Internships Abroad

How to Get a Paid Internship in South America

Dana Goble

After growing up in the Great Lakes state, Dana decided to embark on a more exciting journey by attending college in Indiana, studying abroad in Mexico, volunteering abroad in Chile, and working abroad in Peru.

There are many organizations that offer unpaid internships abroad. In exchange for a program fee, you may receive college credit, housing, meals, transportation, and on-the-ground support. However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to forge their own path, pick your own apartment, and cook your own meals, then obtaining a paid internship might be the right choice for you.

The problem is: how does one go about finding an internship independently - one that can both pay the bills and rev up your resume!?

If you're looking to find a paid internship in South America, look no further. The following steps will help jump start your search, and motivate you to find the internship of your dreams.

Step 1: Start Looking!

Go Overseas is the best place to look for internships as it has a host of information about reputable organizations in South America who are experienced in facilitating internships. Although many of these ask for a program fee, be sure to seek out scholarships, discounts, or any work-study type programs to help alleviate the cost.

Believe it or not, Craigslist is used all around the world and is especially popular for expats in South America. Use the site to search your country of interest to find positions in tourism, translation, teaching, and journalism, to name a few. Although the post may be for a full-time job, be sure to reach out to the company and inquire about any part-time or internship options. Start by looking on country-specific Craigslist sites.

Other common job search engines like Indeed and Monster have options to search for international positions. Try using various keywords in order to see the full list of opportunities.

You’re not the first person that has wanted to go abroad! Especially in larger cities, expats are very friendly and tend to help each other when abroad. Make sure to seek out websites that are specifically geared towards expats. For example, Expat Peru has multiple forums about Job Opportunities, Roommates, and general Expat Information. A quick Google search should lead you to similar expat resources in the country of your choice. Use their job search feature to network with others and see what paid internship opportunities are available.

Step 2: Pick Your Field of Interest

For those interested in agriculture, farming, or the environment, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) offers a great organic farming exchange program. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation, and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.

Another option is teaching English in return for a small stipend. Local governments sponsor teachers to improve the level of English literacy for students. Teachers are able to live with host families while receiving a modest pay for their job. One example is the English Open Doors Program which is an initiative run by the Chilean Ministry of Education.

If you already have experience studying in or traveling through multiple countries but are now looking for a place to settle down for a while, a local travel agency could be a great place to work. Doing a quick search such as “Travel Agencies in Bolivia” will yield a multitude of results. Other popular internship fields include health care, journalism, law, and childcare.

Step 3: Apply!

Countries in South America have unique resume and cover letter specifications. Just Landed is a website that helps expats around the world. Here are some useful tips:

Quick Tips For Your Applications

  • Dear Sir / Madam = Distinguidos Señores
  • I am writing to enquire about… = Escribo para pedir información sobre...
  • Your company was highly recommended by… = Su compañía fue muy recomendada por...
  • Should you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. = Si requiere información adicional, no dude en contactarme.
  • I look forward to hearing from you soon. = Espero tener noticias de usted pronto.
  • Yours sincerely = Atentamente

In Peru, it is better to telephone than it is to send an application via e-mail. To ensure your request has been received, make sure to submit your application then call and follow up to ensure it has been received. The most important quality is to know the local language, whether it is Spanish or Portuguese. Employers are taking a risk by hiring foreigners so you will need to prove that you worth hiring over a native candidate.

Before you accept a job in any country, make sure that both you and your employer have agreed on how much you will be paid, when you will be paid, how long the job will last, etc.

In Argentina, appearance is very important and dressing well is a must. Whether interviewing in-person or via Skype, make sure to present yourself in a professional manner.

When applying for jobs in Brazil, you must submit your resume in Portuguese. You may also choose to submit it in both English and Portuguese.

Be sure to use the “usted” form of Spanish when speaking in a business setting. It is better to err on the side of professional when having a conversation or writing a professional e-mail or document. Listen for cues to determine if your colleagues are addressing each other as “tú” or “usted”.

Resumes need to be very detailed, and can even be more personal than those in the United States, for example. Here are some guidelines on what to include, and in what order:

  • Personal details: Full name, date and place of birth, marital status, home address, e-mail, phone number, etc.
  • Education: Degrees, courses, academic accomplishments (include dates and locations)
  • Extracurricular activities: Additional courses, seminars, clubs (include dates and locations)
  • Professional experience: Work experience, including date, location, company name, job title and tasks
  • Language: Complete list of languages spoken and level of fluency
  • Computer Skills: Software you are familiar with
  • Miscellaneous: Any additional information, availability, drivers license, military service, etc.

Step 4: Requirements and Visas

Once you’ve arranged for your internship to begin, be sure that you have the necessary legal documents. If your employer does not help you with this, use a website like VisaHQ to determine the type of visa, if any, you need to acquire before beginning your internship.

Do your research! Some countries like Argentina and Brazil require you to do all of the paperwork at a local embassy or consulate before arriving to South America. However, other countries like Peru will allow you to arrive to the country first before worrying about any formal documentation.

Step 5: Have an Open Mind

Perhaps you can’t find the paid internship of your dreams, and that’s okay!

If you’re willing and able to taking an unpaid internship, or one with a smaller stipend, the number of available opportunities will grow tremendously. Instead of paying a salary, some internships will either offer food, housing or both in exchange for your work. For example, the following program charges a fee of $1,200, but includes housing along with support before, during, and after the internship: Teaching in Santiago with the YMCA.

Don’t give up when looking for paid internships in South America. Use and reuse the above resources to help guide you on your path and you’ll be sure to find something that peaks your interest and uses your skills.