The Case for an Unpaid Internship | Interning through IES Abroad

ies abroad logo
IES Abroad
February 19, 2020

As you navigate the world (and your academic career), you may find yourself wondering where you can access opportunities for professional development beyond the classroom. It's no secret how valuable it can be to have a hands-on, informative, and impactful internship experience before you graduate. Interning gives you access to knowing yourself more than you did before, helping you see what kind of work can fit into your life's story. You learn your likes and dislikes, what you value in a company or the work done, and you explore the character of your professional self. Interning abroad takes that to the next level, and the best part is, virtual internships are now also an option to help you expand your professional toolkit. While interning is an incredible experience, figuring it out on your own isn’t always easy. 

But we'll let you in on a secret: the best thing you can do to find the perfect internship is to go through a provider. And that's where we come in—as a not-for-profit study abroad and internship organization (a.k.a provider), IES Abroad and IES Internships support students and interns before, during, and after they study or intern abroad with the help of our U.S. and international staff, faculty, Centers (which house our offices and classrooms abroad), and academic and internship employer partners

So, you're probably wondering why these kinds of unpaid internships even exist, right? We get it, but our mission with providing these opportunities is to help students globalize themselves and provide access. That's why we emphasize both in-person and virtual options. Study abroad opens so many doors for your life overall, we want to make sure to give attention to your working world as well. Yet, we also emphasize transparency. Our programs do cost, and our internships are unpaid, but an array of scholarships helps make your dream a tangible reality.

When you choose to intern through a provider like IES Internships, and whether you opt to do a part-time or full-time internship, you can rest assured that we take care of the logistics so you can focus on that incredible, life-enriching experience. But don’t just take our word for it! We checked in with past IES interns who gave firsthand insight into why working with a provider makes the placement process easier.

girl in sunglassed looking at the camera with a city on the background

Guaranteed Internship

How many friends do you know who have submitted countless résumés only to not hear back? With a provider like IES Internships, you have access to on-site Internship Coordinators who serve as liaisons between you and vetted employers to determine fit, arrange interviews, and confirm placements, all before your leave for your program. IES Internships guarantees you a placement in the field of your choice and IES Internship Coordinators work hard to find that perfect fit (or two) for you, so you don’t have to submit your résumé to 30 companies and await a response.

"IES Internships in Italy worked with me to send my résumé to organizations that had health internships in Rome. The internship interview took place over Skype, as well as résumé review sessions.”

IES Internships Alum Michelle Wagner

(Rome Summer Internship | Penn State University)

girl studying on the computer

Preparation & Experience

Does your résumé need work? Do you excel at interviews in the States, but not sure how you’ll fare abroad? No matter your strengths (or weaknesses), IES Internship Coordinators have your back. We provide the tools for you to navigate the interview process and gain the experience you need. You know what they say: nothing can substitute experience, which is why an internship is so valuable to starting your career.

"I was able to land an internship with CBS Chicago as a sports intern as a direct result of interning aboard. When I applied to be an intern at CBS before interning abroad, I was denied because of my lack of experience. After returning home, I applied and earned my dream internship.”

World of Difference Featured Alum Christian C.

(Barcelona Semester Internship | Elmhurst College)


Virtual internships are coming at you fast with a new wave of innovation, accessibilty, and refined value. These internships are carefully curated by employer hosts and students alike to elicit an experience that will carry with you beyond the screen and into the rest of your life. We've seen the impact that can be made while working in a virtual space, so why not bring internships into the room too? Students have appreciated the access virtual internships provide—whether it's due to an ability to travel internationally, cost-prohibitive components, or a phsyical accesibility concern. Our goal is to always make room and create new opportunities for students! Virtual internships are the perfect gateway for that. 

"I feel like my internship prepared me for my future career because it allowed me to gain professional experience in Arts Administration that I don’t have easy access to in my location, and it helped me to greatly expand my network of music professionals. While I was put at an economic advantage and health (due to the pandemic) advantage with the internship being virtual, I felt I was at a disadvantage for being able to learn about Austrian culture as directly due to being remote."

