Practical Advice on Work Experience Abroad

The information below is intended as a guide if you are arranging an internship in another country (outside the UK). It applies to both UK national students and International students.

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Obtaining a visa to work legally in a country is likely to be your first consideration if you have been offered an internship or work experience abroad. 

Keep in mind that the information below is not a comprehensive guide to visas – only the most popular destinations are included – and visa regulations are constantly changing.

You must do your own research into what visa you require.

This is particularly important during the pandemic as international movement can be very problematic.

Top tips

  • Many internships have to be taken whilst enrolled in full time study or within 12 months of graduating.
  • The term “internship” is widely used in the US and UK but may not be used in relation to working in other countries, or may be used in different ways.
  • Investigate where the consular/visa services operate and check processing times well in advance. Some countries now have official partner organisations which handle visa applications (agents) and this information is available through the Embassy’s website.
  • Check carefully whether any “visa waiver” would cover you for doing an internship or work experience, or whether this only applies to visitors.
  • Visa processing times vary but you should allow plenty of time to obtain the necessary visa and apply as early as possible. Some countries may prohibit applications more than a certain amount of time in advance of travel.
  • You may have to make a personal visit at some stage during the visa issuing process. Most establishments are based in London but some have satellite offices in other major cities (eg Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh).
  • It is likely that you will need a letter from the receiving institution/employer, or formal sponsorship.
  • Some countries will allow volunteering on a tourist visa. Check to see what visa is required.
  • If you require a letter from Oxford University, the Internship Office at the Careers Service may be able to provide this. Please email internships@careers.ox.ac.uk.
  • You may also need evidence of your finances, address where you will be staying, travel insurance, confirmation of return travel.
  • Even if you do not require a visa for the country concerned, you may still need to have all the relevant documentation about the internship available to present at border control.
  • Please note that the Internship Office cannot offer advice on which visa type to apply for. We can provide letters of support if you are on one of our programmes (see below), but we are not qualified to advise on the visa process.

 

 

Although we refer to a placement through the Summer Internship Programme as an ‘internship’, some countries have different definitions of internships and this will be a determining factor regarding the visa you need. If you have secured a placement with a not-for-profit organisation, for less than 90 days and will not be paid, this could be classed as a ‘volunteering experience’ and some countries would allow volunteering to be undertaken on a tourist visa. Even if you are awarded a bursary via the University towards your travel/living costs, this is not classed as a wage.

We advise that you contact the organisation you will be working with for help, as they may have had other interns and will be able to advise which visa is required. 

Additional documentation

  • As part of the visa process, some students will require a Letter of Support detailing their participation in the Internship Programme. Please email internships@careers.ox.ac.uk with your requirements and the Internship Office can send you a signed copy.
  • Occasionally students are asked to provide Proof of Enrollment. All of these letters can be obtained through Student Self-Service and not through the Internship Office.
  • Students who need for their Year Abroad will need this signed by the Year Abroad Office, who can be contacted at year-abroad@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

France and Conventions de Stage

Students planning a Year Abroad in France will need a Convention de Stage signed by the year Abroad Office. Please fill in the template and send it to year-abroad@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

Students undertaking internships in France or with a French organisation outside France will require a Convention de Stage. The Internship Office can supply this signed document in French or English for any internship for current students at the University of Oxford.

Finalists/recent graduates: To help students secure internships immediately post-finals we can also supply a signed Convention de Stage to leavers who secure an internship before the Michaelmas of the following academic year.  The start date of the internship must also fall within six months of leaving Oxford.

Please note that the Internship Office will only sign an Oxford University-approved Convention de Stage. Current students (non-finalists) can download the approved Convention de Stage template; Finalists can download the slightly different approved Convention de Stage template.

If you need a Convention de Stage please contact the Internship Office at internships@careers.ox.ac.uk. Normally it would take around 5 working days to process a request. During COVID the turn-around time can be up to two weeks.

Please note that when undertaking an internship in France you are entirely responsible for your own insurance (both medical, accident and third-party liability). It would also be advisable for you to obtain an EHIC card if you do not already possess one.

Spain and Acuerdo de Practica

Internships taking place in Spain, or with a Spanish organisation, will also require documentation, called an Acuerdo de Practica. Like the Convention de Stage, the Internship Office can now supply this signed document in Spanish or English for any internship (including placements obtained outside of the Summer Internship Programme). However, finalists and alumni must obtain these from their respective colleges.

If you need an Acuerdo de Practica please fill in the template and email it to the Internship Office at internships@careers.ox.ac.uk. Normally it would take around 5 working days to process a request. During COVID the turn-around time can be up to two weeks.

Italian Agreement Form

If you are planning an internship in Italy and the company asks for an agreement form, the Internship Office is able to sign this for current students (including placements obtained outside of the Summer Internship Programme). However, finalists and alumni must obtain these from their respective colleges.

