As a university student, you are gaining a robust knowledge base that you can apply to your future career path. Through your classes, labs, and leadership roles, you are building a skill set that will propel you into the workforce post graduation. As you iron out your schedule and settle into the rhythm of college life, you may have the future on your mind, and one question in particular: how to get an internship?
That’s why, at Global Internships, we’re happy to help international students find programs in the United States that fit their needs. We can support you in everything from getting your J-1 visa to verifying the reliability of a host company. We want you to be as prepared for your professional life as you possibly can be. Getting experience during college or university is critical in this endeavor. And it’s possible now that the United States has eased its travel restrictions.
We’ve put together this handy guide to help you learn the basics. We’ll cover:
- In-person internships
- Remote/virtual student internships
- Tips for intern employers
- Interview prep suggestions
We know that internships are a key success factor for young professionals’ early careers just after graduation. In fact, in a 2017 report, Mount Holyoke University and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that internships improve the career prospects of recent grads.
However, the pandemic has greatly affected the job market. We understand that you may be concerned about finding meaningful opportunities right now.
When you’re done reading this article, you’ll be armed with information you can use to start your internship search today.
Types of Internships
Before you even begin your search, you’ll need to decide what type of internship you are looking for. As the pandemic continues to mold workplace norms, internship settings broaden. Many companies also offer virtual internships.
As you ponder what may work best for you, reflect on the following questions:
- Do I want to explore a new place?
- Am I looking for cultural exchange?
- Am I able to manage my time outside of an office environment?
- Am I willing to go above and beyond to make connections?
- Do I prefer networking in person?
- Am I able to travel in my current financial situation?
Answers to the above questions can help you determine whether a virtual or in-person internship will best serve your circumstances, needs, and career goals. In the next few paragraphs, we’ll explore the upsides and downsides of both remote and in-person internships.
In-Person Internships: Exchange Visitor Opportunities
Did your answers to the above questions reflect a desire to travel, connect with people in person, and participate in cultural exchange? Then you may be ready to begin the search for an in-person internship. More specifically, a J-1 visa internship in the United States.
J-1 internships are part of the Exchange Visitor Program, originally designed to foster positive relations between the U.S. and other countries. While the program is still wonderful for cultural exchange, it also boasts robust offerings for career preparation and advancement.
Interns in the Exchange Visitor Program travel to the U.S. to complete their program, generally for a period of 6 to 12 months. During this time, interns will:
- Complete work duties relevant to their chosen industry
- Participate in cultural exchange with co-workers
- Expand their personal and professional networks
- Refine their command of the English language
If you are motivated to go this route, you will need to apply for a J-1 visa. This type of visa is specific to the Exchange Visitor Program and allows for non-immigrant travel and stays within the U.S.
Visa sponsors (like us!) are requirements in this process. We have decades of expertise and can guide you throughout the process.
Securing a J-1 visa is a time-consuming, document-heavy process. The good news is, we’re well-versed in it all. We will ensure you understand how to complete important tasks like:
- Applying for a DS-2019
- Planning your program in a DS-7002
- Acing your visa interview
As a U.S-approved sponsor, we’re qualified to help you navigate all of the details that becoming an exchange visitor entails.
If you’d like to learn more, let's get in touch.
Hospitality and Culinary Internships
Do you enjoy a good meal and a great view? If so, our partners’ in-person hospitality internships would make you very happy. From New Orleans’ French Quarter to Colorado’s mountain ranges, our host company partners offer rewarding internship programs with impressive destinations built-in.
Not only do these programs come with beautiful workplaces (luxury hotels, nearby beaches, art galleries…), but they’ll also prepare you for a career in the hospitality industry.
As the pandemic’s grip on daily life loosens, people living in the U.S. continue to pursue more domestic travel. 80% of respondents to a TripAdvisor survey indicated they planned to go on at least one overnight domestic trip in the U.S. during 2021.
This demonstrates that while COVID-19 dealt a heavy blow to the hospitality and tourism sector, people are ready to get back into the world. With travel back on the rise, now is an excellent time to learn the ins and outs of the hospitality industry.
