What is an international internship?

Where to search

How to search

Funding your international internship

Preparing to intern


What is an international internship?

It is easy to identify some international internships given their location: U.S. Embassy in Egypt, CARE in India, HRA Pharma in France.  But it is possible to work with organizations that serve international populations without leaving the U.S. and, in the process, gain valuable international work experience.  For example, Amherst students have worked with the International Rescue Committee in Boston assisting refugees.  Some have interned with educational organizations that cater to international youth on exchange to the U.S. and others at literacy centers teaching English as a foreign language.  There are many different types of international internships; some are through a program (e.g. U.S. State Department Internship Program) while others are sought independently by the student.  Some are paid positions, although most are not.  There are also placement organizations who, for a fee, will find an internship for you in a specific field and/or company.

International internships - like all internships - are excellent ways to gain experience, build your resume, and try out potential career paths but they are unique in that they have the potential to offer you exposure to a different language and culture and an opportunity to enhance your cross-cultural skills.  Basic information about internships is available through the Amherst College Internship Guide.

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Where to Search

Students should consider many factors when choosing an internship, especially one that is located in a foreign culture or country.  The information on this page will help you find an organization that fits your needs and interests and will provide you with a list of resources to get you started. 

PLEASE NOTE:  While we actively encourage and assist students in researching internship opportunities, Amherst College does not endorse any specific organization.  

There are many different types of internships.  Some are through a program provider, some are credit-bearing as part of a study abroad course (please remember Amherst does not award credit for internships), and some are sought out independently by the student.  Your intern experience need not be a paid one; a volunteer experience can still be considered an internship if you have specific job duties and are working closely with an organization or its constituents.

As you'll soon see, there are many organizations to choose from.  It is often helpful to speak with an adviser about the different possibilities available to you.  Please do not hesitate contacting  the Career Center (x2265) or the Center for Community Engagement (x5140) should you want to discuss your internship search.

Online resources:

1.  Quest (in order to access, you need to set up a profile): There is an "international opportunities only" box.
2.  Internships USA: Select "Student Login" on the right--username: Amherst; password: Amh201213.  Look in "Internships in International Affairs" and "Human Rights."   .
3.  LACN: The Liberal Arts Career Network has postings from 28 schools that are part of this network.  Includes placement organizations as well as individual postings.
4.  CareerSearch: Go to the International Search; this is not an internship listing, but rather like an expanded Yellow Pages. 
5.  GoinGlobal is an excellent tool for students who want to intern in one particular country or city.  While the site will list some internships, the most useful resources are the Country Career Guides.  Within these you will find chambers of commerce, professional associations, and other information that will help you locate an organization.
6.  Idealist.org: To cast the widest net, search under "organizations" rather than just those advertising "volunteer opportunities" since many organizations are happy to have an intern but don't necessarily advertise such a position.  Keyword searches are best.
7.  Amherst Career Network (click on "find alumni" from the top right-hand corner once you log into CMS): Contact alumni around the world by searching in "Career Network Search" under "employment city" or "employment country."  Use your best networking skills to find out how Amherst alums found work abroad.
8.  IIE Passport/Internships: Mostly focusing on internship programs for credit, this resource may be helpful for those who want more structure and academic reflection of the experience.  (Please remember Amherst does not grant credit for internship programs.  In rare cases students return to campus and enroll in a Special Topics course for credit that incorporates the internship experience, though.)
9.  InternAbroad.com allows you to search country or program type.  
10.  TransitionsAbroad.com has region- and country-specific articles and resources about working and living abroad.
11.  BUNAC: For a nominal fee, offers a work permit for students to work in Canada, Australia, or New Zealand and assists with job placement. 
12.  Uniworld is a database that allows you to search American companies with overseas offices and foreign companies with offices in the U.S.

Career Center Library resources

Career Center library books:  Listed below are the table of contents for a just a few of the many books available to you.

Staff and Faculty resources

Career Center staff appointments are made by calling x2265.

Center for Community Engagement staff appointments are made by calling x5140.

Examples of organizations that have internship programs

Government, Public Policy

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Brookings Institute

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Council on Foreign Relations

Federal Career Intern Program

Institute for Policy Studies

Salaam Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department

International Development

CARE International

U.S. Agency for International Development

U.S. State Department


Ethiopian Global Initiative


The Economist

Foreign Affairs (a journal on international affairs)


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How to Search

Once you've narrowed down your search to a few organizations, or perhaps just one that you are most interested in, it is important that you ask a few important questions of the organization, and of yourself.  It is important that the organization you intern with can provide you with the skills you hope to gain and will utilize the skills you have to offer.  It is equally important that you support - or are interested in learning about - its mission.  You also want to be sure an organization has a good working history.  Since Amherst College does not endorse any particular organization, it is important for you to conduct thorough research and be sure you are comfortable with what the internship will- or will not - offer.

The questions below may help you research an organization.  This information is also available as a PDF document: Researching Organizations for Your InternshipResearching Organizations for Your Internship.

