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 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 ( 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!” 







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, 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:

University of Dreams Programs: :










Do Interns Become Entrepreneurs ?

16 03 2009

I’m a HUGE advocate for internships. This year has been all about starting my business and creating internship awareness through my listings, blogs, advice, tweets, appearances, speeches, etc. I’ve met all kinds of individuals – mostly students, employers, other career experts, parents, and professors. One of my observations, is that many students that were interns in college have now started their own business. Are there stats on this ? Not yet. This is just a correlation that I’ve observed.

Reasons Interns Become Entrepreneurs

1. INTERNS START THEIR CAREER PATH EARLY. As an intern, you are placed in an office environment at a young age. The earlier you intern, the earlier you start thinking about your professional life. At school, students speak about weekend plans, getting “wasted”, parties, tests, homework, study groups. In the work place, people discuss their futures. The number one question I was asked at my first internship was “So where do you want to go from here ? What’s next?” I had never really been asked that before. My parents cared about me getting good grades. My friends cared about partying,  boys, and when I was available for a trip to the mall. My teachers cared about my grades and attendence. No one had asked about my future. As an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking, “What’s next ? What’s the bigger picture here?”

2. INTERNS LEARN NOT TO GIVE UP. I learned not to give up and to always try all of your options when I got rejected from several internships as a freshman. I dealt with “internship/job-related rejection” at a very young age (18). When I was ready to start my own business, I was very used to this kind of rejection. I think that rejection is what stops lots of people from starting their own business – the fear of rejection. I got over this fear at a young age. I get different types of rejections every day, running my company, but it just makes me try different options and encourages me to keep trucking along.

3. INTERNS MUST GET THINGS DONE – EFFICIENTLY. If you’ve ever had a demanding internship, you know what it’s like to feel rushed and under pressure. My second internship was at BACKSTAGE – theatre trade publication – in New York City. The paper was published twice per week and the office was insane. I had never been around such chaos and personalities in my life. After getting yelled at for not completing an assignment on time, I realized that you don’t have all of the time in the world to complete things. Tasks must be done asap. In my business life, certain companies/people take weeks to get things done. I wouldn’t have my company if I couldn’t get the work done at a rapid pace.

4. INTERNS LEARN RESPONSIBILITY.  During my college career as an intern, I learned the “No One is Capable” mentality. This meant that I was to assume no one was good at their jobs and take everything into my own hands. It was my responsibility to make sure things got done efficiently. As an entrepreneur, we learn that we must be involved with everything – especially at the beginning. I am always involved with every part of my business. I never asssume that someone else will get the job done.

5. INTERNS LEARN THE SATISFACTION OF ACCOMPLISHING A GOAL. Interning is still a newer idea – for both parents and students. The idea of interning becoming a necessity for students is also a new idea. Many students set the goal of achieving one internship before graduating college. If the student achieves this goal, before graduating, they get to think about what is next and what their next goal will be. If you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up (as a freshman in college) I would have said, “A writer.” I interned and then worked for several magazines all through college. As a junior in college, I wanted to be in Publicity. After about 4 or 5 publicity internships, I was ready to move on to the next goal which was running my own business.

What do my Tweeps Think ?

“Not sure it’s causal, but maybe internship experience provides valuable foundational skills for entrepreneurship.” @sweetcareers,

“Some entrepreneurs find that they need to build their own thing at internships. Some others learn what is needed there.” @jjaime,

“Every job I ever had (the few that is) were working for really exciting entrepreneurs!” @ysnjen, 

 Have You Interned and Do you Want to Start a Business ?

“Yes.Zackery Moore, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Cayenne Creative. PR and social marketing.” @zakmo

” I’m Rebecca Eltzroth, my company is Ball and Buck, I interned at local music mgmt firm, maax, the empower program, Sen. Olympia Snowe. @ballandbuck, Owns an organic clothing company,

“Yes. Megan Marquez, DePaul. Intern: atBig City Bride, Jasculca/Terman, Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.” @MZMarquezs.

” I interned @ a black owned cosmetics company (Clear Essence Cosmetics) and i mean, it’s 2009 evry1 is tryin 2 b their own boss.” @MiaMcK

 “I interned at American Cancer Society. I doubt I’d ever start my own business.” @RaylondoCaved.

