare to the standards used at home, so that your internship will be valuable and stand out on your CV.

Culture & Climate
What do you know about the country’s culture and are you prepared to adapt and live in this culture? You will need to be able to adapt to the unique customs of the country/region. Do your research first so you won’t get a “culture shock”.
Each country has a different lifestyle. Remember that in some countries you might not have the same rights that you’re used to. Women may find they don’t have as many possibilities in some countries as in others, which might also affect your working environment during the internship.
The differences will also include food and accommodation. Not every country offers burgers and pizzas. You might have to adapt to the country’s traditional food whether you like it or not. Accommodation might not be as comfortable and modern as it is in your home country. Some places might not have heaters or air-conditioning, so it could get uncomfortable. Try to find out as much as you can about a countries’ way of living, culture, law and customs to assist in your decision.
You also need to consider the climate in a country .If you don’t like cold weather you obviously shouldn’t choose a country like Norway or Finland. If you have problems with a very hot and dry climate, don’t go to countries in central Africa. You should feel comfortable in the country in which you’re planning to do your internship.
Remember; the internship is meant to be an enjoyable experience inside and outside the host company.

Are you eligible for a Visa in the country you choose? If not, it won’t be possible to do an internship. You can find out about Visa conditions on the country’s official government website or contact your local consulate.
Also check the cost of the Visa, as it may have changed. Find out how long you are allowed to stay in your country of choice , if there is a possibility to extend the duration of the Visa and whether you can work on the Visa.
Agencies and consulates can help you with applying for the right one.
If you plan to travel before or after your internship, find out if you are allowed to do so with the type of Visa you obtain, or if you need a different one. Read and understand all the Visa conditions.

Leisure activities & personal interests
What kind of activities can you do in your free time? Is it possible to travel? Take these things into consideration, as an internship abroad can be the perfect opportunity to explore a country!
Every country has different attractions, sights & activities e.g. If you love the sun and beaches, you shouldn’t consider doing your internship in Russia.
Think about what is on your ‘life-list’ and how you can link that to a great internship experience.
If you always wanted to go surfing, choose a place like Sydney or California to catch the waves.
If you love historical architecture, visit Rome or Athens. There are so many great placed to explore and things to do, so it’s important for you to decide what interests you. Check out websites and travel brochures to see what you can expect in different countries.
Your internship experience should be a highlight of your life!

Is the country you want to go to a safe place? Many countries might not be and could be risky, especially when travelling alone. Research the country’s crime rate and make sure you have a contact person in the foreign country, be it a representative of the agency you’re doing the internship with or someone at your consulate. Take more precautions than you would if you were at home: don’t leave your bags unattended, don’t accept drinks from a stranger.
You’ll probably be in a group of people most of the time when you go out, but you’ll also have to get home safely. Try to find out if there are night buses, or if it is safe to walk around at night. Find accommodation in a safe neighbourhood and make sure your accommodation is safe as well. Indicators of a safe accommodation are good locks, video surveillance system, a concierge service and a trustworthy contact person. Maybe you can check out reviews online to get a better impression of a place.
Another thing to consider is the risk of foreign diseases e.g. In Africa and India there are diseases which may not be present in your home country. See a doctor before you depart to make sure you get the necessary injections early enough!

Cost of living
Keep in mind that living costs, especially rent and food are different in every country. If your country of choice is relatively expensive, you might not be able to afford the internship and leisure activities. Make a budget in advance so you don’t find yourself forced to sit in your room scared to spend money. Check conversion rates and currencies.
Costs that you have to consider will include: accommodation, food, transport, entertainment, visa, insurance, and spending money.
Rents can substantially differ between countries and regions within countries…do your research!
It is hard to find out what food costs in different countries, but you could look up a restaurant’s menu online to get an impression of the prices. McDonalds burger prices, and weekly bus tickets can be a good indicator.
Figure out how you’ll get around during the time of your internship. Public transport is well developed in many countries and rates can be checked out online. Calculate your fare rates and try to find out how much money you will need for transport.
Another important thing is the costs of entertainment. You want to explore the country and enjoy the cultural activities and not just sit around in your room because you need to save money. Figure out your budget and whether it is affordable.
You want to make the most out of your internship experience abroad and not worry about money all the time. If you think you won’t be able to afford the internship in the country of choice, consider finding a different country to go to where things are cheaper, or consider applying for a job in the country abroad.

University approval
In case you’re doing the internship as part of your studies, check with your University if they will approve the internship in the country.
Universities often have partners abroad. Try to find out about Universities that are linked to your University. If you decide to do the internship in a country with a partner University they might be able to assist you during your internship. They can help you with assignments and communicate with your host company if there are any problems. Then you will be looked after and have a contact person which can make things easier and more secure.

Once you have decided in which country you would like to do your internship, you can be sure that it will be a worthwhile experience. An internship abroad is the perfect opportunity to get work experience and improve your CV as well as exploring a new country and have an amazing adventure!