Advice For International Students Seeking Internships in the United States

30 03 2009

I’m constantly amazed by the amount of International students that find my site and are applying for my internships on http://www.quarterlife.com/intern. Students in France, London, Ireland, Austria, Japan, Canada and Germany are some of the most frequent visitors to my webpages. I read tons and tons of cover letters and resumes displaying ambition and desire to come to the United States and work in the Journalism, Fashion, Publicity, and Entertainment industries. It is interesting that in a time like this we have such strong interest from students abroad to come to the United States and intern – but the numbers are there and increasing daily.

I held 15 internships when I was in college and through all of those internships, I only knew one student (a close friend) that had come from another country, Canada, to intern in New York City. Alyson Campbell (@alyamp3) and I met at NYU where we were both staying for internships during the summer of 2003. Aly was interning at Arista Records at the time (a hard-to-get internship in the music industry). Aly did tell me about the challenge of getting a VISA and coming to the US to intern – but she had a “go getter/can-do” attitude about it and she got it done. Aly loved New York so much that she ended up moving back after graduating college. She now runs a super successful start-up PR Firm called, AMP3 (http://amp3pr.com/). We continue to be close friends. If Aly can do it – you can all do it. So get out there and do what you need to do to come to the United States and intern. I asked Aly to explain what she went through and to get her advice for other students:

As a Canadian, interning in the United States was a valuable and life-changing experience for me, because of the industry I was pursuing (music/entertainment business). Finding an internship was no easy feat, though.  I applied to numerous opportunities, but ran into many situations where it required that I was working for college credit (at a US-based college only) or several organizations that simply weren’t willing to go through the time and effort of the due-diligence involved in hiring an international student under the proper regulations.  A word to the wise, if you’re a Canadian student looking to intern in the U.S., you’ll need either a B-1 Visa or a J-1 Visa (both of which can be attained as long as you have a legitimate job offer and you apply at least 6-8 weeks in advance).  The J-1 “trainee” visa is also a great option for recent grads who are open to taking on an internship (verses an entry-level position), as it is a relatively easy work visa to secure, as long as you are within 18 months of when you graduated.  My first internship was between my 3rd and 4th year of university, and looking back, I wish I had been doing internships all along like my girl, The Intern Queen!  My first internship at Arista Records in New York City was truly a life-changing and career-changing opportunity that I will never forget!” 

 

 

TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS SEEKING INTERNSHIPS IN THE US

 

 

 

1.       GET THE INTERNSHIP. Companies will look at your resume even though you live out of the country. Send your materials in like any other student and be sure to include when you plan on coming to the US in your Cover Letter. Find out if your school can provide you with any type of internship credit or recognition. Many companies will wave their “credit only” policy if they see that you are an International student. Apply for as many internships as you can. I normally suggest that US students apply for 10-15 opportunities each semester. As an International Student, I would double that number. Make sure you are aware of the VISA process and what you will need to do to get to the US before getting on the phone with an internship coordinator for an interview. You want to be knowledgeable about the process you have ahead of you. Most internship coordinators will NOT know how to help you get to the United States. You will have to take the lead on this one.

2.       FIGURE OUT WHAT TYPE OF VISA YOU NEED. The number one problem I hear about from International students is getting the proper VISA to visit the United States. The best resource I found for this was on the US DEPARTMENT OF STATE Website, http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html. You can search by your specific country and find out what type of VISA you need. Each country has different specifications.

3.       GET YOUR PASSPORT ASAP. Students will definitely need Passports to travel internationally. This is something that can be done quickly but keep in mind it does take 2-4 weeks to get your Passport back. Do this as soon as you decide you will be traveling abroad.

4.       START THE PROCESS EARLY. Getting an International student VISA is a headache in itself. There are so many different forms to fill out and all kinds of documents that need to be prepared. Make a checklist of all of these documents to make the process run as smooth and organized as possible. Examples of documents you may need include: school transcript, any standardized testing scores, bank statements from your parents (proving that they can cover your expenses while in the US), etc. Each student will also need to contact  the local Embassy about setting up an interview. Everyone must set an interview before their VISA can be fully processed.