 “I am interning for The Henry Ford this semester. Yes, I think about it. in 12 years I would like to have a viable corporation.” @jrdbryan

“I would work 4 someone, but also have my own thing on the side. best of both worlds.” @MiaMCK

“PR agencies and a hospital. I’ve never really considered starting my own business, but maybe later down the road.” @heatherdamico.

“All of the time. Not a current intern but I completed 5 before graduating last Aug.” @marerockcity.

Helpful Links: Internships Create Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurial Opporutnity on TechCrunch:

Tips To Land the White House Internship

3 03 2009

The big news last week was that President Barack Obama announced the White House is officially looking for interns. This would be an amazing opportunity for college students. I wanted to take a moment to discuss ways to increase your chances of getting that internship. I’d like to show you how to apply some of my frequent internship advice to this specific opportunity. 

The Wall Street Journal explained the requirements for the White House Internship

“The application requires a resume, three references and requests 300-500 word responses to three essay questions. The questions are as follows:

1. Explain your commitment to public service and service to country generally—include an instance when you asserted your leadership in a community or civic activity, what you learned, and how you think this internship could further advance your leadership and personal goals in this area.

2. Which of the president’s policies, initiatives or campaign achievements is most important to you? Why?

3. Choose one of your preference offices and explain why you want to work there and what you would bring to the office.

The deadline to apply is March 22 and the program runs from May 22 to August 14.”


1. RESUME MAKEOVER. Read the Resume Advice on my previous Blog, Create the Perfect Resume. If you have several previous internships/work experience on your resume, make sure to keep it down to one page. Try to only include relevant work. You are applying to a Public Service internship. Any volunteer work is relevant in this case. Keep your resume in standard and traditional format. No pictures, crazy colors, fonts, patterns, etc. Use a thick cream colored paper if possible. At the bottom, write *References available upon request. This is your chance to sell yourself on paper – look professional and experienced. Take a close look at all of your previous jobs and really expand on your tasks within each job/internship. You want to be clear on your skills and capabilities.

2. GREAT LETTERS OF REC. Just like most formal internship programs, this one requires 3 letters of reccomendation. I suggest college students get one academic reference (professor), one professional reference (former employer), and one character reference (from a family friend). If someone is too busy to write a letter for you, write it yourself and bring it to them. This gives you the opportunity to say what you’d like about yourself and to really make yourself shine. The employer or professor will read over it, hopefully approve it, sign it, and place it on company letterhead. If you can get a letter from a former internship coordinator that would be a bonus. Also, when getting your character reference try to do it from a close family friend that can speak on your loyalty, work ethic, personality, etc. They can sometimes reference more personal situations than employers or professors.

3. CONSTRUCT GREAT TIGHT ESSAYS. When writing your answers to the essay questions, keep your answers tight and try not to go on irrelevant tangents. Remember, someone is reading these and you don’t want to put them to sleep. If you can’t think of a time when you were of great service to the country or took on a leadership role ask your friends and family. The people close to you can help by thinking of times when your leadership skills really stood out in there eyes. It’s always interesting to get the opinion of others and find out what you’ve done to impress them in the past.

4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. The second essay question is a perfect example of why it’s important to research the company (or in this case the President and his policies) before applying for an internship. Make sure that you don’t answer this question blindly. Research The President’s policies completely, before attempting to answer this question. Reference articles, specific Campaign activities/speeches or websites in your essay. This will make you sound more informed and make you look well prepared.

5. APPLY FOR WHAT YOU ARE BEST AT. If your experience is in Public Relations, than apply for the Public Affairs office. Go with where your experience lies. You need to get in the door and applying to a department where you have no experience is too risky for this competitive internship. Look closely at all of the offices you have to choose from, and apply for what you are best trained to do.

You still have time to apply for this so get started and good luck !

I asked my friend’s on Twitter what they thought of the White House Internship Program for Students:

“I think it’s a great opportunity and definitely will look good on any resume.” @schlossy,

“That would be an awesome opportunity 4 anyone who wanted to get in2 politics or public affairs.” @cblaser, Student at University of Oregon.

“Good idea. I bet they learn good habits there.” @bookgirl96, Publicist.

