The Best Way to Jumpstart a Great Internship Abroad

Brian Brinkman

So you’ve realized you need an internship, and you know you want to travel, but you’ve got no idea where to start. Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

In today’s hyper-competitive job market, everyone needs an internship to gain hands-on experience, increase marketability, and boost their resume upon entering the workforce. Further, working and traveling internationally can do wonders to develop a global perspective, teach you about yourself and the world around you, and separate you from your peers.

You know this. You just don’t know what to do about this - Follow the formula below for a great International internship.

Discover your path with an internship abroadDirt Road THrough The Woods

Stat: Roughly only %10 of college students will study abroad, even less will intern abroad. An international internship has been proven to benefit your career.

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself before seeking an internship is “What do I want to do with my life?” There are so many different options for an internship that it helps to have an idea of what it is you’re looking for before you begin the process.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is what you're studying in college what you want to pursue a career in?
  2. Where would you like your career/life to be in five years?
  3. Are you relatively new to your field, or have you been studying this for a few years?
  4. What do you need to take yourself from where you are to where you want to be?
  5. Where do you want to go to accomplish your goals?

Funding an international internship


Understanding these fundamental questions will help you immensely to organize your thoughts, and give you a leg-up in the application process required for any work and travel program. As one of our Internships in London Alumni, Jaqueline Susuni described,

“I knew I wanted to do something in Marketing and Business Strategy. I was a sophomore when I inquired, so I knew I needed to be open-minded because any experience in my field would be valuable to me and my job search down the read. I knew that being in a place where people spoke English was critical, so a Marketing Internship in London just made sense from the start!” 

It’s the unfortunate reality in life: nothing worthwhile is ever free nor easy. The same is true of International Internships. We won’t lie: they are a significant investment.

Yet, when you consider the questionable return on investment that a college degree provides you with today, there’s no way you can afford not to consider the added benefits of an International Internship, especially when they open your career opportunities in so many different ways.

That said, there’s no denying the fact that you must be prepared before you pursue this opportunity. While initially it may seem a daunting feat to raise the additional funds, take out another loan, or ask your parents for some assistance, the experience you’re going to gain will far outweigh any initial fears of financial burden.

Check out this fantastic essay from our resident Dublin Alum, Stephanie Perry which outlines in detail how she funded her own International Internship!

A few other resources to check out:

  1. Scholarships & Financial Aid
  2. Personal Loan Websites like
  3. Fundraising & Kickstarter

More than anything, you want to make sure you’ve established a game plan for how you intend to pay, not only the program fee, but also for your flight, your food, and any other personal expenses while on your internship.

The biggest thing to remember is that this is an important transition from your collegiate studies to your professional life. You want to make sure you’re 100% prepared going in so you’re able to embrace the experience for all it’s worth!

Picking the best international internship program

A wall filled with doors

Tip: It's always a good idea to learn how many students have done their programs and look for testimonials from them on the provider's website.

When you’re looking to travel and work overseas, you’re putting your trust and faith in the hands of a lot of unknown factors. The same can be said of the investment you’re making in enrolling in an International Internship Program.

Before you decide upon a program to intern abroad with, you want to make sure of a few critical things:

  1. How long have they existed?
  2. How many alumni do they have?
  3. Who organizes their placements?
  4. Where is their housing is located in each city?
  5. Do they provide On-The-Ground-Support and 24/7 Emergency Contact?

Check out this helpful guide from our Enrollment Director on how to choose the right international internship program before committing to any organization. As our Internships in London 2014 Alumni Brittany Hanrahan said upon arriving back in the States, 

“The GE process was detailed and extremely helpful. The Placement Team and Advising Team communicated clearly and constantly to find me the best opportunity. They focused on my strengths and listened to who I was to find me the right fit!”

An open mind will open doors

Girl looking out across the water
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I did it on a daily basis. This was more than just an internship. The general appreciation of people I developed on a daily basis was perhaps my biggest takeaway..."  - Brittany Hanrahan

There’s perhaps no better piece of advice one can offer to someone traveling and working overseas. The greatest gift travel can offer is how it shows you the world in all of its beauty and harsh realities.

By embracing all its diversity and difference, you will learn far more about yourself and the world around you than you could have ever imagined. The same is true of an International Internship.

Let’s be real, while you’ve excelled in all of your classes for your major, until you really spend every day working on projects and achieving goals at a job, you have no idea what it’s going to take to get where you’re hoping to go in your career.

