International internship: All the important information for students

Written by Kerstin Lakits, Jun 29, 2023

An international internship is the perfect opportunity to gain work experience, to deepen your knowledge, to enrich your international network and improve your foreign languages. An internship abroad is an amazing experience; however, it comes with a lot of planning and requires financial resources. We have gathered all of the information for you so that your internship abroad will go smoothly and everything will work out perfectly.

Internship abroad: What is an international internship?

During your internship abroad you can get an insight into the daily work routine at an international company. You have the opportunity to apply what you learned at university and deepen your competencies. Furthermore, you get familiar with the everyday work and professional requirements. There are two types of international internships: mandatory and voluntary internships.

Mandatory internships

A mandatory internship is part of your education and of your curriculum. This means that the curriculum contains which activities you can do at the internship. In these cases, universities tend to work with partner companies, which regularly employ trainees.  Your university usually gives you a certificate for mandatory internships. Many companies demand this certificate. There are two types of internships:

  • Mandatory internship without an employment: The purpose of your internship is educational and vocational training. The company does not seek gainful employment. Therefore, a regular remuneration is not obligatory. If and how much pocket money you receive, behoves the company and is up for negotiation.
  • Mandatory internship within the scope of an employment contract: The internship is characterised by a trainee contract of employment. The trainee receives regular remuneration and is usually insured.

Voluntary internships

A voluntary internship is not mandatory. The university does not send you a certificate and cannot provide a partner company. You can do a voluntary internship because it’s interesting and you want to gain more experience. Oftentimes it is more difficult to find a voluntary internship because companies reserve traineeships for students who have to do mandatory internships.

Advantages of international internships: How does an internship abroad benefit you?

Every experience enriches your work and private life because you grow by overcoming challenges and gaining experience. An internship abroad has many advantages for your work life and future career:

  • Work experience in an industry relevant for your studies
  • Insight into the (future) work routine
  • International networking and contact to colleagues, mentors, etc.
  • Working with international companies
  • Improve foreign language skills
  • develop cultural competencies
  • Soft skills: autonomy, planning, team work, communication, flexibility, adaptability

Foreign language proficiency

Living and working in another country is the best and most effective way to learn and improve a (foreign) language because you are surrounded by the language 24/7 and are somewhat “forced” to use it. So you make a ton of progress quickly. You not only develop language proficiency in everyday communication, but also in the lingo of your industry.

Exploring new cultures & widening your perspective

In another country you are confronted with other customs, habits and traditions and thereby explore a new culture. You get the chance to broaden your horizon and work on your soft skills. During your international internship you get to know the working culture in other countries and companies. This insight into the working world can be helpful for you and your future work.

Alternatives to internships abroad

An internship abroad is not the only way to spend some times abroad. A semester abroad, studying abroad, work & travel are some alternative to international internships that we want to show you.

A common difficult decision: semester abroad or internship abroad?

Oftentimes students cannot choose between an internship abroad and a semester abroad. Here are all the differences so that you can make the best decision for yourself.

Internship abroadSemester abroad
mostly local colleaguesmany international students
usually remuneration or pocket moneyno remuneration
professional networking (as well as friends)new friends and peer students
usually 2 to 6 months abroadusually 3 to 8 months abroad
usually no financial supportfinancial support through mobility programmes (e.g. Erasmus+) and scholarships
autonomous organisation (looking for an internship, application, housing, etc.)organisation via universities or agencies (partner universities, internship, student accommodation, etc.)

Here is an article with all the information on semester abroad!

Something for everyone: more alternatives to international internships

Another possibility for staying abroad is working as an au pair. You usually spend 12 months with a family in a country of your choice, take care of the children and support the parents with their daily chores. You get some pocket money and can explore the country in your free time.

If you want to work in another country, work & travel this is perfect for you. You travel to a country and work for one or several months. You can work in hotels, restaurants, tourism or agriculture while diving into the foreign culture. This type of experience is perfect for summer break.

Another great option is doing volunteer work abroad. You can support different regional associations or international organisations in Africa, Oceania, Asia, Latin America or Africa while also getting a feeling for the culture.

If learning (a language) should be front and centre during your travels, a summer school or language trip is the best option for you. You can go abroad for one or more weeks and improve your language skills or attend further training.

If you want to study at a foreign university, you can read more about that in this article on studying abroad!

Finding the perfect internship: tips for the application process

Oftentimes you need to organise your internship abroad yourself. If you don’t have international contacts, it can be quite challenging. The International Office and the person responsible for internships at your university are good resources and offer help. They usually have a good network of partner universities, companies or cooperation for international internships. Many universities and the ÖH offer internship market places.

