Internships in the United States

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The United States has the world’s largest economy and opportunities in almost every industry. Interning in the US will not only provide you with business opportunities and connections, it is also a fantastic place to live. Whether you are situated in busy New York, vibrant Chicago, the friendly Midwest or anywhere else, America caters for every personality and interest. It is the perfect internship destination for anyone-whether you are just starting out in your career or want to gain experience in a particular field.

Industries in America, and therefore popular internships, vary massively. Whatever your area of expertise or background there will be an internship program out there somewhere that suits you. (Business Review USA)

  • Network and Communications: Mobile phone and technology companies are employing a lot of skilled graduates right now due to the fact that the industry is growing so fast. They employee people from all different backgrounds, from Engineers through to Marketing and Business Interns. They are looking for people with technical skills that also have the marketing and communication experience to be able to talk about and sell products. These internships can be found across the country but particularly in bigger cities.
  • Internet Services: Companies like Google and Microsoft have the most sought after jobs in the world and are headquartered in America. Companies in the internet industry are so highly valued because they are always growing and bringing out the latest technology.
  • Pharmaceuticals The pharmaceutical industry is always been a prominent industry in America and continues to grow. It is in the top 10 of the Fortune 500 list for most profitable industries.
  • Renewable Energy: More and more companies are going green and are employing industry professionals as issues of dependence on foreign oil and global warming are at the forefront of Monsanto business policy.

When and Where to Look for an Internship:

Any big to medium size city in America will offer internships; you just have to know how to find them. The easiest ways to find internships is through an internship abroad company or a connection you already have in America. Without using a third party it will be very hard to find an internship in the US as there are so many qualified American students looking at all the same places as you. You will need to find companies that are particularly looking for international students! Don’t be disheartened by this though; the placements do exist!

Most international internships for the US will take place in the summer and will usually be somewhere between 2-3 months long.

If you decide to look for an internship in the US without using a third party, you’re most likely to be successful by applying to bigger companies. This is because they will be the ones who have the resources for obtaining your visa and permits to work in the US unlike smaller companies who may not have these facilities in place.

Visas for Interning in the USA:

If you get your internship through a program, they will likely help you with your visa application process. This will be extremely helpful as the process for getting a visa to America can be a complicated one no matter what country you are coming from. It requires a lot of paperwork, a trip to the closest embassy, and a lot of documents when you arrive at immigration control in the US. Also, keep in mind it can cost a bit of money to obtain a visa, so keep some of your internship money aside for this cost!

The type of visa most commonly used to intern in the USA is a J1 Visa that can be requested for up to a 12 month period.

To obtain a J1 visa you must start the process by filing out a form called the IAP-66 which you can request from the US government. However, an easier way to go about the visa process is by using a company that deal with the American authorities on your behalf like CIEE. These companies do charge but it is most often worth it as they help you with getting your visa every step of the way.

No matter how you go about getting your visa, the main factor the immigration office is looking for is why you have a reason to return to your home country. Whether it is to finish university, family or career aspirations you need to be able to prove that at the end of your internship you have reason to return home.

Also, depending on what country you are coming from, the US government has different restrictions, so make sure you research for your country specifically before applying. Finally, some interns may attempt to work on a tourist visa-this is extremely illegal and will result you being jailed if caught, so make sure you get the correct paperwork before you start your internship!

Cost of Living in the United States:

The cost of living is approximately $200 a week for food and fuel, and $1000-$2500 for housing. The cost of living can vary greatly depending on what city your internship is in. For example, the cost of living in a smaller city in the Mid-West like St. Louis will be significantly cheaper than if you are living in a bigger city like Chicago or New York.

Remember that the way of life in the states is different than other regions, especially Europe. Unless you are living in a big city like Chicago or New York you will need a car to get around. Also, if you are under 25, you cannot technically hire a car so make sure you let your host company know and they should be able to make special arrangements for you.

Also, keep in mind that tax is not included in the marked price on any items you buy (food, clothes, etc) and will be added to your bill when you pay. The tax on items also varies on where in America you live. The average sales tax is about 7.25 %; it does add a considerable amount to your bill so watch out! Here's a full list of the sales tax rate in various states.

Furthermore, in restaurants all across America it is expected you tip somewhere between 15-25% for every meal. It is a common misconception that eating out in America is cheap; this isn’t always true once you have factored in the tax and a tip so watch out for this. However, eating out can be cheap depending on where you go, and because the portion sizes are so big you can often get more than one meal out of a dining experience.

Work Culture in the USA:

Etiquette: American offices are very friendly places to work. Emails are sent very casually and people are happy to stop and have a chat in the staff room. Americans are very had workers and use all the time they have; often having back to back meetings all day. They wont leave until they have everything complete. Quite often interns are given a lot of freedom about the hours they work, but it is expected that you get all your work done before leaving for the night and are fully prepared for your next days meetings.

Dress code varies across the country. In smaller towns and cities dress may be more casual than in cities. Most often dressing smart is expected, although suits are most often not necessary. Casual Fridays is also very common in companies across America. Furthermore, ‘summer hours’ are common in America; meaning that as long as you have everything complete taking a half day is common on a Friday.

In most offices and situations it is acceptable to start using first names as soon as you meet someone. (Kwintessential) Also, being on time is extremely important in American offices. Even if you are going to be five minutes late make sure you inform people otherwise they will see you as being rude. However, keep in mind that all companies and experiences will be different, so get in contact with past interns, and make sure you research your company thoroughly before you arrive. Another thing to note is that Americans like discussing politics; especially in election years so make sure you brush up on your American politics before you arrive.

Language: Luckily in America everyone speaks English! Just watch certain slang words that may be different from your country than America. There may be more nuanced differences in the way things are phrased than you expect, which at points can make it surprisingly hard to communicate.

Networking: Companies in America are very friendly places to work. It is expected for you as an intern to email or knock on the door of anyone you are interested in having a conversation with. You will find more often than not people are happy to arrange a lunch/meeting, have a chat with you and tell you about themselves and their careers.

Also, if you attend any talks or out of work networking events, don’t be shy to strike up a conversation with the person next to you. They are most likely curious about where you are from, and what you do. This is also a great way to meet people that are not directly in your line of work but are also great contacts to have.

Work and Labor Laws in the USA:

Once in America on the J1 visa it is illegal to work in any other company aside from the one you are sponsored to work at. It is recommended you don’t try to get around this by doing any work on the side as America has very strict visa laws.

On your first day of work, make sure you have all your visa, passport and paperwork with you as you will most likely have to fill out forms once you’re at the HR office. Keep an eye on your emails as well, because if you are sponsored by a company like CIEE, throughout your internship you will get emails being asked to fill in forms and update your address with them.Also, be careful if you are on internal flights during your internship, have all your paperwork with you at all times.

Contributed by Linda Newman

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