These opportunities are generally open to all students in the United States, but securing an internship as an international student can add a new layer of challenge to an already difficult process. If you are thinking about how to find, secure, and make the best use of any potential internship opportunities in your area, consider the following items before starting your search:
1. You must distinguish yourself
Just like an employment search, an internship search takes time, care, and attention to detail. Internships are often in short supply, and there may be considerable competition for the most attractive positions. This is in part because internships can serve as a springboard to a strong career, as well as because they offer the opportunity to form connections with those individuals who are well established in your intended field. Given this competition, you might wonder how you can get your proverbial foot in the door.
The best place to begin is by ensuring that your name and/or work is recognized by others in your field. Rather than rush into an internship this semester, set a goal of securing one in the following semester. In the meantime, you can establish an online presence by participating in groups or message boards that are related to your subject, or by starting a blog. You can also reach out to faculty or community members who work in your area—once you have, ask for their advice. The objective is to make yourself more recognizable, which can be done in a number of creative ways. No matter what approach you ultimately decide to take, remember that this is not the time to be modest about your accomplishments.
2. It is wise to begin with the international student services office
One reason that it may be more difficult for international students to secure an internship is because there are certain regulations that dictate what international students can and cannot do in regards to employment. These regulations can be complicated, and they are very important, so do not ignore them or rely on secondhand information from friends.
Instead, visit your school’s international student services office. This office exists to assist students with situations like the one above. Before submitting any applications or resumes, check in with the international student services office to gather all the necessary need-to-know information. The office may also be aware of certain internship opportunities that are specifically designed for international students.
3. You should feel free to ask questions
When it comes time to start your career, there are few things on your resume more valuable than professional experience. This is why internships are so important, and it is also why you should make the most of your internship experience. If you are relatively unfamiliar with the sub-field in which you ultimately intern, use the opportunity to gain new skills and to gain insight into the nuances and specific tasks required of employees or specialists.
This is also the perfect time to ask as many questions as possible. Depending on your personality or culture, you may not feel entirely comfortable asking questions of your supervisor, but that is precisely what an internship is intended for. In fact, most supervisors expect that interns will have many questions, and they are usually more than happy to answer them.
When your internship is over, you want to be able to leave with as much new knowledge and understanding as possible, so be observant, work hard, and be sure to ask questions.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.