Perspective: Working While Studying Abroad

Grace Kim, who studied abroad in Prague, sits in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Grace Kim.

Written by Dominique Nguyen

More often than not, most college students find themselves wondering “What should I eat next?” Stern students wonder “Where should I work next?” We can’t seem to forget this question no matter where we are, whether it be our hometown, New York, or even abroad. But why should we have to?

Studying away as a Stern student doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing internship opportunities. There are multiple ways to go about finding an internship while studying away that seem less daunting than students think. However, there are some things to ask yourself before launching into an internship during your study away semester.

“Is it worth it?”

Your study away experience really is what you make of it. If your goal is spending all your free time traveling with your friends and soaking up the culture, then hold off on the internship for one semester. If you want to try your hand at working in a foreign country, then by all means go for it.

Franco noted that working with the Chilean Ambassador in Europe gave him an edge, and helped him when interviewing for internships back in New York.  Both Emily and Franco believe that their internship was well worth their time and investment. In a way, it’s just another type of adventure.

“How do I get an internship abroad?”

If you do decide that you are a workaholic and cannot relax for a single semester, the next thing to think about is how you will go about finding a job. At the portal campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, NYU will most likely host an event where students will get to meet employers interested in accepting interns for the semester or year. Perfect. Suit on and resume in hand, you’re back in your element, and next thing you know, you’re signing a contract.

That’s how Emily Liu, a junior who studied away in Shanghai last semester, got her marketing internship at the production company Redscale Studios. If you’re at another study away location, NYU may have a partnership with another local organization that handles internships for students abroad. Decrescenzo dealt with EUSA Internships who were extremely helpful and resourceful. Stern students know firsthand, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

“Special documentation needed?”

In short, yes. For most cases, you will need a work visa in addition to the student visa you obtained to even study away in the first place. Each country has its own ways to receive a work visa, so get in touch beforehand or on-site with the NYU staff working at your study abroad location. Some work visas will also require additional fees or longer application times, so plan ahead.

“Do I have the time?”

The first thing to consider is your schedule. Usually, study away schedules are more flexible and leave more free time to accommodate traveling and learning outside of the classroom. This extra time also makes it convenient to accept an internship and gain the experience of working in a completely new environment.

Depending on the company, you may be asked to contribute a minimum of 15 or 20 hours per week, though this can vary. Ask yourself if you can manage your time effectively to study, travel, and work. Franco Decrescenzo, a student who studied away in Spain a few semesters ago, mentioned that because his internship at the Commercial Office of the Chilean Embassy in Madrid was very serious in nature, he was not allowed to miss any working days.

Because of this, he had to sacrifice some days he would have otherwise spent traveling with friends. In essence, take note of your priorities for the semester. Withdrawing from an internship after you’ve discovered your plans to travel to Japan conflict with your work schedule makes for a pretty awkward and embarrassing conversation for everyone involved.

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