How to secure an overseas internship?

Where?

In this article I will speak about my experience in the Summer of 2018 and how I was able to secure overseas internships. By securing sponsorship from a foundation I was fortunate to undertake several internships which commenced in June and ended in August. In Washington D.C. I interned with the United States Congress and a non-profit newspaper. After completing these placements I travelled to the West coast for a month and completed an internship at a law firm in San Francisco. Whilst the process of obtaining the J-1 visa had rigorous requirements, which I will expand on below, it was a fantastic experience for me and would recommend anyone interested to do the same.

Why I wanted to work overseas?

Having studied the American system as a politics student I found myself always fascinated with the political and legal structure in the United States. After interning in the House of Commons and on a mayoral campaign in 2016, I wanted to get more exposure overseas. At the time it seemed difficult to convince an overseas employer. Initially I did face quite a lot of rejection. However, I was of the mindset that something would crop up if I kept trying.

How did this experience help you secure a vacation scheme?

Although I had legal experience beforehand, working overseas gave me insight to cross jurisdictional legal work and developed my interest in working for an international firm. I also developed as an individual because I discovered different cultures and by working abroad I demonstrated an ability to go outside my comfort zone. Consequently, this experience advanced my interests and gave me a new direction.

How did I obtain this opportunity?

The procedure I went through was broken up into the following:

  • Find a sponsor.
  • Enrol in university credit.
  • Obtain a J-1 visa.
  • Secure an internship.

Finding a sponsor:

  • This was a tricky part of the process as sponsors often want to know that you can bring to the table skills which are add differently from the students that are already in that host country.
  • I was fortunately successful at interviews with The Fund for American Studiesin partnership with The Reagan Foundationwho agreed to sponsor me. In my experience, I found this program to be one of a kind.
  • Their team help with financing and sponsoring overseas students looking for opportunities. Should anyone want further information on them feel free to contact me. I have provided in the section at the end my contact details.

Enrol in university credit:

  • One requirement of the J-1 visa is to fulfil a certain number of hours at an overseas university.
  • Being enrolled at George Mason University and staying at George Washington University halls in the city with a group of students from all over the world was a great experience.
  • However, it is important to note that this part of the process is a big commitment. I was required to attend lectures and seminars most evenings after my internship, submit assignments and sit exams during the summer. 

Obtain a J-1 visa:

  • This stage involved several forms and an in-person interview at the nearest United States embassy which for me was in London.
  • This is a fairly administrative task involving paperwork and should be the easier stage of the process.

Secure an internship:

  • Finding a preferred internship is the hard part. On the one hand you will have done all the paperwork and found a sponsor, however the tough part is finding an employer when you have no contacts overseas.
  • In my case, I experienced both sides of how to go about finding an internship. For my first two internships in Washington D.C. The Fund for American Studies in partnership with The Reagan Foundation put me in touch with the relevant employers. I was then of course interviewed and vetted before they agreed to give me a shot. For the third internship for the summer I ghost called a number of firms and kept trying.
  • Whilst both methods were difficult and I had to prepare for several interviews the summer was really rewarding in terms of the exposure I gained to the political and legal system in the United States.

Advice for students seeking overseas placements:

Failure is temporary but defeat is a choice:

  • Reach out to organisations that interest you. No matter how large, every company started from somewhere and those individuals working there were also interns once.
  • Ask for feedback. Everyone has faced rejection, this is inevitable, what you can control is how you obtain feedback and use that to fuel your next endeavour.

Go outside your comfort zone:

  • In order to learn, develop and grow you need to take ownership for the steps you take to do that.
  • For every opportunity no matter how big or small I would recommend taking it. Even if it is something that you traditionally never thought you would enjoy, it is always good to try new challenges.

Quality over quantity:

  • Do fewer applications but put more energy into them. By doing fewer applications you will give yourself more time to follow up with those that you are really interested in.
  • If you are particularly passionate about something you should follow up. On most occasions employers really appreciate you following up as it demonstrates to them that you possess a true interest in them and they are not just a number in the pile of applications you have made.  

Should you have any questions:

Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or email me on a project I have co-founded to help aspiring lawyers called The Legal Line Up at: legallineup@gmail.com

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