Examples of our hospitality and culinary internship offerings include:
- A food and beverage program at a hotel exuding Southern charm
- A front office program at a charming hotel on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean
- A food and beverage position at a luxury hotel with an amazing mountain view
- A culinary program at a unique desert resort in Palm Springs, California
These all sound like a dream, we know! If you’re ready to apply, the first step is creating an account with us.
Virtual Internships: No Visa Necessary
If your circumstances don’t lend themselves to travel right now, that doesn’t mean your internship opportunities are gone. In fact, many companies have hired virtual interns (even before the pandemic started).
Remote internships come with many benefits, including:
- Flexibility of location (read: no commute!)
- Flexibility of hours (arrange your schedule to allow both work and classes)
- Opportunities to learn and master many online office tools (Slack, Trello, Google Suite)
Plus – since you won’t need to travel out of the country – there’s no need to apply for a visa to complete a virtual internship. Essentially, remote internships allow you to reap the career benefits of positions at international companies, without the added process of traveling and securing proper documentation.
Working with Startups
Besides big-name companies, a great place to land a virtual internship is at a startup. These workplaces can provide mutually beneficial relationships for both interns and host companies. But first things first: what’s in it for the interns?
Startups, as the name implies, are companies just beginning to come together. This means you can wear multiple hats and learn many new skills, like operations, business development, and marketing. If you can’t or don’t have the bandwidth to fly to another country, but you have time to dedicate to an internship and work ethic to match, a remote internship at a startup is an excellent option.
Remote internships at startups will provide you with:
- Experiential learning opportunities
- Plenty of bullet points to add to your resume
- An insider’s look into what it takes to start and scale a company
- A network of incredible talent
- New mentors
You can thrive in remote student internships. Like any opportunity, you’ll get out of it what you’re willing to put into it. To truly get the full intern experience and learn as you go, we recommend:
- Asking to sit in on meetings that interest you
- Reaching out to senior coworkers to chat about their career paths
- Identifying and connecting with potential career mentors
- Being dedicated to learning
- Taking initiative
- Showing curiosity
- Approaching your work with enthusiasm
When you come to the table eager to learn and contribute, others will reciprocate. A virtual internship could be one of the best career experience you’ll have yet!
At Global Internships, we maintain relationships with many start-ups and tech companies. We’ve worked with companies like Ripple, Superhuman, MemSQL, Splunk, and Lime. This means we have access to internships you might not hear of elsewhere. Plus, we can help you with hard-to-navigate paperwork, like taxes and payment in local currency.
If you think you’d benefit from our connections to startups (plus our employment paperwork services), feel free to request info.
Why Start-ups Should Invest in Interns
We want to emphasize that internships aren’t just beneficial for interns. They’re good for host companies too. For startups, international internships can:
- Help startups find top talent by broadening their applicant pools
- Widen new companies’ international presence and networks
- Strengthen relationships with Gen Z and millennial customers through interns’ global insights
How to Create an Exceptional Internship Experience
To reap these benefits, startups need to get organized.
Some key components that help employers make the most of internships are the following:
- Modify your recruitment strategy. Broadening your applicant pool to include international students requires refreshed procedures. For example, consider adding descriptions of cultural opportunities to job listings.
- Up your communication game. Cross-culture relationships require better communication tools and procedures. Online tools can also help. Consider investing in apps like Slack, Airtable, or Trello.
- Schedule weekly check-ins. International interns will be navigating living in a whole new country. The least you can do is ensure that on-the-job communication is clear. Implementing a regular meeting can help.
- Consider a rotating internship program. Having interns switch departments throughout their time with your company will ensure they have plenty of opportunities to learn new skills and observe different facets of the organization.
- Be intentional about mentorship and management matches. Does manager Maria have little time on her plate to take an intern under her wing? Then don’t ask her to mentor one. Does new-hire Alex love training coworkers and talking about their position? Then they would be a great candidate for mentorship. You’ll want international interns to have a company mentor so they can learn and feel included. Be intentional about the mentors and managers you assign them.
- Document processes. Your intern will value your expertise, but they’d rather not sit through an hour-long lecture on company protocol. Consider creating an intern handbook that covers all the details they’ll need to know.
