To find an internship abroad, you have two options: search for one independently, or use an internship placement provider, also known as a program provider, to help you with your search.
Securing your own internship means scouring job sites and ads and making your own contacts. Once you find, apply for, and are accepted to an internship abroad, you will generally need to arrange all of the details on your own. Sound daunting? This is where internship program providers come to the rescue.
But what exactly are they and what do they do?
What is an Internship Placement Provider?
An internship placement provider is a company that will, for a fee, match you with an internship in the field and country of your choice. The fee you pay to internship placement providers ensures the more complicated parts are taken care of for you.
Internship placement providers come in all shapes and sizes. Low-cost providers offer basic support such as finding you an internship placement and giving you guidance as you apply for your visa. Mid-range providers find your placement but also extend extra support such as basic housing and services for a slightly higher premium. Top-tier providers with the highest fees tend to include accommodation, airport pickup, visa assistance, networking events, language courses, and more.
With internship placement providers, there are options for nearly every budget.
Why Should I Spend Money on an Internship Placement Provider?
There are a number of benefits to using an internship placement provider for your overseas experience. Using a provider takes some of the stress out of the logistics of interning abroad and allows you to focus on getting the most out of your experience.
To help you decide if using a placement provider is right for you, we've outlined ten reasons why paying a fee to intern abroad is worth every penny.
Providers Have Strong Local Connections
Getting your foot in the door in a country where you don't know anyone can be both stressful and difficult.
Luckily, internship placement providers already have tons of established connections with companies overseas and those networks only grow each time they send over interns who do a good job. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and when supervisors have a good experience with their interns, they tell their counterparts in other departments and other companies.
Even if you have your heart set on a particular company or internship, going through a placement provider that has a good reputation in your target city or country may still be able to give you a leg up over the competition.
They Use Companies That Have Experience With Foreign Interns
While there is certainly some benefit to being to the first foreign intern a company has, what's more important is to be interning in a company that is ready for you. Otherwise, you may find yourself twiddling your thumbs at a desk all day with nothing to do because your supervisor doesn't quite know what to do with you and everyone else is too busy to train you.
Internship placement providers have longstanding relationships with certain companies that regularly host interns through their programs. This means there is probably an established position and plan for you as an incoming intern.
Your supervisor and coworkers will have experience dealing with new international interns. They'll have a better idea of how to handle you, and they will probably be even more likely to welcome you into their lives, show you the ropes, and take extra steps to provide you with important cultural experiences.
They Offer Better Quality Internships
Because of those ongoing relationships, internship placement providers tend to offer more, better quality internships. As each wave of interns comes and goes, some relationships strengthen while others weaken.
In general, this means the better the internship experience (for both the intern and the company), the stronger the relationship will come -- perhaps leading to even more opportunities for future interns. Meanwhile less ideal internships -- where either the intern or the company are dissatisfied -- will be eliminated. And if you find yourself stuck in that dissatisfied group, well, see point nine!
They'll Find You a Relevant Internship in Your Target Field
It follows from the previous points that if you are looking for a certain kind of internship in a very specific field or industry, your best bet is with an internship placement provider. In fact, a good provider will be excited by the challenge. A student who wants a drafting internship at a sustainable architecture firm in Germany? Franchising at a global retail company in Spain where you can use your Spanish and Arabic skills? On it.
This isn't to say that you are always going to get exactly what you want, but you have a lot more resources when you utilize an experienced and well-connected internship placement provider. And there is a lot more accountability in terms of making sure you are actually gaining relevant experience at your internship, not just making copies and grabbing coffee.
They Can Better Prepare You to Land That Great Internship
If you were looking for an internship on your own, you would definitely have to go through all the motions: apply with a resume and cover letter, go through an interview, etc. While some providers may automatically place you in an internship without having to jump through any hoops, it often requires a little extra work, like resumes and interviews, to score the best internships.
This is a good thing! It means the company is actually invested in you and wants to make sure you're a good fit and are capable of performing the work. You're not going to show up on day one and have your supervisor look at you blankly, forgetting they had an intern starting. They will have projects they want you to work on, maybe even a training plan, and you will come out of your internship having gained real, valuable work experience.
A good provider will help you prepare a resume and cover letter that fits the local style and language, if applicable. A great provider may even help you do practice interviews with prep questions that are relevant to the country and the field. They can also help you get a handle on the necessary technical vocabulary if you'll be interning in a foreign language.
They Offer Reliable Insight Into the Local Work Culture and Professional Etiquette
Forget culture shock, the workplace is a whole different ballgame. From the way you hand someone a business card to the way you address your colleagues, there are likely to be important cultural differences that you aren't going to find in a routine Google search on the subject.
