Internships abroad are increasingly popular, not only because they provide a means to travel and gains hands-on experience at the same time, but also because they give graduating students a competitive edge when it comes to finding future work opportunities back home – or internationally. As such, an internship abroad should be considered an investment in a candidate’s personal development and professional future. And as all investments, funding an internship abroad requires careful planning and research.
The following article includes advice for general internships abroad, as well as specific tips for students interested in our ROOSTERGNN Academy Internship Seminars.
“Start early, plan ahead” is perhaps the most trite career advice you have heard, many times. If you are a high school senior or college junior, then yes, this advice will apply to you. But even if you are a college senior or recent graduate, it is never too late to intern abroad (or intern at all, as Robert De Niro’s recent movie The Intern would suggest. The Wall Street Journal, too, published an article about how internships can open doors for older workers, age 40 and up, as well.)
But regardless of your age and career situation, chances are you will have to plan in advance to find funding for your dream internship abroad. Of course, everything will depending on your personal financial situations (and in many student’s cases, that of their parents), but at ROOSTERGNN Academy, we usually suggest starting to save at least six months in advance. Starting to save up does not mean you need to have found, applied and been accepted for the internship. It simply means that you are consciously setting money aside, and looking into alternative funding sources as well as living costs abroad. Here are some specific questions you should start to research:
- How much does the internship abroad program cost?
- What is, and what is not, included in the tuition fee cost? Accommodation? Food? Visas? Flights? Insurance? Transportation? Etc.
- What is the cost of living in the destination country? Food? In-country transportation? Are you planning to travel before or after the program?
- What funding sources do you already have? Parents? Friends? Family? Scholarships? Financial aid? University funding? Savings?
- Also, never forget an emergency fund (e.g. if an earthquake happens in the country, how will you be able to cope or get back home?)
- Keep in mind exchange rates, too (see more below).
- Are payment plans available?
Ideally, set up a spreadsheet so you have, on the one hand, the costs, and on the other hand, the funds you already can rely on.
Once you have selected an internship abroad, inquire directly with the program to see what kind of scholarships and/or financial aid they may offer.
At ROOSTERGNN Academy, we work closely with our benefactors to offer need-based scholarships and financial aid for all of our programs. We hope that this need-based scholarship and financial aid policy will allow talented students, who otherwise would not have the financial means to afford the full tuition fee, to participate in our Internship Seminars. (Thank you, FACTHOUS, for providing twenty scholarships for our students for the summer of 2017!)
Another option is to inquire about possible ways in which an organization can “refund” part of your program tuition fee after the successful completion of the internship abroad, perhaps by working for the organization either in-country or back home. At ROOSTERGNN Academy, we are launching a Fellowship program starting October 1, 2017, so that students can apply and recover part or all of their tuition fee upon successful completion of one of our programs (please visit http://rgnn.org/academy/fellowships for more information!).
Parents, family & friends
For many students, their parents are the main go-to funding source for internships abroad (and their education in general). But before you go running to mom and dad about how excited you are to spend the summer in Cuba, Madrid, or elsewhere – come with arguments in hand.
According to Margery Ganz, Ph.D., Director of Study Abroad and International Exchange and a History Professor at Spelman College, there are four F’s when it comes to overcoming barriers to study abroad, and Family is one of them (Faculty, Finances and Fear are the other three).
Thus when you speak to your family about your internship abroad, provide detailed information on:
- The benefits of internships abroad
- Specifically, the benefits the internship will bring in terms of your future career (read my article on how study abroad increases job prospects even in times of economic crisis here)
- The relationship the internship abroad has to your academic program
- Program content. Beware of internship providers where you don’t know what you will be doing at your internship (you can get coffee and make photocopies back home, too!)
- Benefits. Ask about which certifications, academic credit hours and letters of recommendation, if applicable, will be available to you upon completion.
- Logistics (flights, country information, transportation, food, accommodation, etc.)
- Safety (this is a main concern for parents, ask your internship program organization if they have a “Parents” page with more information, here is ours at ROOSTERGNN Academy). Ask about local support – is it 24 hours in countries that require it?
University funding sources
For current students, we always suggest speaking to your university to see what kinds of funding may be available for students going abroad. Sometimes, they may be able to transfer a financial aid or scholarship package you have already been awarded to an internship abroad program. Some schools have specific funds allotted to students pursuing programs abroad. Your inquiry should not start and end with the financial aid office. Consider speaking to:
- Financial Aid / Scholarship Office.
- Study Abroad or Global Programs Office.
- Career Centers.
- Your major or minor Department Head or Dean.
- Individual professors.
- Interest groups/associations (e.g. Hispanic Society)
- Sororities or Fraternities.
When you speak to each and every one of these offices, if you already have a specific program (or even acceptance letter) in hand, make sure to bring it along or even email it to the professor/staff member in advance. This way, you can assure that they will be able to give you the most accurate information depending on the internship abroad you are considering. If you are early on in the process, an informational meeting is fine, too, to scout out your options.
