It’s not uncommon for college students to feel a touch of the wanderlust. An internship abroad is an exciting option; it’s tough to compete with the opportunity to further your education, gain professional experience, and enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences all at the same time. The appeal of an internship abroad is obvious, which means these positions can be highly coveted, competitive, and expensive. It’s true that you’re going to have to work harder for an internship abroad than something local, but landing an internship abroad-and being able to afford to go-is more possible than you might think.
- Pick an affordable destination. The first step in securing an affordable internship is to select an affordable destination. There are a variety of ways to approach this goal; you could consider doing work in countries with a very low cost of living, or those with a high non-profit organization and volunteer presence, for example. While these will likely be unpaid internships, some of that cost is often offset by organizations that will pay for housing and food, and if you have a cause you’re passionate about, this option could be the most rewarding way to get some extra bang for your buck.If your heart is set on something more traditional or touristy than that, don’t despair-it is totally possible to make glamorous destinations like Paris or Rome more affordable if you are looking to maximize your budget. According to Go Overseas, an authority and resource for study and work abroad, “when seeking out more affordable destinations, [you should] look for what’s sometimes referred to as ‘second-tier’ cities. In the US, these are places like San Diego vs. Los Angeles … Dreaming about London? Try Glascow … Eager to be in Paris? Try Lyon … Ready for Rome? Try Budapest.” You can save some serious cash by staying just one city over.
- Don’t pay for the internship itself. This doesn’t mean that you should expect an all-expenses paid trip overseas to work, but it does mean you should think twice about forking over your hard-earned cash on placement fees. It is completely possible to find your own internship, even if it does take a little more work (it’s a learning experience, remember?). Other than being selective about where you decide to go, this is the best way to ensure you’re not spending more than is absolutely necessary.”Take a little initiative and reach out to interesting companies in your target country and propose an internship-just because they aren’t looking for you doesn’t mean they can’t use you … Finding your own internship abroad means that you will have to pay for things like your plane ticket and your housing, but if you are able to obtain a paid internship, it might all balance out,” advises Go Overseas. Be sure to lead with the value you can add to these companies, and remember that it’s possible they’ll be analyzing you closely as you compare to other candidates. Keep your social media accounts clean, do some credit repairing if necessary (lots of employers run credit checks, especially in business spheres!), and keep it professional.
- Do your research on travel arrangements. There are tons of ways to save on airfare and travel if you do some research and make savvy booking decisions. Be sure to investigate and compare the costs of flying both out of and into different cities or airports, since it can be dramatically more affordable to fly only a few hours out of the way. Also remember that flying on different days of the week can greatly affect the cost of your airfare; flying out on a Tuesday or Wednesday is definitely going to be cheaper than a Friday or Sunday.Be conscious of the most affordable modes of transportation at your selected destination, too-it could be a train, bus, cab, or something more exotic, depending on where you land. It’s also absolutely vital that you pack light; not only will you avoid getting slammed with insane airline baggage fees, but you’ll also save money and headache on every other transport you take along the way.
- Be budget (and open) minded. Once you arrive at your destination and start working your internship, continue your penny-pinching mindset. Choose accommodations that reflect not only your desire to save a buck, but also your spirit of adventure. “You can stay in a hostel for the duration of your stay and negotiate a better rate for one or two months, but we find subleasing a room in an apartment to be much more interesting because it provides the opportunity to meet and live with locals,” notes Go Overseas.Remember the reason you chose to intern abroad as opposed to staying home or even in the United States; you want to immerse yourself into the culture as much as possible. Learn to cook local fare at home with your neighbors, shop at local markets, and walk, bicycle, backpack, or hike as much as you can to soak it all in.
With these tips, you can start shaving down the travel budget to a more reasonable figure. An internship abroad is a surefire way to grow as a professional and as a person, so there’s nothing wrong with adopting a “whatever-it-takes” attitude toward getting there!