Finding internships abroad for computer science majors
Interning abroad will definitely jump start your career and offer you a brave international experience. You’ve certainly read a lot about how it’s life changing, how it boosts your professional skills and make you learn limitlessly. Right. But what you don’t read frequently, yet have to consider, is that finding one takes time, and a quit hard, but fun work. Which I’ve been through during my search for a summer internship abroad. But I’ve made my point and now I am writing this post from a Brazilian city, where I am interning as a web developer within an inspirational startup atmosphere. I am sharing with you some of the many ways to find an internship abroad and what you have to consider during your search.
When ? It’s never too early !
Finding an internship is not a simple process. You have to be technically prepared and gather your certifications, projects and resume together to prove it. You also have to master effective communication and keep a good writing level as you’ll write tons of emails, and you have to prepare for and take interviews. Then, you will wait to hear back from your recruiter, to end up doing it all over again in most cases. This takes time. And way more than most of us plan for. I applied to several different internships in many countries, sent out countless emails, and only heard back about 50 percent of the time. So I cant help insisting on consacring a good amount of time for your search and applications.
Why ? It’s about you, not the job
Why would you want to intern abroad instead of at home? Is it to immerse yourself in a new culture? To expand your comfort zone? To expand your technical skills? Your reasons may be very general, or they may be very specific. So will be your chance to not just find an internship, but to find the right one. Getting the right internship for you, matching expectations and securing productive outcomes is a great challenge, one that requires considerable research and self-awareness. Interning abroad to discover a different culture and make international friends, requires a different search process than interning abroad to work within an international team on challenging projects. So first start mapping your mind and your whys then draw your search plan depending on it.
Where ? Which countries for The people of IT
Actually this and all the coming questions depend on how you answer the two previous ones. You choose the location based off of your interest, in other words, your whys. If you have more professional goals, you better pick a country where you already speak the language (or any other common language with the locals and eventually the coworkers). If you have a perspective of “the whole experience” more than of “the professional experience”, then you can pick a destination where you don’t speak the language, or where IT isn’t a top industry. Generally speaking, countries like Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Singapore are on top of the list for software engineers to intern or work in.
How ? From where to start your search ?
There are many options to find internships abroad. Choosing between these options depends on many factors like how much time and money you’re ready to invest in your search or how long is the internship you’re looking for, etc…. Here are four of these possibilities.
1- Join your local aiesec committee
AIESEC is a global organization run by and for college students, which organizes international internships for both members and non-members. There could well be an AIESEC committee at your university which can help you find an internship abroad. The organizational costs are very small, and AIESEC will provide you with a mentor in your destination city. The mentor will help you get your visa, pick you up from the airport, bring you to your first day at work, and best of all, provide an instant network of friends. Internships arranged by AIESEC are only paid if they are for a 6 mouths+ period. Summer internships however are not paid, and are often held within startups. Which is my case, I applied for AIESEC’s Global Entrepreneur program and I am working in a Brazilian startup for the two coming months.
2- Find an international internship yourself
By far the best method to find an internship abroad is to do it yourself ! It is hard work, but is a lot of fun when it works out. In this case you will have to email tons of companies, and hear back from around only 40% of them. And most importantly, you have to know which companies to email, depending on your experience and skills. Not every international company with internships opportunities have a place for you.
If you opt for this option, you will have to do all the work by yourself. ‘All the work’ refers to arranging your visa application once accepted, looking for accommodation in your host country and getting ready for an away-from-home experience.
3- Use an agency to arrange an internship abroad
This option is the easiest but most expensive ! Apart from paying the agency for finding you an internship, you will have to pay for travel and accommodation as well (and still have tons of other expenses aside). Another downside is that some of these agencies promise you the world and nothing matches your expectations at the end. Still, it could be a good option if you are on a last minute search.
4- Your school’s internship coordinator can help !
Most schools have someone appointed specifically to help students find and apply for internships. They can help either with direct internships offers, or with your search process by providing job search platforms or direct connections to companies that can hire you.
And..? Challenging situations to consider before applying
• The language barrier
As I already mentioned, interning in a country where you don’t speak the native language might be a curse or a blessing depending on many details ! Still, there’s a challenging side about it anyway. You have to carefully consider this before applying for any internship.
• The financial implications
Last summer I was having a paid summer job, and I got my first freelancing job as well ! This summer, I gave that up, and invested in an international internship! Whas it worth it? Totally. Because no money can buy you the skills you get from working in a different country. Yet, you have to set your limits! So you will need to get informed about your host’s currency and life costs, your own expenses in there, etc… The best way to get such information is to contact students who’ve been through it ! Even better, asking students from your own country who interned in your host country is a great way to get real useful information.
• Visa requirements
Always see if you can even enter a country before planning to intern in it. There are different kinds of visas you can travel with for an international internship. You may be traveling on a work visa, or a student visa. When preparing for your internship abroad, find out how much your employer will help you through the process and how much of the work you will do alone.
• Check your inflated expectations out the door
When looking for an internship abroad, it’s important to be realistic in terms of what you can actually accomplish in one to three months. Don’t be disappointed if you feel like you aren’t being productive enough. The very idea of productivity can differ from country to country. But as long as you see these cultural differences as learning opportunities, it will make your time interning abroad less stressful and more rewarding.
Working so far away from home may sound intimidating, but if your instincts are telling you to intern abroad rather than at home, then trust yourself. Or just think of all of the amazing stories (and resume builders!) you will return with: eating Brazilian tapioca or hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro may not be in your official internship description, but that’s the beauty of it-you won’t know what unexpected memories (and brave projects) you will make until you take the leap.
What’s even better than getting it is sharing it ! Don’t forget to leave your I-got-my-internship stories in comments below !