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Europe is a diverse continent, containing 47 countries and speaking over 200 different languages. The European Union, a collection of 28 European countries united by cultural, economic, and travel agreements, is one of the world's largest economies (in 2012 had a 20% share of the global GDP).
Although Europe was hit by the global economic crisis, the economies in many European countries are still robust, and many countries have retained their leading positions in a variety of fields. The international economic agreements present in Europe both among European Union member states and between the EU and other countries locate industries within international cluster-based foundations that compliment the more widespread global networks forming between businesses today (European Competitiveness Report 2012). An internship in Europe offers the chance to build an international network as well as come into contact with clusters of connections that have a history which precedes mass globalization.
In addition to its economic assets, the European continent has a long and rich history which, due to various European countries colonial practices, are familiar to people worldwide. Some of the world's most popular tourist destinations are in Europe. The great cities of Paris, Berlin, Madrid, London and many others call people from around the world to explore their streets and avenues. Europe's mostly open borders between countries also make it easier to explore different countries once you're there; hopping on a train from France to the Netherlands is super simple from an immigration perspective (less simple from the "getting luggage through the metro to the train station" perspective).
With such fashion capitals as London, Milan, Paris, Barcelona, and Berlin, Europe is an excellent place for fashion interns to learn more about the industry. Whether you are drawn to haut couture or edgy street fashion, there is a city in Europe that suits your style perfectly. A European fashion internship offers the chance to break into the international fashion scene, step outside your comfort zone, and learn about how a whole new environment incorporates fashion into its world. Interns should keep in mind the big European fashion shows, such as Fashion Week in each city, when planning their internship so as to make the most of what their city has to offer.
Europe is a world leader in the fashion industry. Three of four major Fashion Weeks take place in Europe (London, Paris, and Milan. The 4th is New York). Paris, often regarded as the fashion capital of the world and birthplace of haute couture, and Milan have reputations for elegance and classical beauty. London and Barcelona, though they are more newly established as fashion capitals, consistently outrank their more classical counterparts in industry rankings. Berlin is known for its edgy street styles and strides towards sustainable fashion. Each city's fashion scene has its own unique feel that is closely tied to the city's identity. Working as a fashion intern will give you the unique opportunity to put your finger on the pulse of how major world cities see themselves.
France, the UK, Germany, and Italy are world-leaders in engineering and innovation. The field has long had an international component, which is only becoming more important as the world gets increasingly interconnected. An engineering internship in Europe is a great way to expose yourself to different methodologies and working styles as well as get hands-on experience and connections. With some of the world's top research centers located in Europe, whatever branch of engineering draws you in, you're sure to find an opportunity to do cutting-edge work.
The best European city for you will depend on the type of engineering you want to do. If automotive engineering is your thing, Turin in Italy and Munich in Berlin are great locations. For civil engineers, London is one of the best places in the world. France, particularly the cities of Paris and Lyon, is a world leader in aerospace engineering and robotics.
The world's largest multinational corporations have headquarters in Europe, as well as important local companies and banks. Business interns in Europe have the chance to gain experience working in an international and globalized environment. In addition, the open economies and boarders in Europe provide a great opportunity for networking. Whether helping to get a startup off the ground or getting your foot in the door of a major corporation, business interns in Europe have the chance to fast-track their careers and gain valuable industry experience.
London, the world's 6th largest economy, is one of Europe's premier business destinations and is particularly good for finance and public relations internships. Germany is also a great location for finance internships, in addition to having great marketing opportunities in Berlin. If France is more your speed, check out a hospitality or marketing internship in Paris. Despite the recent recession, Europe is in a period of economic recovery right now. Even the hardest-hit countries, Greece and Spain, are seeing economic improvements and a decrease in unemployment, making now a great time to look for a business internship.
Europe's political scene is truly international. Whether working with the United Nations in Geneva, or a local firm in your country of choice, politics interns in Europe learn how to balance individual national interests with those of the continent as a whole. With a politics internship in Europe you can be involved in a national or international organization. Learning in-depth knowledge of your country's political history as well as the daily machinations of political life, interns will gain valuable insight into their field as well as practical experience.
Political centers in Europe are Brussels in Belgium, the de-facto capital of the European Union, Geneva, home to the United Nations, Paris in France, home to UNESCO and the International Chamber of Commerce, and Berlin in Germany, where much of the European Union's financial agenda has been set. Each country's political sphere has a unique dynamic and history. Interning in politics will give you a unique understanding of your host country and a more nuanced view of its diplomatic and national operations.