Links to WhiteHouse Internship Stories:

WSJ Blog on WHI:

WhiteHouse on WHI:

EHow On WHI:

Students Should Take Unpaid Internships

19 02 2009



I was in college from 2002 – 2006 and completed 15 internships by graduation (Hence “Intern Queen”). My internships were at a variety of media, PR, marketing, and entertainment companies ranging from big names (FOX, MTV) to smaller names (Moore Public Relations, The Zimmerman Agency). NONE of these internships were Paid opportunities. I received one $100.00 stipend from Moore Public Relations and that’s it – no other monetary compensation. I did get college credit (through my university) for quite a few of my internships.  These internships were my favorite part of college and where I learned the most about myself, my future, and the workplace. I suggest every college student aim to participate in 2-3 internships by the time they graduate college. If you are lucky enough to find a paid internship opportunity, congratulations – they don’t  come around too often ! However, if the field you are interested in does not offer paid opportunities, I encourage you to take on these unpaid opportunities.


Why Students Should Do Unpaid Internships


·         EXPERIENCE. It’s a tough job market right now. You are up against even more job candidates then usual. What do these other job candidates have over you ? Experience. Earn your credibility by participating in an internship. It will stand out on your resume and show that have previously worked/interned in your field of choice.


·         NETWORKING. Everyone you meet during the course of your internship is now a contact. These people can help guide your career path as you make your way into the business world. These people know other people in the industry as well and can provide introductions for you. The fellow interns you meet may also become great contacts in the future.


Note: I still keep in contact with most of my internship coordinators (yes, all 15 of them). I also keep in touch with most of my fellow interns from over the years. Many of these people have gone off to start their own companies and several have helped get me jobs, interviews, and meetings throughout my career.


·         OBSERVING. Over the course of your internships you will be observing the way business professionals in your future industry conduct themselves, their lives, their work. You can really start to build an image of what your life would be like in this specific field. Many internship coordinators and employers will let interns sit in on meetings, attend brainstorms, and ask them tons of questions.


·         HANDS-ON. As an intern, you will be required to participate in several different tasks. Yes, you will most likely have to do the “boring work” aka making copies, making coffee, alphabetizing materials, etc. However, it is important to really learn how to do these tasks properly so that when you do enter the working world, you are already familiar with the basics of any office. Most interns also get a taste of more intricate duties depending on the field you are in.


Note: When I interned at the Zimmerman Agency (Public Relations/Advertising), I learned cold calling, pitching, how to write press releases, putting together press kits, etc. These are skill that should I have entered the Public Relations world, would have put me ahead of other candidates that didn’t have internship experience.


·         PURSUIT OR ELIMINATION. What if my internship doesn’t go well ? Many students worry that their internship experience might not be a great one. Even bad internships are beneficial to students. They help you establish what you like and what you don’t like, what you want to pursue and what you want to eliminate for your future. It’s much better to spend one semester interning at a company to determine it’s bad than to actually get a job and start a career at that company and then find out you aren’t interested.


I asked my Friends on Twitter What They Thought About Unpaid Internships:

“Unpaid internships are an way for students to show committment. Getting paid is easy, working hard for free takes dedication.” @nateerickson, Advertising Student at Michigan State.


“The benefit is def. experience. The downside is not being able to devote all of your time to it b/c you need $ to survive.” @Karahleigh,, Student at Valdosta State.


“I heard a PR pro say unpaid looks better on resume because it proves  the intern is willing to just do the work and take the experience as pay.” @laurgrob,, Student at University of Georgia.


“I’m kind of torn with that. Students with relevant experience shouldn’t do unpaid. It’s like designers working on spec. But then again some student just want SOME experience. Something to put on the resume. Just make sure u dont get ripped off.” @unearthingasia,


“As one of 25 unpaid NPR interns, my decision revolved around: a) make contacts b) get new skills c) learn other side of biz.” @internedition,


“The only reason I can think of for an unpaid internship is college credit. That’s what mine was for.” @jennips,


“I always took the best opportunity to learn. Sometimes that was paid, most of the time it wasn’t. Plus, you can find an org you really want to work for and offer to be an unpaid intern. Great way to get specific experience.” @PatrickEvans,


“I think all internships should be paid. The main reason I didn’t do any internships in college was because I couldn’t afford to.” @stuartcfoster,






Write the Perfect Thank You Note

10 02 2009

I know that it sounds very ‘old school’ but you MUST send a Hand-Written Thank You note after each internship interview. Here are some guidelines on what to include, when to send, etc.