If you need an Italian Agreement Form please fill in the template and email it to the Internship Office at internships@careers.ox.ac.uk. Normally it would take around 5 working days to process a request. During COVID the turn-around time can be up to two weeks.

Advice by country

USA

PROFIT-MAKING COMPANIES

Students working with a profit making company, whether paid or unpaid, need a J-1 internship visa. These can be hard to acquire if the company you are working for has never been through the process before. You need to be sponsored by an approved organisation which specialises in sponsoring interns. The designated sponsors supervise the application process and are the main point of contact throughout the exchange programme process. The sponsor will need to provide you with a DS-2019 form which is required when you apply for your J-1 visa.

Useful information can be found on the US government webpage.

The visa application will involve applying online (DS-160 non-immigrant application) and an interview at the US Embassy. There is information on applying on the US Embassy website.

You will probably be required to provide supporting documents, which are likely to include:

  • the DS-2019 form from your visa sponsor
  • evidence of your study in the UK (though this may be covered by your DS-2019 form)
  • current passport
  • photograph – you will need to have uploaded a photo onto your DS-160 application form
  • evidence that you have enough money for your stay, eg bank statements (though this may be covered by your DS-2019 form)

Be careful to look out for information indicating specifically what evidence is required during your application process.

An example of an organisation which sponsors US interns is Interexchange, but please note this is provided as an example and not a recommendation. You should make sure that you use an organisation that is approved. It is likely that a fee will be charged.

CHARITIES

UK/EU citizens undertaking an unpaid volunteering placement with a charity, for fewer than 90 days, may be able to travel to the United States with a visa waiver, but it is best to seek advice from your internship provider.

Russia

All visa applications (including employment) for Russia are handled through their agent VFS Global. After completing the online application, all applicants must attend a drop-in appointment at the Visa Application Centre in London.

Many companies offer “internship” opportunities in Russia, though they tend to concentrate on language skills.

The main documents required:

  • A letter of invitation from the Russian Federal Migration Service or a telex from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • At least 6 months validity left on your passport after the expiry of the work visa issued
  • A valid HIV certificate
  • To ensure speedier processing of your visa, you should provide proof of residence in the UK for the previous 90 days.

The application process requires some documentation to be taken to the drop-in appointment, however students are not required to submit bank statements for the past 3 months (point 6).

Australia

See the webpage of the Australian Embassy to the UK for more information (or the equivalent for your home country).

Brazil

WORK EXPERIENCE WITH FOR-PROFIT COMPANIES

Students undertaking internships at for-profit companies may require a Vitem V visa, which is an internship visa sponsored by an exchange institution (much like an American J-1 Internship Visa). This category is applicable when the internship is intermediated by a recognized student exchange institution, such as IAESTE or AIESEC.

Your will need to obtain a Police Certificate which will take between 2 and 10 days to arrive. For further information, see the website of the Consulate General of Brazil in London (or the equivalent for your home country).

WORK EXPERIENCE WITH AN ACADEMIC INSTITUTION

For students undertaking internships which are sponsored by an academic institution, such as the University of Sao Paulo, you will need a Vitem IV internship visa. Having this visa will allow you to have full access to the student facilities, such as gym, food hall and student hospitals. However, nationals of Argentina, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Spain, Suriname, The Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, and United Kingdom do not require this visa for stays under 90 days.

Bearers of this type of visa must register with the Brazilian Immigration authorities at the Federal Police within 30 days of arrival in Brazil, and submit a copy of the visa application form, which will have been stamped and returned to them by this Consulate.

Canada

See the webpages of the Canadian government for information.

France

Convention de Stage:

Students undertaking internships in France or with a French organisation outside France will require a Convention de Stage. The Internship Office can supply this signed document in French or English for any internship for current students at the University of Oxford.

Finalists/recent graduates: To help students secure internships immediately post-finals we can also supply a signed Convention de Stage to leavers who secure an internship before the Michaelmas of the following academic year.  The start date of the internship must also fall within six months of leaving Oxford.

Please note that the internship office will only sign an Oxford University-approved Convention de Stage.  Current students (non-finalists) can download the approved Convention de Stage template; finalists can download a slightly different approved Convention de Stage template.

If you need a Convention de Stage please contact the Internship Office at internships@careers.ox.ac.uk.

**Please note that when undertaking an internship in France you are entirely responsible for your own insurance (both medical, accident and third-party liability). It would also be advisable for you to obtain an EHIC card if you do not already possess one.

Spain

Acuerdo de Practica: Internships taking place in Spain, or with a Spanish organisation, will also require documentation, called an Acuerdo de Practica. Like the Convention de Stage, the Internship Office can now supply this signed document in Spanish or English for any internship (including placements obtained outside of the Summer Internship Programme). However, finalists and alumni must obtain these from their respective colleges.

If you need an Acuerdo de Practica please fill in the template and email it to the Internship Office at internships@careers.ox.ac.uk.

