Written by Emery Weinstein, a WCAS senior studying health policy and sociology, and a 2015 Summer Internship Grant Program recipient, during her summer in Paris.
I am currently spending the summer in Paris, France working on a paper for the Health Division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Here, I can meet people from all over the world, learn a new language, and, most importantly, eat “fromage.” Snagging an experience like this is within reach; however, finding a summer internship in another country is difficult and travelling abroad for an unpaid internship is expensive. Here are some tips for securing that summer internship in the city of your dreams.
- Do proactive research
Figuring out your summer plans is difficult so it is important to do some research to figure out what you want to do. Brainstorm your personal interests, professional goals, and workplaces of interest with everyone you know. Try to think of people you admire professionally and go to the office hours of the Northwestern University professors whose classes interest you. I think the best “networking events” come from meeting people organically through attending speaker events or club meetings related to an area of interest that you both share. This will automatically demonstrate a sincere interest in this field and will give you something to connect through. Do research on the internet to find out what kinds of jobs exist in an industry of your choice. Talk to your college advisor, your grandparents, past coworkers, with your professors in order to get more ideas about what others have done and do. Think about what your strengths are and your past experiences so that you can consider how this might lead to other opportunities. This will help give you confidence in figuring out your summer plans. From this research you can begin to think of the kinds of opportunities out there.
- Be bold and reach out to people
Connecting with people is a great way to learn about new opportunities. However, it is always important to do so with grace. Ask for an informational interview. An informational interview is held in order to find out more information about a company, industry or position. Reach out to people for informational interviews to learn more about what they do and their professional background. (Tip: Do this whenever you meet someone interesting. When you are looking for jobs in the future it will come in handy to have established a relationship with these people or at least to be able to refer to a past conversation you have had.) You can attach your resume to this e-mail request to provide some background information on yourself. Talk to people who are doing interesting things and prepare questions. If you have worked on a project recently in their field, bring it up during this conversation. If you read a paper that they wrote that interested you, also bring that up. You can tell people what you are interested in and ask them if they know anyone else who might be able to talk to you and give you another perspective. Also, if they do interesting work, ask if you can help out somehow. You may be able to work for them either formally through the company or organization they work for or informally through the creation of an independent research project or shadowing. Do not be afraid to tell people if you have an idea that could use their help and the resources available, that I will discuss next, through your university to make it happen. Remember that you have plenty to offer and plenty to learn.
- Find partners
There are organizations out there who have similar goals to yours and who fulfill their own mission by helping you. Work with them to create a win-win situation! These organizations may help you find your summer plans and can help provide financial support for your travel budget. Some helpful resources for finding internships and fellowships abroad are the Office of Fellowships and Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA). NCA offers the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) which may support anything from a research project in Argentina, an internship in London, or your dream of filming a documentary in Turkey. Northwestern departments related to international topics are the International Program Development (IPD) and the Buffett Institute. Also, Undergraduate Research Grants are available through many departments. You can turn virtually any research question into an independent research project for the summer. I know of people who have used these to do anything from researching health care coverage in France to the impact of rap music. Talking to professors in any department in the field of your interest can help you narrow your focus. Talking to librarians at University Library can help you find background research for your grant proposal and research paper. Talking to research advisors in the Office of Undergraduate Research can help guide you and help perfect your grant proposal. These grants can help financially support your summer of research abroad. These organizations are available to help you find and fund your internship abroad.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
You are a student and people like to help students. Our university has many resources available. If you reach out to an organization and share with them your summer plans and your qualms, you may get the help you need. If something does not work out the first time: try and try again. If you come across a barrier think of the different departments that are staffed with professionals available to help you. An organization that helps connect students with international programs may not outright say on their website that they offer funding for internships abroad but you should reach out to them for this sort of support. In your request make sure to be a valuable asset to them in return. You may offer to blog for them, take photos for their website, and promote the mission of their organization through your work in return for some financial support for your budget. Be creative, helpful, open and flexible in your request. There are many resources out there that are willing to help you have the best summer of your life.