We are frequently asked about internships – what we want to do, where we want to go – and sometimes finding the perfect internship can be challenging. The biggest challenge is knowing where to start! Some people do several internships throughout their undergraduate degree, but others may wait until the academic advisor brings it up or until it seems like there is no time left to decide. Whichever route you take is okay but the more you prepare, the more likely you are to secure the internship you have always wanted and get a head start on your career!
Let’s start with five essential tips and how to tackle specific situations that will lead to finding the perfect internship/research opportunity:
1) Take time to think for yourself! Ask yourself questions like, what do you want to do, do you want to travel, do you want to stay home, do you want to shadow doctors or intern for lawyers? These questions are necessary, but they all begin with you.
- How to tackle: if you want to travel you need to start looking at internships in your ideal location (Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Kenya, etc.), if you’re going to stay in your city you need to look up organizations and businesses in the area. Get names, phone numbers, emails, and addresses. Make sure you’re on top of your research to show that you’re both prepared and interested!
2) Prepare paperwork beforehand! You cannot find a perfect internship without doing research, asking questions to both the organization and possible network around you. Your resume, references, and cover letters should be detailed to where they coincide with the internship or research that you are seeking.
- How to tackle: research the organization and businesses you’re interested in and learn as much as information as you can. Before you submit any paperwork, make sure the information you listed stands out and highlights the similar qualities for which these individuals may be looking. If you’re looking to intern with teachers, highlight any volunteer experience you may have had working with kids.
3) Your finances! Traveling for an internship or research can be extremely rewarding but there a few things you need to ask yourself. Do you have enough money, is the internship paid or unpaid? Is the organization going to provide stipends for food and travel? These factors matter more than you think as they can make or break an incredible opportunity.
- How to tackle: when looking up internships and contacting directors, do not be afraid to ask questions regarding possible stipends or room and board and travel expenses. Some individuals may not offer specific benefits initially, but if you are an ideal candidate yet express some need, they may be willing to work with you! Asking questions is the key to getting the answers you want!
4) Language barriers! It is no secret that language barriers are hard to overcome and that is okay. However, if you’re looking to travel abroad for internships and research opportunities, you need to consider language beforehand. If you are going to Spain, do you speak Spanish? If you are going to Venice, do you speak Italian? Language plays a huge role, sometimes the biggest, and not being able to communicate can ruin an experience, too. Although speaking fluently is not always necessary for internships abroad, if directors can see that you are attempting to make an effort to communicate in some ways, it can go a long way.
- How to tackle: if you already have a spot secured in a certain location, make sure you know the language they speak. Whether it is Italian, French, Portuguese, make sure you know what you are going to be getting yourself into. Buy a translation dictionary that you can carry with you at all times and brush up on common vocabulary terms before you go, while you are on the plane, and even while you are there. You may not be fluent, but at least people can appreciate your efforts!
5) Don’t stress! Running out of time to find an internship and research topics can be stressful but so can working an internship you never looked into and are stuck for the summer. If you start early enough, finding an internship is way more comfortable than it seems. If you know what you want to do, you know where to start.
- How to tackle: Do not wait until last minute to find an internship because chances will be the ones you really want are already gone. You should never be afraid to get a head start on internships and research opportunities as they always pay off in the long run when looking for actual jobs. Know what you want to do and research as much as you can – the different internships are endless. Don’t give up looking for internships and get stuck with one you may not like. However, if you do get stuck with one you don’t want, remember that internships are not jobs and they can also be a learning experience.
Following these tips can assure you the most beneficial experience when it comes to internships and research opportunities! Traveling abroad can be extremely rewarding, fun, and memorable; however, make sure you are prepared as these possibilities require much more effort than staying inside the US. Aside from doing your own research, check out the SPH internship portal. Good luck!
Georgina, or Gina, is finally a senior at IU, majoring in HDFS with a minor in Criminal Justice. Hobbies include dance, cooking, and spending time with loved ones including her cats Shadow and Mocha. Her future career plan is to attend law school to become a divorce and child custody attorney. Advocate for equality, peace, and self-love, who writes all her blogs with a cup of coffee in her midst!