An internship is a fantastic opportunity to learn about what you’re really good at in your field, and see what you’d like to be doing on a day-to-day basis. It’s also a great way to see how far you have to go, and how hard to have to work to get where you’re hoping to go in your career.

Back in 2013, GE London Alumni, Jillian Wood found herself working at a Vietnamese Art Gallery for her internship. While prior to starting her internship she had no idea, nor real interest, in the Vietnamese Art Scene, she took a chance, knowing it’d get her foot in the door of the larger art world.

What she soon realized was that her interest in the way art and history intermingle ultimately made the post-war Art Scene from Vietnam fascinating to her. This internship opened doors and further employment opportunities for her that were unattainable before.

Developing her skills in this way has led to two full-time internships in galleries in Internships in New York City, and a return internship in London this summer!

Seek out hands-on experiences

Girl working with fabric
I was able to work with real art on my internship, and I learned I was actually pretty good at selling it. I learned to trust my judgment no matter what..." - Jillian Wood

There’s nothing quite like learning by doing. This, in and of itself, is one of the greatest reasons to pursue an International Internship. But what you’ll quickly learn on an internship is, by gaining hands-on experience within your field, you’ll suddenly be compelled (and able) to get more hands-on experience.

This is ultimately the key to leveraging your internship experience into a career in your field. While in London, Jillian Wood was asked to handle the door for an art exhibition featuring some of the biggest names in the scene during the first week of her internship. What was initially a nerve-wracking experience for this 20-year-old, it showed her that she had was a natural in the field.

Similarly, when Jaqueline Susuni had to present at an Educational Conference to pitch her organization to consultants, she quickly realized how well she could communicate and convince people of her organization’s worth.

During her Event Management Internship, Brittany Hanrahan wore multiple hats from the start. Be it hosting nightlife events, or moderating ticket sales, managing social media, or figuring out new tactics for mass marketing, she had a hand in all aspects of her organizations events.

Diving into her role, Brittany, like Jackie and Jillian, realized all she could accomplish in her field, and was rewarded with more responsibility. Upon arriving back in America, she used this experience to pursue a Sales Position with a national wine distributor.

Without question, the hands-on experience she gained in her internship helped her to transition into her first job out of college.

Establish your network and create connections

Graphic of people connected throughout the continents

Tip: Networking can be as simple as a simple conversation and and an email exchange. Sometimes the best networking is not schmoozy at all.

Beyond the experience gained and skills developed in an International Internship, the network and connections one can establish through this kind of experience is invaluable for your life and your career.

Imagine yourself interviewing for your first job. You have a great conversation, nail all the questions – even the bizarre ones about your spirit animal and favorite 90’s jam – and now it’s time to talk references. Like most of your peers, you could have the usual line-up: professors, community leaders, & your manager at that part-time summer job.

Or, you could have your boss from your internship in Dublin, the guy with the unique accent, and his/her stories of how you flew across the pond to work and live in a completely foreign place, all while nailing all the tasks given to you!

What’s more, is, that by having an open mind, and pursuing hands-one experiences within your internship, you’re bound to meet more people associated with your internship and field. These people will in turn introduce you to even more people, and before long you’ll have a massive network of people to turn to for advice and resources.

Networking also teaches you the valuable lesson of respecting those you work with and the work you represent. When you’re constantly expanding your network, you’re more inclined to have a sense of responsibility for your work.

This makes you work harder and better for, not just yourself, but also the people around you. Like Jacqueline and Jillian learned on their internships, having a great relationship with their bosses made all the difference. They keep in contact with them to this day and know that if they wanted to return to London for work, they could do so in a heartbeat.

Challenge the known and embrace the unknown 

Traveler looking above on road
"Being given the confidence to know that you can achieve anything took me a long way. GE is the channel in which people can go and have these amazing experiences." - Jacqueline Susnuni

Why take the chance to pursue the career field you love, in a foreign country, if not for the unknown benefits and life lessons that are sure to come your way? At its root, the best reason to travel and gain experience in the field you’re passionate about, is for the thrill of discovering something about yourself, and something about the world that you didn’t know before.

While it takes a lot of commitment and planning, if you’re up for the challenge, there are few other opportunities to learn and drive your life forward than with an International Internship. But don’t let me be the one to convince you.

Find a career you will love

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