Planning an internship/work placement abroad
Internships/placements abroad Preparation and organisation
As a first step, you should consider your own expectations for a stay abroad and what you actually want to achieve. Would you like to work for eight or more hours each day in an office or the lab of a company or organisation or do you have other priorities? Other forms of stays abroad might suit your expectations better.
Start planning your studies abroad in good time. We would recommend starting to prepare 12 months before you intend to go abroad.
Steps towards an internship abroad
Reports written by former interns on their experiences are a good place to start gathering information. The reports are subjective and do not claim to give a complete picture, but they do give an indication of the general mood during the internship. They also give you an insight into day-to-day life, as well as a lot of information about the country, people and habits of those who live there etc.
Be sure to find out about the working conditions in individual countries. Please note that especially the terms ‘placement’ or ‘internship’ do not always mean the same in different countries. Gaining work experience during your studies is not common practice in all countries either. You should also find out about requirements for entering and staying in the host country in order to ensure that you can apply for a visa in good time if required.
For an internship or work placement abroad you generally need a solid knowledge of the country’s language. For the internship itself, it is often sufficient to have a good command of English, especially if you work in a large international corporation, but you should also have at least a basic knowledge of the country’s language to communicate with colleagues and acquaintances.
Language proficiency required
The skills you require in the foreign language depend on the company or the institution where you are doing your internship. In addition, it is also worth having a least a basic working knowledge of the language of the country in order to be able to communicate with colleagues and other people living there.
If you do not yet have the required language skills, the FAU Language Centre offers a wide range of courses in foreign languages which you can attend alongside your regular degree programme. The Language Centre regularly offers courses in more than twenty modern languages, with some classes focussing on specific disciplines.
A further option to bring your language skills up to the required level is to sign up for a summer course in the language at a university abroad. The annual publication (in German) from DAAD ‘Sprachkurse an Hochschulen in Europa’ (Language Courses at Universities in Europe) is a great help in this respect.
ERASMUS interns who need skills in one of the less common EU languages can also participate in a free multi-week ERASMUS intensive course (EILC language course) abroad. Courses are held before your ERASMUS stay abroad starts. You have to apply for a place. You will receive further information from the Central Office for International Affairs after your nomination for an ERASMUS scholarship.
A wide range of classes are also offered by private language schools abroad. Information is regularly sent to our university, and posters are either hung on notice boards or flyers distributed at the Student Service Centre and the Language Centre.
Proof of language skills
UNICERT certificates can be obtained in a number of languages from the FAU Language Centre. However, these certificates are not always accepted by all companies, institutes or universities.
For Anglo-American countries, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is the most common language test. It can be taken regularly at several locations in German cities/university towns, among them FAU’s Language Lab at the School of Economics in Nuremberg. If you are interested, please register at www.toefl.org.
Preparation courses for the test, which is subject to a fee, are offered, for example, by the DAI (German-American Institute) in Nuremberg.
Depending on the requirements of your host country and host university, the IELTS or the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English may be accepted as an alternative to the TOEFL. To take the test, please register via the British Council or the University of Cambridge.
If you intend to finance your internship/work placement abroad with a DAAD scholarship, you have to get a DAAD language certificate from the Language Centre before the application deadline ends. Please contact the secretary’s office at the Language Centre to make an appointment with one of the native-speaker lecturers.
It is recommended that students only go abroad for an internship or placement once they have passed the intermediate exam (Vorprüfung or Zwischenprüfung), unless the study regulations for their degree programme stipulate other periods.
In Bachelor’s degree programmes, a placement is recommended after the fifth semester. Of course, it also makes sense to complete an internship in the transition phase from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s degree programme but this means that you are not entitled to many funding options which require that you are enrolled as a student.
In general, you might also consider a combination of semesters spent studying and completing an internship. This might facilitate your search for an internship considerably as you would be available to attend job interviews in person at short notice.
Under the heading internship/placement vacancies, FAU lists opportunities for internships/placements together with information about job portals, and websites advertising internships and job vacancies (only in German).
You are not usually able to apply for an internship abroad in person and meet representatives of the company or institution face to face. Therefore, there are a number of organisations and agencies, information offices and databases you can turn to for help, as well as referring to websites advertising internships and job vacancies.
Both commercial and non-profit organisations usually ask for a fee for their services. They can be helpful in dealing with immigration regulations and finding accommodation, but you should always be sure to check the quality of the work placements/internships offered (e.g. by reading reports from previous participants) and weigh up the price-quality ratio first.
NB: Agencies/organisations which help you find an internship do not usually provide any grants to cover your expenses abroad. You should therefore apply for scholarships from other organisations. As a first step, we recommend that you have a look at our list of links and the DAAD brochure ‘Wege ins Auslandspraktikum’ (‘Finding an internship abroad’).
If you plan to apply directly to a company, you should gather detailed information about the company first (does it meet your expectations? Why do you want to apply to precisely this company?)
Chambers of Commerce frequently also provide company contact details, general information on companies and organisations and sometimes even post or organise placements and internships. A further source of information are company brochures and reports as well as the notice boards at the University. In many cases, your professors will have numerous contacts in industry – just ask them. You can also create your own profile on websites advertising internships and job vacancies.
Usually, you have to submit your application in English or in the language of your host country. Please take country-specific formalities into consideration when applying and attending job interviews. Further help is available both online and in specialised publications. To avoid linguistic mistakes, have a native speaker proof-read your application. Maybe one of your language tutors would be willing to help.
