Work & study abroad: defining your real goals. Internship? Work? Volunteering?

You got a new great idea: why don’t you go abroad to get some international experience and improve your English? US sounds great, but a friend of yours had an exchange semester in Thailand in 2015, and enjoying some sun while working sounds like a good idea to you. This idea of “doing something abroad” grows in your mind very fast, and one week later you catch yourself looking at immigration laws of different countries – why should you spend only 6 months abroad if you can LIVE abroad?

Take a dep breath and to think very carefully about your goal (see also my article on Motivation). What do you really want? This might give you some ideas:

  • You just want to explore new countries and to look how other people live
  • You want to exchange experience with colleagues from abroad / to improve your qualification
  • You are deeply unsatisfied with your life in your home country / you want to build a new life abroad

As you may imagine, each of these ways will require from you a different level of motivation, investment of your finance and time. It seems obvious that you need to make your mind before starting the preparations, but too many women just jump into it by hearing: “But if you like it there, you get a boyfriend, get married and stay in the country!” Hey, this is something worth considering – but let’s imagine you are a smart girl depending on yourself. So what do you really want?

In this article, I will focus on the first two points, as there are going to be many posts on the smart immigration topic later.

You just want to explore new countries and to look how other people live

If your goal is to learn more about other cultures, to taste some local food and to learn a new language, there are many options for you.

1. What: “Networking stuff”: round tables, workshops, summer schools etc.


Audience: Usually available for students and those under 30 with a good CV and a long list of extracurricular activities.

Funding: Even though you may have seen many summer schools with fees up to EUR 1200, there are also half-paid and fully paid opportunities. Winning a scholarship for one of such schools is the fastest way to upgrade your CV.

Advantages: Networking, experience exchange, quick CV boost

How to get: The only thing you really need is a good Letter of motivation, some experience in a particular area and a couple of good references. That’s it – don not miss your deadline!

My own experience: Personally, I won several scholarships during my student years (because of a long list of extracurricular activities, I suppose) and a couple more at the beginning of my career. Most promising for you, one of the organizers told me that they had only 2 applications per scholarship (!!!), because students in Russia did not trust their German skills to apply. You lose NOTHING by trying again and again, but to win you need ONLY ONE successful try!

2. What: An internship abroad


Audience: Should be definitely useful for any Young Professional. However, may be also useful for mid-career professionals in a need of international experience (for instance, if you need to upgrade your CV).

Funding: There are paid and unpaid internships. If your CV does not necessarily scream how talented you are (so far!) or you are interested in an internship which is usually unpaid (for instance, by United Nations), you may save some money in order to spend 4 to 6 months abroad.

Advantages: No matter whether you plan to start your career in another country or in your hometown – international experience COUNTS. This will be one more reason for any employer to offer you the desired position. If you are very lucky and talented, you may get a job offer directly afterwards – but remember that many companies open internship positions only because interns are cheaper than employees are, and they may not plan to provide you with a contract at all.

How to get: You may use help of an agency, AIESEC (find their office in your city) or look for an internship yourself. You may start with large international companies – be ready for a very high competition. National and local websites are also a good option – pay attention to positions requiring your language skills (Native-speaker level Ukrainian etc.) and local experience (with the knowledge of marketing channels in Southern Russia etc.). Do not hesitate to use the help of any International Office or student organization you have access to – their connections will give you more options.


  • Be aware that many companies offer internships ONLY while you are enrolled in a study program. This means that you will not be able to do such internships after graduation. You may discuss the opportunity to receive a “semester free of study” with the International Office of your university – and, yes, even in Russia and CIS countries they are interested in your mobility, as it will broaden the international network of the university.
  • If you plan to take an evening job while doing a non-paid internship abroad in order to cover the expenses, I have bad news for you – many countries do not allow it. If they catch you, you may lose your visa and be deported – so read the labor law before starting a non-paid internship with no money in your pocket.
  • Watch out for the visa. Especially if you plan an internship longer than 3 months, it may take a long time (longer than a usual student visa!) for you to get an approval – pay attention to the documents required and apply for a visa as soon as you can.

My own experience: While I was finishing my project in China, a friend of mine told me that there might be an internship opportunity in Germany, as his colleagues are looking for somebody with experience in the renewable energy filed. That internship helped me to pay my bills during the Master thesis writing and to get another job afterwards.

3. What: Volunteering


Audience: Anybody passionate about anything – and about travel, of course.

Funding: Depending on the organization and funds available, participant should cover costs for the flight there and back OR all costs during the volunteering period. If you get your food and accommodation covered, it seems like a good deal to me.

Advantages: You can travel the world by making something good. What can be better?

How to get: Apply online in the country of your dreams for the activity of your choice and remember that you still have many competitors even for non-paid volunteering positions. Many want to make the world a better place to live, you know!

My own experience: None.

You want to exchange experience with colleagues from abroad or to improve your qualification in order to use it in your home country


If you are interested in exchanging your experience with colleagues from other countries, you should start looking for all unions, platforms and experience sharing forums you may find.

Depending on your field of work, several opportunities might be available:

  • Leadership Program. Usually offered by progressive countries like Germany, US, France etc., such programs are designed for NGOs leaders, politicians, scientific leaders, journalists and others. Such programs offer you a unique, usually fully-paid, experience in another country for a time period from 3 months to a year.
  • Laboratory experience exchange. Many modern laboratories with unique equipment offer exchange opportunities for scientists from all over the world – paid and unpaid. If you can’t find the program that suits you – no problem, just look for the equipment you need for your research and contact the responsible scientist.
  • Your year abroad. Many international companies like Bosch, EY, Mars etc. offer an opportunity to collect experience in various countries of their presence in order to keep their employees motivated. The same program can be offered at collaborating institutions for those working in science.
  • Working holiday visas. This is an interesting option, which gives highly qualified professionals (usually under 30) an opportunity to work in another country for a year. This is a great opportunity if you can’t decide whether you want to immigrate or not!
  • Project work. Many companies have hard times finding a highly qualified professional with a specific expertise, who will accept a limited contract (and not the one with no cancellation date, no extra dentist insurance etc.). This is the moment when you jump in and offer your service.

This should give you a very brief understanding of opportunities available. I will now start working on the new material about smart profession choice and understanding your strengths on the international labor market. Good luck! And remember: only those lose who never try!


    1. Dear snovskaya,

      Thank you very much for your comment, I am glad you liked the article. I find your question very important and will answer it in an additional mini-article today in the evening so other readers will not miss it.

      Kind regards,

      Liked by 1 person

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