Questions about the organization you should consider:

1.    Is the organization for-profit or non-profit?
  • If for-profit, check with the Better Business Bureau for information on business reliability, including U.S. companies operating overseas.
  • It is more difficult to verify legitimacy of international non-profits or non-governmental organizations, but there are several resources to help you.  If non-profit and U.S.-based, some charities will be listed with the Better Business Bureau, but there is a more extensive (and also searchable) database with the IRS.  In addition, some foreign embassies based in the U.S. have compiled a list of U.S. companies operating in that country.  Consult the U.S. State Department’s searchable database for foreign embassies in the U.S.  
  • If non-profit and based outside the U.S., search Idealist.org for information on the organization (e.g. mission, program fee and what it may include) but browse with a critical eye, and ask the questions listed below.
2.    Are the organization’s values consistent with your own?  What cultural norms should you take into consideration?  (The mission statement should help guide you.)

3.    How long has the organization been in existence?  If a non-profit, who are the board of directors?

4.    Review the organization’s website.  Is it professional? Are there past participant testimonials available?  If not, contact the organization for a participant list and speak to at least one alumni of the program.  

5.    If there is a program fee, what does it include, e.g. health and/or emergency medical insurance, housing, orientation?  What percentage of the fee covers administrative costs?

6.    What type of pre-departure information is provided?  Health and safety information?  

7.    Is housing provided and, if so, what type? If housing is a home stay, how are the families screened?  Who is the intermediary if the student and/or the family have difficulties?

Pre-departure information you should research:

8.    What cultural differences should you educate yourself about?  Think of religious, gender, racial, ethnic, and sexuality differences and perceptions about these from the host culture.

9.    What physical and mental health information should you be aware of prior to departure?  Will your needs be met while you are at the internship, e.g. will medications you need be available to you?

10.    Is there an orientation and, if so, what does it cover (e.g. cultural norms, health/safety)?

11.    Who are the in-country staff persons (if any)?

12.    Who is the emergency contact and how would you contact this person (e.g. phone, email)?

13.    What protocols are in place for managing a medical emergency?

  • Where is the nearest medical facility?  
  • What can it accommodate (e.g. is it a clinic or hospital)?  
  • How would a student get to this facility?

14.    What are the protocols in place for managing political instability or a similar emergency?  

15.    If an intern is unhappy with the placement, or the organization is unhappy with the student’s performance, how will the situation be managed?  

16.    What types of communication are available to the student, e.g. internet access, cellphone, landline?

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Funding your international internship

It is very difficult to obtain a paid international internship outside your home country for many reasons.  Organizations tend to send seasoned employees knowledgeable of the company's structure and philosophies abroad rather than hire an intern or even, in many cases, recent graduates.  If you want to work abroad in order to gain international experience, securing your own funding will be a great advantage to you.  Imagine being able to tell an organization that you are interested in working with them, but you need not be paid! 

It is especially difficult to be paid as an intern in a developing country, where resources may be short to begin with.  You should also remember that many non-profits and non-government organizations in developing countries may not be familiar with the internship model, and you will need to communicate what you can offer and what you hope to learn while working with the organization.  Navigating this in a different country with possibly a different language will require finesse, patience, and great communication skills!

Below is a list of places to learn about funding opportunities:

  1. The Career Center and the CC have one summer funding page with all opportunities offered by both offices.
  2. Direct apply fellowships resources available through the Fellowships Office.
  3. The Dean of Faculty has information on obtaining funding through grants they sponsor.
  4. IIE Passport lists funding opportunities primarily for study abroad, it has some internship funding as well.

You may want to fundraise, as well.  Many students are able to raise money through community networks, such as the following:

  • Religious organizations
  • Athletic organizations
  • Community centers

Preparing to intern

Before beginning your internship, there are a few essential steps you need to take. 

  1. Check to make sure your health insurance will cover you while on your internship, especially if you are traveling internationally.
  • If you are on Amherst College health insurance it will cover you for twelve months, beginning at the start of the academic year including the breaks in between and during the semesters.   Be sure to call the insurance company and let them know you are traveling, however, and to find out how to submit claims should you need health services during your internship.
  • If you are on a different health insurance policy, call and make sure the country which you intend to work in is covered under your plan.  
  • If you intern overseas, be aware that you often need to pay for medical services upfront and seek reimbursement after submitting receipts upon your return.
2.  Obtain an emergency medical insurance policy if you are traveling internationally, if it is not provided by the organization.  Health insurance plans do not often cover emergency medical services.  There are many companies that offer short-term packages for students traveling abroad (

3.  Consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for updated health information, particularly to find out what vaccines you may need prior to your travel.  

4.  Consult the U.S. State Department's webpage, Students Abroad, for current travel warnings, country information sheets, and other useful information for students going abroad.

5.  For those interning domestically, be sure to read the following to help you make the most of your internship:

6.  For those interning internationally, be sure to read the following to help you make the most of your internship:
7.  For those students interning in a developing country, special thought and attention needs to be devoted to setting expectations about the type of work you'll be doing and the working style you are accustomed to.  Many organizations in the developing world are not familiar with internship programs and how hosting an intern can be a mutually beneficial working relationship.  It will be important for you to understand the working culture of the country where you will intern and how to appropriately consult with your supervisor.  If you are interning with an established program, chances are some of this will be covered should you be provided with an orientation.  If you research an organization independently, though, you will need to navigate these waters by yourself.  Remind yourself from time to time that by interning in a different culture, you are exposed to different work ethics and bureaucracies.

PLEASE NOTE: On rare occasions, a student returns to Amherst and participates in an independent study with a faculty member on a topic related to the internship.  In these cases, credit is awarded based on the academic work performed by the student and evaluated by the faculty member.

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