All you need to know about internships abroad

Have you ever thought about doing an internship? This guide will help you find out what you need to know, whether you decide to undertake a virtual internship or experience your internship in person at an international company.  

Find answers to frequently asked questions: Are internships paid? What is a virtual internship? What kind of tasks will I be assigned? Does Università Cattolica offer study grants for these programmes? What challenges might I encounter along the way and how can I prepare for them? And more importantly, why are internships so important? 

We will guide you through the whole process to get the internship of your dreams. Who to contact? Who will support you before and during your internship? What is important to consider when choosing a company? How do you write a CV? And, above all, what makes for a successful interview? 

If you’re ready to step forward and out of your comfort zone, read on!

Questions frequently asked about internships

A virtual internship is an internship at an international company, potentially anywhere in the world, which does not require you to move from home. 

Quick facts about virtual internship programmes offered by Università Cattolica:

  • Programmes starts on any Monday. You can choose the start date of your internship. 
  • Duration: 1 to 3 months
  • Internships can be carried out full-time or part-time. You can decide to commit to anything between 10 and 40 hours a week.
  • Credit recognition: you can activate your internship as a curricular internship recognised by your Faculty.
  • Study grants: Università Cattolica provides study grants for these programmes, which are also available to graduates (within 12 months of graduation).

Interested? Learn more about virtual internship programmes.

Legend has it that an intern is that person in an office who just makes the coffee. In fact, most students return from their internship surprised at the importance of the tasks they were assigned and the workload they were given. In other words, expect to WORK. Your assignments will be important and the experience will help you grow and learn more about the type of work and business sector that you are interested in.

The good news is - yes! Università Cattolica provides study grants for all study programmes and internships abroad. Remember: Cattolica International is there to help you find out whether you are eligible to receive financial support based on:

  • Credits accrued
  • Grade average 
  • Family income

Being able to manage relationships with senior colleagues will be one of the most important things you will learn. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a balance. Your boss may be very friendly, but s/he is still your boss! So how do you conduct yourself? A useful suggestion to keep in mind is to always keep the cultural context in mind. What are some of the common rules of conduct in that particular country? What are they in your particular office? Jump headlong into the observer role. Be open to what you notice and try to leave prejudices at home. 

Another challenge is that you might feel lonely. Leaving the comfort of your university, family and friends, and everything you’re used to can be difficult. But there are things you can do:  

  • Start creating a network as soon as you arrive. Ask someone from your team to lunch, join a Facebook group of international students in your city. Be creative.
  • Use your hobbies and passions. Before you go, do some research on what your destination has to offer for culture, sports and so on, based on your interests. Sign up for a cooking class or go to exhibitions. Getting to know people with similar interests can be incredibly helpful to deal with homesickness. 
  • But above all, remember that it takes time to get used to a new situation. The challenge is to be patient. Here’s our tip: don’t make negative comments about your situation and never say you made "the wrong choice" in your first two weeks abroad. This is especially relevant if you have moved to a different time zone. Don’t underestimate the effect that jet lag can have on your mood.

  • If you don’t understand something, say so. "I’m sorry, I didn’t understand very well. Could you explain that again?". This approach will show you as honest and intelligent. Stress that you really care about understanding your tasks and that you want to get them done as well as possible.
  • Ask questions. Admit that you are new and that there is nothing wrong with this. Be humble, inquisitive and open to learning. 
  • Be proactive. Find solutions. There will always be problems: proving that you can come up with solutions (even if they don’t work) shows that you are resourceful and creative. And these qualities are essential for a job in any type of company. 
  • Have fun. Really! Don’t be stressed. You were selected, and that’s already great in itself. Be happy and enjoy every moment of this journey.

In general, internships are unpaid. The main reason is that the time frame is too short. An internship lasts about two to three months and the host company has to invest resources to support an intern during their learning process. It’s about you being able to practise before diving into the world of work after graduation. It is a training experience that will allow you to stand out in the shortlist of candidates for the job of your dreams in the future.

Also remember that students very often get awarded credits for their internships. And in academia, this is considered compensation too.

A hybrid model is emerging as the future of the world of work. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have seen the benefits of using technology more widely and the flexibility of working remotely. This will mean that the working environment will become increasingly multicultural as teams of professionals from all over the world become formed. 

There is no doubt that companies are looking for people with experience as an intern. In fact, 94.9% of employers now say that internships are "very" or "extremely" important. 

Companies are looking for people who have the ability to think critically and creatively. In a constantly changing world, knowledge is important; applying that knowledge in a practical context while facing real-world problems is an invaluable experience. 

Finally, moving out of your comfort zone can transform into growth. It means expanding your life prospects, getting to know new people and cultures. You will not only become a very important resource for your future employer, but you will have gained types of knowledge and skills that cannot be learned from books. By going abroad for an internship or undertaking an experience as an intern at an international company remotely, you are putting yourself in the driving seat for your future. You have the opportunity to decide the direction to take and the type of person you want to become.

The 5 Cs – the procedure

The first step to take is with your faculty. Fix an appointment with your academic tutor to tell them you intend to undertake an internship. Internships are usually mandatory at a certain point in your academic programme in Cattolica so check whether this also applies to your programme. 

Remember to ask if you will get credits for your internship.

Cattolica International staff are steadfast in their support for students as they design their experience abroad. Go online to see all the information on what internship opportunities are available, on job descriptions and pre-requisites. 

Cattolica International staff will be happy to arrange a one-to-one meeting with you. They will help you find an internship which is the perfect fit and will support you throughout your experience. 

Contact them by email or phone (Monday to Friday from 9.30 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 17.30): 
Tel: 02 7234 5252

It might seem obvious to say that choosing a company that matches your field of specialisation is crucial. But there is more to consider. For example, an important aspect to look at is the size of the company. Choosing a multinational might seem like a good idea, but in a medium- or small-size business you will be able to work more closely with senior management. You may have more opportunities to attend decisive meetings, and it is not uncommon for students to be asked to return for full-time employment after graduation. Definitely something to think about.

Do not underestimate the importance of your CV. After all, it is the first impression your potential employer will have of you.

  • No spelling mistakes or typos! (Ask at least two people to read your CV for mistakes). 
  • Include extra-curricular experience. Running a marathon, for example, would be proof of perseverance, or playing an instrument could show patience, etc. Ask yourself what your extra-curricular activities say about your personality.  
  • Alter your personal profile to match what the company would be looking for.  

If you are asking what your ‘personal profile’ is, check this guide with information about writing your CV. Read the guide here.

Know about the company.

  • Show the interviewer that you have invested time in finding out who they are and what they do.
  • LinkedIn is your best friend. Use your detective skills!
  • Most companies have a section on their website entitled "our vision". Study this and think about how this might relate to you.

Ask what your duties will be. 
This is very important because it demonstrates that you are interested in the details of what you would be doing. You are not bothering them if you ask for more information. That’s what they are there for. 

Be yourself.
It might sound like a cliché, but for good reason.

  • If you are asked something you can’t answer, be honest and tell them you don’t know! But when you do, make sure they know that that you are interested in knowing the answer! 
  • Never arrive late. But don’t arrive too early either. A good rule of thumb is to arrive 15 minutes early. You will be showing that you value both their time and your own time.  

What to wear?
Take time to think about this. 

  • What you choose to wear should reflect the type of job you are applying for
  • Here are ideas for what to wear for all occasions. Read the guide here.
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