- Do progress assessments. Interns may have a hard time gauging how well they are performing. Take out the guesswork for them by doing a few performance assessments throughout their program.
- Set aside time for team connection. Cultural exchange is a required component of J-1 internships. Plan a company sporting outing or trip to a local museum. This will help your interns feel more connected, and help all coworkers build community.
The crux of many of the above suggestions is connection and time dedicated to cultural exchange. Hosting a J-1 intern is a chance for your whole office to come together and celebrate and exchange knowledge and traditions.
How to Apply for an Internship
Once you’ve decided what internship route you’re going, it’s time to start looking at specific openings.
If you’re currently on a college campus, it would be worth your time to stop in at your university’s career center. Staff members in these offices are experts in connecting students with all types of jobs and internships. In a meeting with them, you can talk about your career goals and use them to develop a strategy for your search.
After that, it’s time to check out the job boards. Popular options include:
- Global Internships’ internship database
Many of these websites allow you to create an advanced search where you can filter options based on location, paid/unpaid, and industry. Narrowing your query will leave you with fewer results, but these results will be more relevant to your specific needs as an applicant.
Another strategy for finding worthwhile opportunities is to make new connections. A survey conducted by NACE in early 2020 demonstrated the importance of networking. Surprisingly, students who engaged in “cold networking” (reaching out to strangers) were twice as likely to secure internships than students who engaged in “warm networking” (reaching out to family and friends).
This was especially true for first generation college students. The survey found that these students struggled with feelings of insignificance and imposter syndrome. However, networking boosted their confidence.
The takeaway is this: going out of your comfort zone to connect with professionals in your field can help you make professional and personal strides towards your career goals.
Intern Interview 101
When you get an email asking to set up an interview, celebrate! Then, prepare to interview for an internship.
Since you’ll be in another country at the time of your interview, it will likely be virtual. Remote interviews have some benefits, for sure. There’s no worry of getting lost on the way to a new office. However, you will have to put more effort into presentation on your end.
Take some time a day or two before your virtual interview to decide where you’ll place your device. Lighting is key. If you can position yourself so that a window will illuminate you, great! If not, try arranging lamps to light your face from the front (rather than from above or behind).
Once you’ve got your lighting sorted out, take stock of your backdrop. You want to strike a balance and avoid both cluttered areas and empty walls. Placing yourself in front of some houseplants or simple wall art is a safe bet.
Taking the time to figure out the details in advance will give you breathing room (or time to get pumped up for success!) before your actual interview.
Preparing for Potential Interview Questions
Of course, even more important than how you present yourself is the content of your answers. Make sure to prepare for these commonly asked questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What are you expecting to get out of this internship?
- How do you handle conflict? (Or other behavioral questions)
When these questions catch you off guard, they can be difficult to answer. Luckily, you’re hearing them now! You have time to prepare.
For remote internships, get ready to answer these questions:
- How do you schedule your day?
- How do you use different communication tools in different situations?
- Why do you want to work remotely?
- How do you prioritize tasks?
- How do you prepare for meetings?
- How do you plan to balance your work and personal life?
- If you encountered an obstacle or problem while the rest of the team was offline, how would you go about solving it?
- What’s your biggest concern about this remote internship?
Take some time to write out your answers and then speak them aloud–to your own reflection or to a friend. The goal isn’t memorization, but rather to have a plan for points to hit on so that you don’t stumble over your words.
Make sure to research the company, its industry, and the position, so that you can demonstrate to your interviewer that you are excited about the role.
With a bit of practice, you’ll be ready to ace your interview and land an awesome internship.
Getting Ready for 2022
The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult. That doesn’t mean that launching your career has to be. 2022 is on the horizon, and we’re ready to help you make the most of this new year.
At Global Internships, we work to see international students and U.S-based companies thrive through meaningful cultural exchange and mutually beneficial work opportunities. We can meet your individual needs. Our services include:
- Internship matching
- Visa sponsorship
- Payroll and currency exchange expertise
- Emergency support
Ensuring you have a smooth path towards your career goals is our specialty. You can contact us for more information.
In the meantime, we wish you well on your quest for an internship. You’ve got this!