·         WRITE IT. I know it sounds corny but sending a  hand-written note is thoughtful and shows that you wanted to go the extra mile. You could easily send an email but you are NOT going to do that. You are going to send the perfect Thank You Note. This shows that you pay attention to detail and don’t mind a slight inconvenience when it comes to your job.


·         INVEST IN STATIONARY. You will rarely hear me tell you to invest in something but I do suggest buying a nice simple stationary set with your name written on the top. My personal stationary is on small rectangular paper. It is cream colored with a dark red border and reads Lauren Berger on the top. This sort of stationary looks more professional than picking up a box of Thank You cards at the drugstore. Remember to keep this simple – no crazy colors or wild patterns. Think sharp and sophisticated when picking out your stationary.


·         GREET THE EMPLOYER PROPERLY. If the employer told you to call them by their first name, put the first name on the card. If you are at all hesitant than use their last name with a Mr. Mrs. Or Ms.


·         4 LINER. Your Thank You Note should be approximately four lines. The first line should express your thanks for the employer taking time out of their day to sit down with you. The second line should reference your conversation. Line 3 should reiterate that you are extremely interested in the position and Line 4 should state your follow up plans. Below is a sample Thank You Note:




Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me today. I really enjoyed hearing about your career path and the responsibilities of the position. I’m extremely interested in working with you and becoming a part of your team. Again, thank you so much for meeting with me and I’ll follow up with you in one week. Have a wonderful weekend.



Lauren Berger


·         SIGN IT. Make sure you sign your name and don’t forget. I always use “Best” when closing out a letter. Make sure your signature is legible !


·         NO FRILLIES. This means no drawing flowers, butterflies, or writing your name in pretty bubble letters. There should be no extra markings on the envelope.


·         GET IT OUT. If you can get out a Thank You Note, in the same day as you interviewed, that would be great. Get to the Post Office ASAP. Don’t let the employer say, “Where is that Thank You note?”


I aked my Tweeps in the Twitterverse if they had any Thank You Note pointers:


“Don’t wait – do it the SECOND you get home! ” @GinaLaGuardina,


“Tell them to keep it short and sincere.” @Klrabbit,


“Handwritten. Also send it within a couple days. I forgot for several days once and ended up overnighting it.” @obrienmedia,






Helpful Links

From Keppie Careers:

From Alison Doyle on AboutJobs:

Cliff Notes on Thank You Notes:,articleId-27783.html





Another Intern Gets An Internship – You could be next !

1 12 2008

Yes, I’m reaching out to all of you again. Another intern was selected for an internship with the ELEVATION TALENT AGENCY in New York. Here is what she has to say and congrats to Abby !

“The Intern Queen is a wonderful resource that I would highly recommend.  Lauren Berger made the entire process refreshingly simple and surprisingly pleasant. I just picked the jobs I felt interested in, or suited for, and I heard back from interested companies.  I saved myself hours of cold-calling and internet-surfing.  I landed an awesome internship at a talent agency which allowed me to learn about the entertainment industry and develop some great contacts for the future. Thanks so much Intern Queen!”    – Abby, 19, New York

Intern Queen – Placing Interns Every Day !

1 12 2008

Intern Queen – Placing interns every day ! Maybe that should be the new slogan ?? We’ll see…

Hi Lauren!
Thank you so much for all your help. I have found a great position with Gorgeous PR and I am extremely happy to be working there. It is a great company and could never have gotten a position there if it weren’t for your help.
hanks again,

I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully placed an intern at GORGEOUS PR – a great PR firm that posts their internships on I want to congratulate intern, Ashley, who I’m so proud of for getting such a great opportunity ! Ashley, good luck and make sure to make the most out of your internship and keep reading up on tips for how to make your internship a great one ! Soooo proud!!

I will stay in touch with Ashley and see how her experience goes !! I’m sure we will all learn plenty ! Good Job, A !