27 Oct How to arrange an internship abroad

Photo: edited by Lotte van Woudenberg

Many of the Faculty of Science Master’s programmes include a mandatory internship or research project in a laboratory, institute or company. To get the most out of the final year of your studies, you can choose to do this internship abroad. That is exactly what I´m about to do: I’ll be leaving for California in less than a month! Arranging an internship abroad is a lot of work and you will run into many unexpected issues. So here is a checklist and some tips to make the process of arranging your internship a little more efficient.

Where to go & how to choose

Once you have decided to look for a research internship abroad, the possibilities start to pile up. You can go anywhere, but where do you want to go? Are you going for a renowned laboratory/institute/company, the perfect project or for a travel destination from your bucket list? The easiest way is to go for a place that is recommended by researchers or fellow students. Many people have been abroad for study or work and can tell you all about places with good supervision and nice people: just ask around! My strategy to find an internship abroad was to search for interesting papers on pubmed and picking research topics I liked. This way, I could select laboratory techniques that I want to learn during my final internship. My other criteria were: a country with English speaking people (UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Germany etc.), a ‘good’ lab (based on scientific publications) and an exciting place to live or a great student town. This video shows you the top 10 of best student cities in the world. So I would say: look for a subject and a place you like and go for the things you want to learn! Companies such as Kilroy can also help you find the perfect place for your internship.

Get in contact

Found a place you like? Now it’s time to make contact! Keep your email short and personal at the same time. Showing that you have actually read their papers or that you are familiar with the subject makes all the difference. Dedicate a few sentences on the experience you have and leave the rest to your CV, which you should attach. People often ask for letters of recommendation. Lecturers or supervisors from previous internships will often agree on writing you a nice letter. If you are welcome do an internship at the place of your preference, please stay critical: ask questions, skype with your supervisor and discover whether the internship really matches your criteria. It also helps to explain how the Dutch system works and what you expect from the internship, in order to pinpoint cultural differences.  If you have found the perfect internship, get in contact with the company’s or institute’s secretary and the international office; they can help you with practical arrangements.

Money money money

The second you’ve arranged your internship, you are suddenly in need of a lot of money! Fortunately, many foundations and scholarships are available for students who go on an internship abroad. Dutch students can find scholarships they are eligible for on this site. However, many international scholarships are available as well. For the application you often need (among other things) a supporting letter from the student counsellor, letters of recommendation, transcripts, the latest message from DUO indicating that you have a maximum loan including tuition credit (collegegeld krediet in Dutch), information about the income and assets of your parents and a letter of motivation. The first step is to define your budget and to calculate your deficit. On the wilweg website (partly in Dutch) you can find a list of costs and expenses to expect in different countries and an example of a budget overview. You will need this budget overview together with your motivational letter in order to get approval from the student counselor. So, max out on your DUO loan, talk to your parents and make an appointment with the student counselor (in Dutch).
Tip: if possible, schedule the official first day of your internship at the end of a month. It’s an easy way to earn € 98, since DUO gives you OV compensation from the first full month of your internship.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments! Are you planning to do an internship in the USA like I am? Check out my blog on getting a visa for the USA!


P.S.: UvA student wanting to go abroad and need help? Contact the Faculty’s International Office

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WTF lotte

WTF lotte

Master student Biomolecular Neuroscience
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