Paying for internship abroad sounds *more* than a little crazy. You’re already giving them your time, energy, and expertise—and now they want you to pay to be there, too? Now, before you go running off into the land of mediocre professional challenges and coffee runs for execs, we want you to hear us out.
Paying to intern abroad can make a lot of sense. There’s tons of overhead, admin, and liability that a middle-man organization is taking care of, not to mention vetting organizations for quality experiences and safety measures. We wouldn’t recommend paying an arm and a leg (or your first born child) for these services, but paying a fair amount of money for the ease of the overall convenience can be wise for most people.
What’s more, interning abroad for free is a myth. You have to pay for flights, accommodations, maybe even credit for your home university? Then there’s the whole “You need to eat every day” to survive thing. And while paid internships abroad can be found, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to walk away with less than 0 debits to your accounts.
Read on to learn our best advice when you’re weighing the pros and cons of interning abroad—and paying to do it.
No, you can’t find a free internship abroad
But don’t get discouraged! You’ve already done the hard part. You’ve researched the best options and found the one that meets your needs. And you might be asking, if you put all this work into finding the perfect gig, why would you have to spend money or have a travel fund before you go? Well, simply put–because you have to get there, live, eat, shop, enjoy, travel, and do more than just get from your bed to your workplace and back again. And that’s normal–because, of course, you likely have to do all those same things now!
So, what should you plan for? Well, let’s start with the basics–from things like luggage, power adapters, and travel accessories to air fare, transportation, and your daily travel budget. Then, there’s the things that even a room and board arrangement won’t cover–like coffee at work, going out with colleagues and friends, weekend trips, shopping for yourself (or for friends and family back home), museum visits, theater tickets, extra scoops of whatever frozen chocolate treat looks good on a warm day–you name it, you will want to have it, so you want to make sure you have a plan together to cover everything from the necessities to all the extras.
But don’t let this discourage you! The experience is absolutely worth it—and paying for an internship abroad is most likely going to be a whole lot easier than you think!
Paying for an internship abroad is easy when…
1. You save up from a part-time job.
Whether you’re flipping burgers on the weekend, delivering groceries after school, working a part-time data entry position from home, or picking up odd jobs here and there, if you save your income and live frugally, you can make between ten thousand and twenty-thousand dollars in a year working part-time. If you save everything you can, paying for an internship abroad can be much easier to achieve–and likely a lot more meaningful than whatever else you might choose to do to spend the money.
2. You score academic credit for your internship abroad.
So this is one of those value exchange equations. If you pay a fixed dollar amount per credit at your home university, and your internship abroad is going to pay you and allow you to earn college credits for your time, you’re making more than just your income–you’re also saving whatever those equivalent credits might cost. It might not be an all expenses paid internship, but when you factor in the cost of your education and the income you receive (or, the value saved even if you weren’t getting paid!), you’re still coming out ahead.
3. You finagle financial aid to make ends meet.
When you’re paying for an internship abroad, don’t forget that your financial aid options will likely include funds for things like books, fees, and education-connected expenses. When you’re getting educational loans and grants (from federal and state to private), you can typically use the funds you receive to pay for internship and study abroad programs. Make sure to check with your individual financial aid office–but you can likely make this work!
4. You make a budget–and stick to it.
This sounds super basic–but that’s because it is! When you make a budget and stick to it, you’re telling your money where to go, and oftentimes that’s more than half the battle when it comes to spending. Look into things like student rates for everything from insurance to transportation to planned purchases and entertainment. But even if you can’t find extra discounts, make sure you’re planning ahead, looking at ways you can save, and exercising self-discipline. Do this, and you’ll be paying toward an internship abroad with the money you save.
5. You turn the surplus in your closet into extra cash.
From your perfect formal dresses to your old winter coats–and from your sweaters to your sweats–odds are you can unload some of your closet clutter and turn your old clothes into cash. It might not solve the problem of an all expenses paid internship, but with so many places to easily (and quickly) sell your gently used clothes–perhaps even having a yard sale, adding things like books, and other items–you can save some serious money toward your goal!
6. You tutor while you’re in your internship location.
Obviously, your first priority needs to be your internship–and you want to save time within your schedule to enjoy yourself–but why not see if you can pick up some extra money tutoring while you’re in your new location? Your safety and security should be your first priority, so stick with organizations you know, but whether it’s helping someone with their English homework, serving as a conversational partner for a co-worker’s family member, or possibly even sharing your musical talents, sharing your knowledge can help you make ends meet while you’re paying for an internship abroad.
7. You find yourself a homestay internship.
So yes, it might be super-appealing to live alone, in a high-rise, in your brand new city. You might be tempted by the freedom and autonomy that your internship abroad will bring. But when you can’t count on an all expenses paid internship, you can save a good deal of money by considering a homestay option during your time abroad. The money you save on things like room and board–typically in exchange for helping with some light household chores, tutoring help, or other household contributions–can free up all kinds of funding that you can put toward releasing yourself of some of the pressure of paying for an internship abroad.
8. You organize potlucks and meals at home to save money on dining.
This is a tip you can use pre-internship and while you’re gone! Dining out is one of the easiest ways to watch your hard-earned money slide right out of your wallet. When you track your spending (seriously, re-read suggestion #4 because budgeting is so important!), you’re likely going to notice how those daily coffee drinks, quick grab-and-go lunches, and dinners out add up! But if you learn to cook more at home, experiment with new dishes, and create opportunities for friends (and even other interns) to join you, you can taste new things, experience local foods, share your expertise, learn from others, and save a whole lot of money–all while avoiding a kitchen full of dishes, when people bring their food and take their dishes home!
9. You crowdfund for your internship abroad with FundMyTravel.
When you think about the best ways to fundraise to intern abroad, don’t forget an incredibly easy and effective way to get the word out about your desire to meet your internship abroad goals! When you consider crowdfunding options, make sure that you sign up and create an account on FundMyTravel so that you’re tapping in to a vetted, respected, and specialized platform for getting the greatest impact. After you create your free profile, and set up your account, you can create your crowdfunding campaign and then share the link with others–by email, through a travel-focused newsletter, and all over your social media accounts–and watch your plans for paying for an internship abroad take shape.
Keep dreaming about that all expenses paid internship… it’s probably not out there
You never know, as competition for college enrollment continues to drive all kinds of programs, it very well could be that colleges and universities recognize the power of providing hopeful participants with that elusive all expenses paid internship! Perhaps the internships of the future will provide greater subsidies for covering the costs that add up. But for now, the fact remains that the opportunity for an internship abroad is going to carry with it the need to save, budget, and spend wisely.
But remember, even if it does mean living with discipline, saving instead of spending, or even refraining from certain luxuries or nice-to-haves, the reward and return on your investment over time from an internship abroad far outweighs anything you might deny yourself in the moment. Plus, if you follow our tips, you can not only work on paying for an internship abroad, you can also do it while learning some valuable life skills, developing a budget-friendly mindset, and adding some tools to your toolkit that will help you have big fun while you save like a boss.
This article was written by Andi Sciacca. Andi Sciacca is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and their four-legged family. Andi works with inspired professionals who are expert practitioners, experienced educators, and well-known contributors to their field. She helps them take ideas and put them into practice. When not working, or writing, she loves to experience music, see the world, and learn new things. Her favorite places to travel include anywhere she can eat good food – and swim.