Virtual Intern Sapphire T.
(Vienna Virtual Internship Program | University of Nebraska-Lincoln) 


Course & Credit

Okay, okay, we’ll give you some credit…literally! Most IES Internships programs provide the option to earn three or six credits through the Leading Across Cultures: Internship Seminar. What’s more, on international programs with a language course you can earn up to nine academic credits. Not only will you be gaining real-life work experience, but you will also be working towards your degree back home. Talk about efficient!

"In addition to our internships, we all have Chinese class once a week, as well as our internship seminar course. This time gives us the ability to hear about each other’s experiences and how these occurrences relate to our companies, fields of study, fields of work, Chinese culture, and more.”

IES Internships Correspondent Lexi K.

(Shanghai Summer Internship | Lafayette College)



While you’ll likely participate in networking events on site, you’ll also create a vast system of contacts you can stay in touch with long after you’ve returned home. During your program, you’ll connect with IES Abroad and IES Internships Staff, your internship supervisor and colleagues, program participants and classmates, and new local friends and acquaintances.

Not to mention, upon completion of your program, you join a community of 140,000+ alumni around the world with whom you can connect, network, and share experiences. There’s an entire alumni section on our website dedicated to “Launching Your Career” after your program.

“Saying goodbye to my internship hosts was sad, but also exciting because I left knowing that my time there was absolutely well-spent. My boss expressed her thanks, I expressed mine, and I promised to be in touch, especially if I am ever back in Dublin in the future.”

IES Internships Correspondent Lillian N.

(Dublin Summer Internship | Duquesne University)



Our programs help you create connections before you even set foot in your new city. From the program participant list you’ll receive before you depart, to other IES Internships and IES Abroad students on site, to local Community Assistants (in select locations), to the people you’ll be working with, there are opportunities to meet new people every step of the way. 

“I'm going to miss the people. There are so many connections that I have made here that make leaving such a difficult thing to accept. Friends have become like family, and Australia's laid-back culture is so very hard to leave.”

IES Internships Correspondent Haley S.
(Sydney Summer Internship | University of Florida)


Support While Abroad

We offer support when you need it and freedom when you want it. From your on-site Internship Coordinator to IES Abroad Center staff to your colleagues at the workplace, you’ll have a built-in support system for the duration of your internship program. You’ll also have the independence to live like a local intern or student, whether that means exploring your host city with new friends or traveling to other cities on the weekends.

“I've found a mentor in Maricarmen, the IES Abroad Santiago Center Director, who reviews my Spanish before I turn in internship assignments and never fails to ask how I'm doing or offer advice and encouragement.”

IES Internships Correspondent Megan R.
(Santiago Summer Internship ǀ Johns Hopkins University)



Finding housing (and not to mention roommates) can be hard enough on campus, so imagine doing that in a new city, especially if you’re not familiar with the language, currency, or neighborhoods. Well, good news, you don’t have to! We manage housing logistics for all program participants including matching you with the perfect roommate from your program, or even one of our long-standing host family partners, if you really want to live like a local.

"The highlights of my experience have been my internship and my Chilean family. My host mom reminds me constantly that the apartment is my house and, overall, I just feel so comfortable there.”

IES Internships Correspondent Molly C.

(Santiago Summer Internship | Indiana University)

Interning in a new city presents unique opportunities to push boundaries and to step out of your comfort zone. Each and every IES internship experience is unique and we believe that every student should have the opportunity to not only explore the world but also themselves in the process. We are here to help and support you from before you even start your application to well after you’ve returned home. We can’t wait for you to take on the worldget started !

IES Abroad News

Read More

IES Abroad regularly publishes news stories, articles, student stories, and other helpful study abroad content. Stay up to date on the latest from IES Abroad by reading our recent posts.

View All IES Abroad News