At ROOSTERGNN Academy, we have had students receive several thousand dollars from The Boston Foundation for our Cuba Internship Seminar, for example, and other students are working with the Dean’s Fund for Student Life at the University of Chicago to request funding for our Madrid Internship Seminar. We are happy to provide letters of support and fill out any required forms for requesting such funds from universities, and have done so for students in the past.
Mondays at ROOSTERGNN — evaluating all the cool scholarship applications we’re receiving, such as this one by @jo_hart97 who writes “From one paradise to another- Cuba here I come! #rgnncuba #summer2017” Thank you, FACTHOUS, for providing scholarships for young journalists! #journalism #internship #scholarship #summerinternship #cuba
Third-party grants and scholarships
Third-party organizations can provide grants and scholarships for internships abroad.
Here are some useful links to get started:
- Go Overseas offers $500 scholarships twice a year for students interning or studying abroad
- Scholarshipportal.com allows you to search for scholarships based on the country you plan to go to
- Fastweb is one of the most well-known resources and lists more than 1.5 million scholarships
- Grants.gov lists grants – meaning you don’t have to pay the money back!
- Mach25 works with a keyword search. Enter “Spanish” or “Journalism” or “Cuba”, for example.
- The Fund for Education Abroad offers funding opportunities, too.
You can also inquire for scholarship or funding opportunities at:
- Your local Rotary Club
- Churches, synagogues or other religious organizations in your city
Looking for more? Go Overseas also has a useful article on 65+ scholarships available for study and intern abroad opportunities here.
If you’re a talented writer or photographer, you can also consider writing or photography-specific contests. Mladiinfo lists quite a number of such competitions here.
Leverage social media
If you don’t know where to start looking for scholarships online, begin with a focused hashtag search on Twitter or even Linkedin.
#scholarships #grants and #financialaid can lead you to current scholarship opportunities on Twitter or Linkedin.
#intled or #internabroad #studyabroad or #studyabroadbecause can also lead to relevant websites.
If you are fluent in another language, e.g. Spanish, try searching in that language, too (for example #becas or #becasperiodismo).
@shanabanana876 from @pennstate just received one of our 500 Euro scholarships for our Travel Journalism & Photography Internship Seminar in Cuba! Congratulations! “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” 🌎#ShanasTravelDiaries #rgnncuba”, writes Shana. Thank you, FACTHOUS (http://facthous.agency) for providing scholarships for young journalists!
Perhaps the most obvious way to fund an internship abroad is to earn it. Consider a part-time job, either on-campus or off-campus. This is part of the planning early strategy. The key is to not spend the money as soon as you earn it. Do what you need to do, buy a piggy bank, and set aside a certain sum of money every week or month.
Treat fundraising as your second job. There are numerous ways to crowdfund in today’s world, and ROOSTERGNN already wrote a specific article on crowdfunding for study abroad here. Here are some of the most popular crowd-funding sites mentioned in this article:
- IndieGoGo: Anyone, anywhere, and anything with no fees added to start the campaign. The website lets you keep the money earned even if your goal is not met.
- Kickstarter: Helps bring creative projects to life through an all or nothing model.
- GoFundMe: A fundraising site for personal causes and life-events.
- FundMyTravel: Specifically designed to help fund study or volunteer programs abroad.
If you have a large social media following, crowdfunding may even be easier than a part-time job! (If not, then take advantage now and start building your personal brand and using social media for your future career, too!)
Regram @lucyburnhams from @uncchapelhill who just received one of our 500 Euro scholarships for our Travel Journalism & Photography Internship Seminar in Cuba this July 2017. “Can’t wait to spend two weeks of my summer exploring all that Cuba has to offer and creating something inspiring out of it 🇨🇺#rgnncuba” says Lucy.
Once you have saved the money to go abroad, think before you spend it. Is there a day when booking flights is cheaper than on another day? (By the way, it is usually cheaper on Tuesdays). Non-direct flights can also be cheaper.
Is there a way you can save on insurance? On food? Be smart about your money choices both before, during and after the program. Programs will usually be able to give you an estimate on how much additional money you should bring in terms of additional funds for activities not included in the program.
Student credit cards
Investigate student credit cards and how much possible credit they can award you. You should also look into those cards that have no foreign transaction fees once you are actually in country. Wallethub has made a list here but make sure to consult your bank with updated information at your time of booking and using the cards. (Note that U.S. students traveling to Cuba right now should consider bringing cash instead of credit cards as U.S. credit cards are still not completely operative on the island).
Tip: consider a card that is a member of the Global ATM Alliance, meaning that you won’t be charged fees when you withdraw money internationally at another bank within the Global ATM alliance.
When thinking about payments, inquire about which currency your internship provider accepts, and also, which currency you will be using in-country.
At ROOSTERGNN Academy, all payments are currently to be made in Euros. We advise all of our students, many of whom are from the U.S., to speak to their bank directly and indicate to the bank that the deposit/payment to be received should be in Euros. The bank can make the conversion for you, as they have done for many of our students. We can provide screenshots if necessary, please ask.
Please note that neither ROOSTERGNN nor the author is responsible for any action readers take based on this article. All readers are responsible for their own actions and finances. All ROOSTERGNN Academy programs mentioned above are subject to the latest version of the individual program norms, available online at ROOSTERGNN Academy.