Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Securing a suitable internship can be a complicated process. To facilitate this process we have attempted to answer some of the most common questions asked by students who are interested in international internships. If you have additional questions, contact the IIP office!
What exactly is an international internship? Is any summer job in a foreign country considered an internship?
For the purposes of our program, an internship is an eight week period of work abroad that provides a serious learning experience in an academic or professional field. Ideally, it should relate to your academic field of interest and take place in a country where you can improve your language skills. Service industry work, such as being a bartender, waiter, nanny, shop clerk, or ticket collector, does not qualify as an internship.
When should I begin looking for and applying for a summer internship?
While internships have varying application deadlines, we advise you to begin your search as soon as possible. You will need time to acquaint yourself with the application requirements, secure letters of recommendation, work permits, if necessary, and funding. While it may be possible to find an internship late in the academic year for the upcoming summer, you will limit your possibilities by delaying your search. Note that the deadline for Princeton in France and IIP Placements is in mid-December. The deadline to apply for funding from the IIP for an internship you have found on your own is in mid-March.
Will the International Internship Program find an internship for me?
Our office and website can direct you to opportunities offered by Princeton and outside organizations. In all cases, you will be asked to submit credentials for the internship. The International Internship Program can also advise you in the preparation of your application, whether it is reviewed internally or externally. Applying for a summer internship has more in common with applying for a job than with signing up for a course. While we can offer guidance in many areas, communicating with your employer at every stage is your responsibility, as are obtaining work permits and special visas, if necessary.
Where can I find an internship?
The IIP website includes listings of internships that have been arranged exclusively for Princeton students (IIP Placements), internships provided through other programs on campus, and various other internship opportunities that we can recommend based on what we know to be the quality and reliability of the sponsor.
Many students find summer internships through friends and family connections, as well as by simply writing directly to organizations, companies, or government agencies. Regardless of how you obtain an internship, the IIP can help direct you to possible funding sources and will utilize the resources on campus to give you an orientation before you leave.
How do I know what kind of internship will be best for me?
It is best to choose an internship that is related to your major or a personal passion or interest, such as the arts, theater, politics, or international development. If you are studying a foreign language, a summer internship requiring you to work in that language, in a field of your interest, would be appropriate. Decide beforehand what you want to get out of an internship, what you are willing to put into it, and whether you have the language skills to work day-to-day in another language. Because internships involve foreign travel, you must decide how far away from home you want to be, how important modern conveniences are to you, and how prepared you feel for the hardships and hurdles you are likely to encounter living and working in another country.
How can I avoid doing clerical work as an intern?
It may well be that clerical work will be part of your internship, but a lot depends on the organization that hires you, as well as on your personal skills. Be sure that your resume mentions your specific skills, experience, and interests. For example, fluency in the language of the country will give you a better chance to get involved in the kind of work that is usually done only by local personnel. Good computer skills are also very valuable in countries where the work force is not as computer literate as many American college students.
Can I expect to be paid for my internship?
Every organization or company is different. Although it is possible to obtain paid internships abroad, most of the opportunities that you may find attractive or challenging are probably unpaid. Some organizations do, however, offer a small stipend, usually not large enough to cover housing or airfare. In some countries, it is illegal to pay interns who cannot get a work permit; in others, the concept of internships is not very developed and systems are not in place to advertise for and compensate interns. This is often the case in many Latin America countries, where private organizations or small firms do not arrange work permits but are happy to receive and train students during the summer.
You'll find that some voluntary and non-profit organizations where you might work charge you a fee. This fee may cover accommodations, meals, transportation, and, in very few cases, airfare. If you are financially able to forego a salary, you can consider an unpaid internship. Some unpaid internships include housing accommodations. Almost all programs and organizations are very clear about what they can offer you. If they are not, make sure you ask before you commit yourself to the internship.
What is the length of most internships?
To be funded by the IIP, an internship must be at least eight weeks long. Internships lasting three to four months are more appropriate for graduating seniors or graduate students.
Under what circumstances will I need a work permit and/or special visa?
Most countries in Europe and Latin America require a special permit for non-nationals in a paid position. If you secure an internship listed as unpaid but which offers you a stipend, you'll probably be able to work without a permit because the stipend will not be considered a salary, but rather a form of allowance. This saves your employer the bureaucratic complications of arranging the permit for you. However, you must make sure that you are legally permitted to receive whatever compensation is being offered. Most embassies and consulates keep updated information on visa and work permit requirements.
Should I secure funding first and then apply for the job, or vice versa?
The best way to proceed is to secure the internship first, particularly if you are applying to organizations that offer only a handful of desirable opportunities, such as the U.S. State Department. You will also find that applications for funds require specific information about the activity or project you wish to undertake. The IIP website lists funding sources available to Princeton students.
Can I receive academic credit for my internship?
No. Princeton does not give academic credit for summer internships.