Because Europe contains so much linguistic and cultural diversity between its countries, it's a good idea for people looking into a European internship to start by breaking Europe down into its different regions in order to make the task of choosing the right one more manageable. The United Nations breaks Europe down into into North, South, East, and West.
Northern Europe:This region contains the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, and Iceland as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. Weather in the Nordic countries tends towards the cooler end of the thermometer, and winters can be extremely harsh (nonetheless, in the summer, people do still go to the beaches). In the UK and Ireland, though the weather is far from tropical, have much warmer winters than the Nordic countries.
Cost of living in this region, particularly the Scandinavian area, is extremely high - Norway, Denmark and Sweden have the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th most expensive cost of living in Europe (FYI: Switzerland has the highest). Cost of living in Ireland and the UK is lower than in Scandinavia, but still relatively high. In Ireland particularly, everyday expenses like food can run very high.
In the Scandinavian countries, it is easier for current students to find internships than people not affiliated with a university, however internships there can often lead to permanent jobs. Therefore those who are seriously considering expatriating may still want to pursue one - keep in mind though, that for some countries, especially Norway, it would probably require having a contact in the country to get a placement. Popular industries are technical fields, business, and agriculture.
Internships for foreigners are much more plentiful in the UK and Ireland. Popular industries for internships in England are engineering, fashion, and business. In Ireland, marketing and environmental internships are popular.
Southern Europe: Comprised mostly of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, this part of Europe is known for its climate, diet, and relaxed style of living. While the "Mediterranean lifestyle" has become fodder for generalizations and stereotypes, it is true that warm weather and mild winters will probably make you a lot happier. This is the area for people who want hot weather and days spent on the beach. The region also contains Italy and Greece, whose ancient populations inspired much of Europe's politics and culture.
Cost of living in this region ranges from low to moderately high. Italy is one of the most expensive places to live in the region; Albania is one of the cheapest. Many countries in this area, especially Greece, were hit hard by the financial crisis; however, that doesn't mean that there aren't still plenty of opportunities for interns as they continue to kickstart their economies.
Internships in this area exist across a broad range of fields, and there are many programs already around to match people with internships. Popular internships are automotive and fashion positions in Italy, communications and hospitality in Greece, and adventure tourism in Croatia.
Eastern Europe: Eastern Europe is home to beautiful mountain ranges, hot pirogues (dumplings), and gorgeous snowy days. This region contains countries such as Russia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Poland. Cities like Prague are known around the world for their architectural beauty. From the Lake District of Poland to Ukraine's hot springs and castles, Eastern Europe has a lot to offer in terms of scenic beauty. If you don't mind a cold winter (which is more than made up for by the hearty food and welcoming people), Eastern Europe could be the internship locale of your dreams. In general, this region tends to be the most affordable in Europe, so a great place to check out if cost of living is a major concern. Popular internships in Eastern Europe are: teaching English throughout the region, hospitality and energy in Russia, journalism and media in the Czech Republic, and political science in the Ukraine.
Western Europe:This region contains some of the most popular European countries for internships: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium. Cosmopolitan cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and Geneva can provide the perfect backdrop for your internship. However, Western European countries also have beautiful pastoral landscapes, and interning in a smaller city or rural area could be just as rewarding. Not to mention, some of the world's gastronomic giants are located in this region - you could decide first-hand whether Swiss or Belgian chocolate is better, or taste all the cheese in France (Fun Fact: if you ate a different French cheese every day, it would take you more than a year to try them all!).
Cost of living in this area is moderate to high, dependent on country and location (cities are more expensive than more rural areas). Popular internships are: fashion and politics in France, IT and marketing in the Netherlands, and medicine and law in Germany.
Visa regulations will vary by country. Typically, Americans do not need a visa for stays fewer than 90 days (this applies to countries that are part of the Schengen agreement), however whether this applies to interns depends on the country. Therefore, it is good to check with the country embassy as to whether you need a visa, even if you will be interning for fewer than 90 days in a Schengen country. For stays longer than 90 days and for countries outside the Schengen area, a long- or short-stay visa, residence permit, and/or work permit may be required. The US State department has general entry and exit requirements listed for each country and is a good place to begin.
Europe is a diverse continent that provides opportunities for interns in all fields. Its rich cultural history, beautiful and varied landscape, and gorgeous architecture have drawn tourists from around the world. Whether you are looking for a fast-paced city or a more closely-knit community, there is a place in Europe that can provide that. Whether your heart lies in the Czech Republic or in Portugal, your European internship will not only help you grow as an individual but also give you international experience that can open the doors to a career in your chosen field.
Photo Credit: Famous Landmarks of London