As study abroad programs become more popular, career services is also seeing an increase in students’ interest in working and living abroad. For some students, their academic schedule doesn’t allow time to stray from UVA coursework. Many students tell us they want to work in international development or another public service field, and that international experience can help them clarify their career ideas. For others, the appeal of living and working abroad is to have an adventure as a college student. Whatever the reason for your interest, we want to help you figure out how to find the right program and how to get organized for your international experience. The most important factor in your planning is timing—start as early as possible! Here are a couple of steps to consider starting with:
1) Develop your goals. What are you looking to do while living and working abroad? Do you want to go to Milan to learn about fashion careers? Would an internship in Ireland help you to understand museums or cultural heritage sites? How might you learn about the medical profession through an international aid organization? By reflecting on your objectives, you will be better prepared to write essays or cover letters for your applications and you’ll also have a sense of how to make the most of your opportunity abroad.
2) Research types of companies and organizations that help students acquire international internships or volunteer experiences. Some are fee-based so saving might need to be a priority. Others may require extensive application processes, so keeping track of deadlines and putting together essays, transcripts, etc. is a must. A few websites to consider: TransitionsAbroad.com, GoAbroad.com, RileyGuide.com/internat.html, BUNAC.com/usa, and GlobalExperiences.com.*
3) Look up the country or region you are considering on Going Global. This resource (accessible through MyUCS or CAVLink) has job and internship listings, country guides with visa and cultural information, and also has a directory of companies that sponsor international employees.
4) Create a timeline and a contingency plan. It’s always best to set up multiple possibilities for yourself, especially when dealing with visas/work permits and funding. Once you know the timeline for applying to and preparing for experiences abroad, make sure you have other options, as well. If your goal is to learn about fashion, for example, then your back-up plan might be to intern in NYC with a UVA alumnus (start networking now!). For students interested in health professions, a volunteer experience in a local clinic might be another great learning opportunity. Even if your first international experience doesn’t pan out, keep it as a goal and continue to work toward it!
For more information, consult our handouts on gap year programs and finding work abroad, consider attending the international careers program, or call 924-8900 to make an appointment to meet with a career counselor.
*UCS does not endorse any of the websites listed in this article. Please do thorough research of each opportunity you see to ensure its validity and appropriateness.