Unless the general conditions of the internship/placement are not already obvious from the agreements in the contract between you and the institution organising the work placement/internship, it is strongly recommended that you ask for an internship contract. Similar to a German work contract, it should include the following points:
- Duration of the internship
- Working hours
- Agreements on position in the company and/or type of tasks
- Rights and obligations of the contractual parties
- Terms for termination
The university is often required to co-sign the contract. In this case, please contact the FAU Student Advice and Career Service.
Generally speaking, you should presume that it will be more expensive to study abroad than in Germany, as you are not familiar with the situation in the country, and additional expenses are likely to be incurred. It is only in countries in Southern and Eastern Europe where the lower costs of living may balance this out.
Expenses typically incurred before leaving: commission for the organisation which arranged the internship for you, visa fees, costs for health check-ups and immunisations, expenses for additional insurance cover, fees for having documents (e.g. degree certificate) translated, fee for an international driving licence etc.
Of course, travel expenses or costs for a return flight should also be taken into consideration.
Unfortunately, companies which pay interns remuneration or a salary remain the exception. It is still worth asking, though. If the company does agree to pay you, be sure to have this included in the contract. The amount of remuneration varies from country to country and also depends on the sector in which you are working and the level of your education.
The Erasmus+ traineeship programme offers students funding for a traineeship in Europe of between two and twelve months and pays a monthly grant towards the cost of living. However, this is only available for students enrolled at university.
Various external organisations also offer funding for internships abroad, either covering all expenses, some expenses or travel expenses. In principle, foundations also fund stays abroad during your studies. In many cases, however, this requires that you have been accepted as a candidate in the foundation’s programme before you even consider going abroad. An overview of potential scholarship organisations and funding programmes is available on our website under external scholarship programmes.
In addition, the German government offers students the possibility of financing an (obligatory) internship or placement abroad with an Auslands-Bafög grant or a low-interest study loan.
Students who want to spend one or two semesters abroad for an internship/work placement during their degree can apply for leave for the semester(s) in question. They remain enrolled at FAU and have to continue to pay the student services fee as before. Please contact the Student Records Office.
- Leave is taken within the regular duration of your degree programme
- The stay abroad is not an integral part of your degree programme
- At the earliest when re-registering or thereafter
- Last date for applications for the winter semester: 31 October
- Last date for applications for the summer semester: 30 April
- Application form
- Academic record
- Studienbescheinigungen (official documents supplied to you when re-registering for the semester)
- Admission or enrolment certificate from your foreign host university (must be submitted by the time lectures start at the latest).
Consequences for the transfer of credits from abroad:
- You can also transfer credits earned abroad for your degree at FAU when they were earned during study leave.
- The semester of leave may then be accredited as a study semester.
If you would like the work placement/internship to be credited towards your degree at FAU, you have to discuss the contents with your internship supervisor or the internship office before you leave.
You should start looking for accommodation for the duration of your stay abroad at an early stage since the search is often very time-consuming.
Possible types of accommodation are usually similar to the options available in Germany (staying with a host family, a room in a shared flat, student halls, own flat, etc.). However, differences occur not only with regard to the price level but also with regard to quality standards.
Some agencies also offer to find accommodation for you or to at least to assist you in your search. In many cases, the company will also offer help.
Depending on the country, duration and type of your stay, you need a visa, a residence permit and/or a work permit. As a foreign intern, you do not enter the country as a tourist, which means that the often less stringent bureaucratic regulations for tourists do not apply to you.
You mustn’t underestimate the time you need to apply. Applying for a visa for the USA generally takes several months, for example.
In some cases, you have to present proof of certain vaccinations or an HIV test on entering the country, an aspect you should also consider in your planning.
Entry and residence regulations do not only vary from country to country but they may also be subject to quick change within one and the same country. It is therefore recommended that you check current entry and residence regulations with the embassies of the countries in question . You will also find application forms for visas on their websites. Since telephone hotlines are usually quite expensive, it is advisable that you do an internet search first.
Contact your health insurance company before your departure to find out about the conditions for insurance coverage during your stay abroad. Most important in this respect is the general question of whether insurance coverage exists for the country in question and which services it includes.
Since 1 January 2006, the ‘European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)’ has been accepted in all EU countries as well as in Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. It replaces form E 111 but, unlike the E 111, it is only valid for temporary stays abroad (holidays, transfer of employees, job search, study stays) and may only be used for services necessary on medical grounds. You can obtain an EHIC from your statutory insurance company. To find out whether you already have an EHIC, check the back of your insurance card for the EU star sign.
Especially outside of the European Union it is recommended that you take out additional insurance coverage with a private health insurance company. Please also observe the regulations of your host university or the company you will be working for – in some cases it is mandatory to take out insurance under the university’s own insurance policy.
It is also recommended that you have a check up, e.g. at your dentists, before you leave and that you consult your GP with regard to the medication you should take with you.
If you receive funding from the DAAD or one of its partner institutions, you may opt for insurance coverage via the DAAD group contract which includes health insurance, accident insurance, liability insurance and luggage insurance. The same type of insurance packages for stays abroad are also offered by other insurance companies.
You should ask your employer for a reference for your internship in good time. The certificate/reference should describe your tasks and responsibilities during the internship and provide an assessment of your performance.
For internships within Europe, the European Union offers the europass as a standard for the documentation of stays abroad (study stays, internships/placements).