An internship placement provider will know these things and are likely to have years of experience in learning from participants what the biggest issues in workplace culture shock were. Whether it's a handbook or a full-on pre-internship orientation, your provider will be able to share this information with you so you don't commit any major office faux pas.
They Might Actually Be a Better Value
Paying to intern abroad is a turn-off for many people, but going through an internship provider can sometimes actually help you have a better value experience. Many providers offer scholarships, and you may be eligible for more additional scholarships (say, study abroad scholarships) if you're going through a program provider and gaining college credit.
You may also have a better bet of finding an internship that pays -- or offers housing, food, or a stipend -- through a placement provider. Negotiating these kinds of things on your own can be difficult, but oftentimes these agreements already exist between the provider and the company. If any issues arise with receiving what you've been promised, you'll have someone to back you up and make sure the company is held accountable.
Even if you don't receive a scholarship or a paid internship, established providers can often offer things like housing, insurance, or even transportation passes to you at a discounted price because they have special agreements with certain entities. The price tag for your internship overseas may not seem quite so big once you do some of your own research and realize how much things would cost you on your own.
They Provide Support With Other Necessities
It's easy to focus so much on the internship that you forget all those other necessary steps like making sure you're interning in the country legally or have somewhere to live.
Paperwork and visas are confusing, complicated, and, frankly, not fun for anyone. Often your host employer has no clue what is needed, and even if you spend hours researching online, you may find yourself even more frustrated and unsure than before. What if you're not getting paid a salary but a stipend? Do you have to pay taxes? Do you have to register as a resident?
A placement provider will have lots of experience with these issues and will know the answers to all of your questions. Some will even handle everything for you. If you need a lot of paperwork from your host company, it will be much easier to have someone already in the country to help you handle it.
The same goes for securing housing and signing leases, especially if you're going somewhere you aren't completely confident in the language. Would you rather try to search out sketchy places on the local version of Craigslist or have your keys to your comfortable new apartment handed to you at the airport? Aside from the especially adventurous few, the answer to that is probably an easy call.
If you're hoping to get college credit for your internship, going through an established program provider -- especially if, say, they are a provider that also runs accredited study abroad programs -- can make it much easier. These providers have experience working with universities and may have a process already set up with host employers to check-in or hold some kind of accountability for the work you're doing.
For those who are particularly nervous about going overseas for the first time, some providers offer additional 24/7 support like airport pickups, assistance in finding your office, and figuring out your commute. Hopefully, you feel capable of handling some of these things on your own before you head abroad for an internship, but a little extra help doesn't hurt.
If Your Internship Isn't a Good Fit, They Can Help
Sometimes an internship turns out to be a bust. There are a myriad of issues that could, unfortunately, arise. From personal issues with supervisors or colleagues, safety issues, or even an internship that simply isn't at all what you thought you were signing up for, occasionally things don't go to plan.
While you should try to keep things in perspective and realize you may not receive a perfect dream internship that checks every single box, there are some problems that you may not be able to stick out. If something should happen that warrants you leaving your internship, your placement provider should be able to help you find a new internship much more quickly and easily than you would be able to on your own.
They Sometimes Offer Additional Opportunities and Extras
Are there additional things you're hoping to accomplish during your internship overseas? Perhaps you really want to boost your language skills, or you want to make local connections that could lead to a job.
Many internship placement providers offer extra support like supplemental language training, professional development opportunities, or even networking events. They may even arrange fun outings for the interns to spend time together outside of work. Don't discount the value of these add-ons!
The benefits can also continue after you've returned home. Larger providers may have alumni groups like Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or perhaps even alumni chapters in large cities that host get-togethers and events. Providers may also offer reentry support, such as advice on how to market the skills gained from your internship experience to how to access further job search support at home or abroad.
Choosing Your Provider
Not all internship placement providers are created equal. Decide what is the most important thing for you to gain out of your internship experience. Is it getting experience in a certain country? Improving your language abilities? Gaining skills in a specific field?
Once you've decided your priorities, do some research. We have thousands of international internship program providers listed on Go Overseas, which you can narrow down by country and field. Reading reviews and interviews from others who have gone through these providers is a huge help. You may find that certain providers have a better track record of placements in a certain country or industry, or have an in-country staff that is more responsive to issues.
Find Your Best Fit
In the end, there is no "best" internship placement provider, there is just the best match for you. Whether you're looking for a lot of support, or just a provider with the "in" you need to land the internship of your dreams, using an internship placement provider will ensure your international internship experience will be the best it can possibly be.
What's next? Find your perfect internship today!
This article was originally published in July 2015 and was updated in June 2021.