The duration of the internship

In most companies, the minimal duration for internships is four weeks; however, they prefer longer internships because you need to gain experience and get to know the work routine in order to start working. This way you can get to know the different departments and the workflow better and can work on projects from start to finish. On average, an internship lasts between 2 to 9 months.

Agencies for international internships

The easiest way is to get an internship via an agency or organisation. The disadvantage is that it costs money. The costs vary from agency to agency. The big advantage is that you only have to apply with the agency, not with every single company. The agency will search for an internship that corresponds with your needs and will take care of the contract. The application process also varies from agency to agency. Here is a list of Austrian agencies:

Here are some international agencies:

International internships can also be organised via the Erasmus+ programme. In this case, you need to fill out a Learning Agreement with the international companies. Here is more information on the Erasmus+ programme!


You should write your application in the country’s language or at least in English. You have to add necessary certificates and transcripts of records, which you may have to translate beforehand. Prepare for a job interview via telephone or online. Before applying you should check with your university whether this internship is recognised by your university if it is a mandatory internship.

Here are our tips for a successful job interview!

Internship contract

After a successful job interview, you receive your internship contract, which you need to read carefully and then sign. Make sure that these elements are covered:

  • Period of the internship
  • Place of employment
  • Tasks and field of activity
  • Rights and obligations of all parties (intern and employer)
  • Salary, allowance or pocket money
  • Working hours
  • Termination (conditions, deadlines, etc.)

Accepting an internship abroad: Key considerations for organizing your trip

As soon as you have been accepted for your internship abroad, you can plan your stay abroad. You have to take care of accommodation, travel, visa or work permit, travel insurance, vaccinations, costs and funding in good time. These organisational points vary depending on the destination country.

Accommodation & transportation

If you are planning your internship abroad with an organisation, agency or cooperating company, there are often housing options to choose from. Therefore, ask about this already during the interview!

If you have to look for accommodation on your own, you should start looking in good time! If you cannot find accommodation, it is advisable to arrive a few weeks before the start of your internship and look for a room in a hostel or a cheap guesthouse. Student dormitories, Airbnb and property market places of universities and student unions are good places to start.

STUWO tip: If you are doing your internship abroad in Austria, the STUWO student accommodations (September to August) and vacation rentals (especially for July and August) are ideal. The all-in rent covers all housing costs. You can apply at any time! We recommend that you apply in April for the summer months or the following academic year.

You should also make travel arrangements in good time. Book flight, bus or train tickets and consider how much luggage you can take with you.

Visa & work permit

As an EU citizen, you do not need a visa or a work permit for your internship abroad within the EU. For third countries, such as the USA, Australia, Thailand, etc., you usually need a visa and/or a work permit. The application process often takes several months, but this varies from country to country. Therefore, you should inform yourself as early as possible and take care of it.

Attention: If you live in another EU country for longer than three months, you must register this with the foreign registration office.

Travel insurance & vaccinations

Depending on the employment relationship of the internship, you may be (partially) insured by the internship provider. You should clarify this in advance and take out additional insurance if necessary:

  • International health insurance: If you do not have health insurance with the internship provider, you should take out private insurance.
  • Travel cancellation or travel interruption insurance: If you cannot start your journey or have to interrupt it, this insurance covers any costs.
  • Emergency and accident insurance: In the event of accidents or other emergencies, this insurance will take care of any costs incurred.
  • Liability insurance: In most cases, your “regular” liability insurance does not cover stays abroad!

For internships outside the EU, special vaccinations may be required. Find out in good time and catch up on your vaccinations.

Grants & scholarships

The scholarship database is the most comprehensive database for scholarships in Austria. Here you can search for scholarships for your stay abroad. The international office of your university is also a great place to start. Sometimes internships are arranged directly through the provincial funding of your place of study or scholarships are awarded directly through the university. The best-known programme in Europe is definitely the Erasmus+ programme. The International Office at your university handles information, advice and applications. Here you can find more information about the Erasmus+ scholarship!


An internship abroad is a financial investment in your professional and personal development. So think about how you want to finance your internship abroad in good time.

What financing options are available to you?

  • Financial support from parents
  • Scholarship
  • Internship fee
  • Student loan

Here you can find a detailed blog post about financing your studies!

You should take these expenses into account:

  • Travel costs (flight, bus, train tickets…)
  • Living expenses (rent, daily necessities, leisure time (sports, bar, restaurant, cinema, concerts, …), public transport ticket)
  • Insurances
  • Possible agency costs
  • Possible costs for visa
  • Possibly vaccinations, etc.

An internship abroad therefore not only offers you added value for your studies and an additional qualification for your future job search, but also the great opportunity of a unique experience during your studies. In our category “Study Abroad” you will find all kinds of articles with information for your stay abroad!


We are happy to help!