Supervised Public Service Internship Seminar

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Course Information
Internship Seminar
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

Students from all fields, who are curious, engaged, and want to experience how it is like to work in an Austrian NGO/NPO are invited to take this course. Students must be open-minded, courageous, and interested in finding out more about the working practice of NGOs/NPOs.

Additional student cost: 



The internship is designed to offer students firsthand experience and involvement in Austrian non-profit-organizations and charities, enabling them to broaden their understanding of European society and non-profit culture. The accompanying weekly seminar allows reflection and observations about the experience and serves as a forum for questions that come up during the onset placement, as well as to put issues into academic perspective. The general aim of the seminar is to explore the meaning of team work and to reflect one’s own position as a social actor.

Attendance policy: 

IES Abroad Vienna requires attendance at all class sessions, including field study excursions, internship meetings, scheduled rehearsals, and exams. Attendance will be monitored and unexcused absences will affect the student’s grade via the “Participation” component of each course’s final grade.

Excused Absences

  • Excused absences are permitted only when a student is ill, when class is held on a recognized religious holiday traditionally observed by the particular student, or in the case of a grave incident affecting family members.
  • To be granted an excused absence, the student must write an email to his/her professor in a timely manner stating the reason for the absence (and, if appropriate, how long they expect to be away) with a cc to Center administrative staff. In an emergency, the student may call Student Services or the Front Desk. If the student is unable to send an email (too sick, no computer), he/she may call the Student Assistant at the front desk (01/512 2601-11) who will then write the email described above and send it to said parties as stated above, with a cc to the student.
  • If a student is absent 3 consecutive days or more, he/she will need to obtain a doctor’s note and then submit this to the Registrar’s office.


Learning outcomes: 
The purpose of the internship and the learning process in the seminar is to broaden the students’ experience and understanding of European society and non-profit culture. The students will learn to
  • Understand the working practice of Austrian NGOs/NPOs in a local/global context,
  • Recognize the circumstances and perspectives of non-profit-organizations in Europe,
  • Comprehend history, objectives, tasks, missions and challenges of organizations in the context of societal, political and economic circumstances,
  • Critically approach key concepts and terms related to civil society and their influence on European Policy 
  • Critically reflect one's own position as a "changing" and/or "helping agent" when working for  an organization.
Method of presentation: 
  • Experimental work in an NGO/NPO in Vienna (conducted by students including documentation and analysis)
  • Learning by doing
  • Fieldwork experience
  • Participant observation
  • Discussions of corresponding literature and texts that will be handed out in class
  • Thematic working groups with special assignments within the seminar working time
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Class Participation and Attendance - 10%
  • Journal - 20%
  • Evaluation of Intern - 10%
  • Presentation (instead of a midterm exam) - 30%
  • Final Paper - 30%

Students will be required to join several hours per week during the semester and to volunteer on specific work tasks each non-profit organization is offering. (Onsite time in the internship is 8-10 hours, depending on internship plus time for mandatory journal entries. Some internships require an amount of research in the library.) Students will be able to choose “their” preferred organization from a list of options according to their abilities and capacity. Regular attendance at the internship locations and the accompanying weekly seminar is expected.


The internship placements vary depending on the nature of the organization as well as the working area in which the student will volunteer. The internship program is to be agreed upon by the intern and the job supervisor at the beginning of the semester.

Seminar The aim of the seminar is to:
  1. Exchange ideas and to discuss the students experiences regarding the internship, the meaning of teamwork, with particular focus on the Austrian environment and working space;
  2. To introduce the "European culture of NGOs/NPOs", the facts and the figures, and to highlight their role in an European Union context
  3. To introduce the political system of the European Union and the role of NGO in the decision making process
  4. To understand the functioning of the European Union and the role of NGOs in an international context 
  5. The students will be motivated to discuss their experiences within local, global and theoretical contexts.

Non-profit organisation work options
(options vary according to current projects)

  • WWF Int'l - Danube-Carpathian Programme (Environmental Activist Organization)
  • Women without borders (Women's Activist Organization) 
  • Four Paws (Animal Activist Organization)
  • Don Bosco Flüchtlingswerk (Catholic Youth Education Organization)
  • Caritas (Catholic Aid Organization)
  • Diakonie Wien (Protestant Aid Organization) in cooperation with Red Cross (Aid Organization)
  • IFOR, International Fellowship of Reconciliation (Peace through Active Non-violence, International)
  • Schottenhof Riding Center (Center for animal-assisted education)
  • Radio Africa (Radio Afrika TV is an information and communication platform for the African audience in Austria)
  • EU Environmental Bureau (Environmental Information Office for NGOs) - tbc
  • SOS Childrens Village International (Children`s Aid Organization) - tbc
  • Global 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria (Environmental Activist Organization) - tbc
  • Smart City Agency Vienna (Public Service Agency) - tbc
Required readings: 
  •  “Culture – How we do things around here” in: Charles D. Ellis: What it takes – Seven Secrets of Success from the World´s Greatest Profession Firms; p.25-45
  • “The Europeanization of Public Affairs” in: Rinus van Schendelen: More Machiavelli in Brussels – The Art of Lobbying the EU, p.23 – 60
  • “Civil society involvement in Austria’s Europe 2020 reform programme”; SORA – Institute for Social Research and Consulting, 2012
  • “Living in the EU” – Website of the European Union:
  • “Brussels Basics – how does the EU work” – Deutscher Naturschutzring, 2014
  • “How the EU works – Your guide to the EU Institutions” – European Commission, DG Communication, 2014
  • “Leading the Personal Inversion: From Me to We”: in Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer: leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-Systems to Eco-System Economies, p.152 - 173