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Why Pay for an Unpaid Internship?

by AIFS Abroad
Interns in an Office Setting

International internships can provide you with the exciting opportunity to live abroad and give your resume a major boost. But many internships, whether at home or abroad, aren’t paid. We get it – it doesn’t sound ideal to work for free. So why would anyone pay for an unpaid internship? Everyone’s situation is different. With many degrees and entry-level jobs requiring previous hands-on experience, an internship program abroad might be the best option to help you get where you want to go in your career. 

Here’s why thousands of our alumni decided to pay for an unpaid internship: 

They may be more accessible than you think. 

If you’re receiving academic credit for your internship abroad, you may be able to use your existing financial aid package through your home university. Speak with your school’s financial aid office to find out if this is an option for you. 

You could also be eligible for a scholarship or grant through AIFS. Examples of scholarships that you can apply for and potentially put toward your internship program include: 

  • AIFS Diversity Achievement Scholarship  
  • AIFS Overseas Ambassador Scholarship 
  • Generation Study Abroad Scholarship 

AIFS Abroad also offers a variety of grants that you may qualify for. These grants are automatically awarded to eligible participants during the application process: 

  • Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)  
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)  
  • Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) Recipient Grant 
  • Gilman Recipient Grant  
  • Boren Recipient Grant
  • U.S. Veterans Grant  
  • Go Abroad Again with AIFS  
  • Pell Grant Recipients 

Virtual internships offer another affordable option. Our virtual international internship programs can help you develop the professional and global skills you need, right from your laptop.  

Wait, why are so many internships abroad unpaid, anyway? 

There’s a reason why the vast majority of international internships are unpaid. Many countries have visa requirements that don’t allow international students or visitors to work for compensation. 

Not all internships are created equal.  

When it comes to evaluating whether an unpaid internship is worth it, it’s important to consider the quality of the internship. You want an internship that gives you the hands-on professional experience you need and greater insight into your prospective career field. 

You can evaluate if an internship is right for you by asking yourself questions like: 

  • What are my expectations for an internship? 
  • Will the internship benefit my resume? 
  • Does the internship bring me new professional skills? 

Securing a quality internship – whether abroad or in the U.S. – can take a lot of work. Finding and selecting internships in your field and crafting your resume and cover letter without guidance can be a hassle. Plus, you could face months of filling out application after application (with no guarantees of getting a response).  

Now imagine you also have to secure housing abroad within commuting distance to your internship and likely navigate a new currency, transportation system, and possibly even an unfamiliar language. Yikes, right? And we haven’t even touched on all the work it takes to figure out the logistics of the visa process yet. While it’s normal to wonder “why pay for an unpaid internship?”, you also want to ask yourself if you have the time to find a quality opportunity — and all the details that come along with it — on your own. 

At AIFS Abroad, we take care of a lot of the work for you.  

When you choose an internship program through a provider like AIFS Abroad, you get world-class support every step of the way. If you’re accepted, we guarantee you an internship in your chosen career field. We work with you until you have an internship confirmed with a host organization. Your program tuition also includes housing, personalized career development, pre-departure and visa assistance from a dedicated member of our team, support from local staff in each host city, social events, and a robust medical and travel insurance package. 

Your return on investment could be astronomical. 

The reason why people pay for unpaid internships is because the value outweighs the cost. Interning abroad is a chance for you to establish a global network and clarify your career goals. By completing an international internship program, you’ll gain professional experience in the international market, immerse yourself in multicultural work environments, and learn what it takes to adapt effectively. The best part? Employers truly value an individual’s ability to work abroad. It shows confidence and the ability to adapt while learning new skills in an unfamiliar setting. 

“I can’t convey how perfect it was for me – it opened my doors to new career opportunities in the US and allowed me to combine my current marketing skills with a new field and I couldn’t feel more prepared (or excited) to start a job in fashion.” – Emily H., International Internship in Florence alum. 

The truth is, you’ll never know what doors could open for you through an international internship. It’s the perfect opportunity to set yourself apart from your peers and stand out to future employers. And if traveling and seeing the world is important to you, why NOT gain professional experience while you’re doing it? There’s no better time than now!  

Why Pay for an Unpaid Internship? Interns in an Office Setting
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