5.       120 DAY NOTIFICATION. International student VISAS will not be approved or denied until 120 days (or less) before your internship start date. This does cause a bit of a time crunch. Be prepared  for this and make sure to determine when that 120 day mark will be.

6.       KEEP YOUR TIMEFRAME ORGANIZED. The National Homeland Security allows International students to come into the United States only 30 days (or less) prior to the start date of the internship. When you make your travel plans keep this timeframe in mind. If this is a problem, there are several additional “special” permits students can apply for on the US Department of State Website.

7.       HAVE PATIENCE. We all know that this can be a long and drawn out process. Be as patient as you can, use your checklist, and stay calm. Be as respectful as possible to everyone you speak with at the Embassy. Speak with your professors and make sure you are doing everything in your power to help execute the process.

8.       BE FRANK WITH YOUR INTERNSHIP COORDINATOR. Make sure that your internship coordinator understands where you are traveling from and the entire process. You want to come across organized and make sure you sound confident in the process. You want your internship coordinator to feel like they can totally rely on you to be present at your start date. If they feel that you aren’t confident, they might start to feel the same way and get someone else to replace you. Stay in communication with them and let them know that you have everything under control.

9.       MINIMIZE THE LANGUAGE AND CULTURE GAP. There are going to be many challenges when interning in the US. You are dealing with a new language (sometimes), new ways of doing business, and new ways of communicating. Practice your English as frequently as possible and try to read newspaper articles, web articles, magazines, trade publications about the industry you are interning within. It’s important to try and understand the nature of the field you are going into. Conducting research will also help you identify commonly used terms in that field. You want to make the language/culture barrier as minimal as possible.

10.   BE CONFIDENT. Students come to the US everyday to Intern. This can be done. Know that it will work out, know that you will get the paperwork done, and know that you are the ULTIMATE INTERN and that any US company would be LUCKY to have you. A few obstacles never hurt anyone J Good luck !

 

I asked my friends on Twitter what they thought about International Internships:

Why have the number of International students coming to the US to intern increased ?

jjaime@InternQueen It gives a broader experience, a look at new industries and finally the contacts they make.

hanztarore@InternQueen Cause US is a high standard that they use to increase bargain pwr :) Many still want to work there despite current crisis there.

DisneyEC@InternQueen Because the US is the LAND of OPPORTUNITY and people all over the world realize it, even when we forget at times.

AlyAMP3@InternQueen to answer your other Q about why international students come to the U.S., “It’s all about the American Dream”

katrynad@InternQueen The opportunities in film industry. There is just not the same amount of opportunity here, there never has been.

Kissandtell@InternQueen for me it offered greater opportunities.

internSHARE@InternQueen from what I’ve heard with internSHARE it has a lot to with opening the door for future employment and eventually moving there.

ericleebow@InternQueen it’s because they are not offered the same exact opportunities, and it gives them a reason to travel to the US. Why not?

nateerickson@InternQueen No clue. Do they want Americans overseas or would they rather hire their own?

rosettathurman@InternQueen well, according to all the political pundits, the whole world is having an Obama lovefest, so that may be a factor.

Jmal18@InternQueen awesome esl programs

rjjago@InternQueen The US govn’t. is opening up new internship programs like the W.E.S.T. program for Koreans.

What do you think about International Internships ?

juezou@InternQueen I want to know the answer too since I’m an international student here.

USCherie@InternQueen visa issues aside, why not? Esp for companies interested in global business and the interns have what it takes.

jaime@InternQueen Being international it’s been difficult looking for internships, even if you’re studying in the US.

ambranykol@InternQueen as a former Campus Recruiter I’d say that Int’l students will have better bets going after internships at software companies.

Helpful Links/Resources:

US Dept. of State: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html#apply

University of Dreams Programs: http://www.summerinternships.com

InternationalStudent.com: http://www.internationalstudent.com/study_usa/

USA-Internships.com: http://www.usa-internships.com/

Macquil.com : http://www.macquil.com/articles/internships.php

Experience.com: http://www.experience.com/alumnus/article?channel_id=internships&source_page=additional_articles&article_id=article_1126286322658

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 








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