India

All foreign nationals require a visa to enter India. You will need to apply through their agent VFS Global. An ‘Intern Visa’ is required for an unpaid internship. Details about this type of visa are also available on the Indian High Commission website.

You will need an invitation letter from the host organisation plus a letter from your Oxford college/department, or from the Internship Office. Note that the visa you receive will be ‘single entry’, so you will not be able to leave India and re-enter during its period of validity. If your internship will be paid, or if you are going to be working for an NGO, you may need an Employment Visa (please note the link takes you to the pages intended for UK citizens).

Other countries

The Key Travel website has really good visa information by country. (This is a commercial site, not officially endorsed by the Careers Service).

See the link for a list of official embassy websites.

 

Medical insurance

Medical insurance reimburses some or all of your healthcare expenses, such as the cost of an operation in a private hospital or National Health Service (NHS) and prescription charges.

We buy medical insurance to have:

  • access to healthcare at a time that is convenient
  • direct care from a consultant
  • a choice of advanced treatment options

Medical insurance works alongside the NHS and you will not lose your entitlement to NHS treatment when you have medical insurance.

UK residents staying in the EU can get reduced-cost or free state-provided medical treatment with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Not all EU hospitals accept the card and it will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown back to the UK. There are no planned changes to the EHIC card until 31st December 2020.There is more information about the EHIC on the NHS website.

Students will have medical and health cover as part of their travel insurance, but some may require additional private medical insurance which can be purchased for a short duration to cover the travel dates. Here is a list of some private medical insurance companies in the UK.

Travel insurance

Your travel insurance policy should cover the whole time that you’re away. Multi-trip policies may specify a maximum number of days’ travel.

Your travel insurance policy should cover:

  • Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance
  • Personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
  • Lost and stolen possessions
  • Cancellation and shortening your trip

Remember: read the small print to know exactly what you are covered for before purchasing.

Tips when purchasing travel insurance:

  • Shop around to find the best price and the right product rather than opting to travel without cover
  • Cheaper policies will usually have less cover, so it is worth spending slightly more to get the best cover
  • If travelling within the European Economic Area you will need an EHIC as well as travel insurance

Whether you need vaccinations, and which to have, will depend on:

  • The country you are travelling to
  • When you are travelling
  • Where you are staying
  • How long you will be staying
  • What you will be doing during your stay

You can find out which vaccinations are required or recommended for the areas which you will be working in on Fit for Travel and NaTHNaC.

However, we recommend that you visit your GP or practice nurse as they may be able to give you some advice about travel vaccinations and travel health which you will require. They may also be able to give you the travel vaccinations you need, either free on the NHS or for a small charge. Alternatively, you can visit a local private travel vaccination clinic for your travel vaccinations. Please note that not all vaccinations are available free on the NHS, even if they are recommended for travel to a certain area.

Organising your travel arrangements can be a difficult task. It takes time to find the best prices and coordinate logistics through each step of your journey. It may take a bit of planning, but making the correct travel arrangements before leaving for your internship is recommended to ensure a smooth trip. A few useful steps are:

  1. Determine the exact addresses of where you will be going. Will you be travelling to multiple locations? Are there multiple airports?
  2. Choose your travel dates based on the agreement between you and the employer. Consider flying into the country the day before to allow plenty of time for preparation.
  3. Book air, rail or ground transportation at least three weeks in advance of travel. Compare flight prices online to get the best rate.

Finding accommodation is one of the most important things to consider when getting an internship. Do your research and find out all your options. We recommend that you book your accommodation as soon as possible as this can make a big difference to the cost and availability.

Top tips

  1. Find out the exact location where you will be based for your internship. If your internship is offered through the Summer Internship Programme, and the location is not obvious, either contact the Internship Office, or ask the employer directly. Please note that you may be moved to different locations during your internship, so ask if this could happen, and whether they can inform you of the locations where you will be moved to.
  2. What is your budget for accommodation? Remember to always look at what is included in the cost before agreeing to anything.
  3. Can your employer help you to find accommodation? Many internship providers are happy to give assistance in finding somewhere convenient and affordable.
  4. Do you know anyone who lives within commuting distance of your workplace who you could stay with? Ask friends, family and acquaintances.
  5. Local universities normally have halls of residence accommodation available over the summer months. Some are listed on the University Rooms website. Alternatively, you can contact the housing office directly and you may be offered a discounted student rate.
  6. Find the local classified listing website for your internship country or city: Craig’s List is used all over the USA. Time Out is also an excellent source of travel information for all major international cities.
  7. Oxford Alumni groups exist all over the world and you can email the coordinator of each to ask for a request to go out on their local mailing list.

Spending a longer period working in a country where you can’t speak the language can severely impact what could otherwise have been an enriching experience in and out of the workplace. The lack of any language skills and the assumption that everyone speaks English can exacerbate culture shock and lead to strong feelings of isolation and dependency. Learning a little of the language is high on the list of recommendations.

When even a little of the language goes a long way

English may rank highly among the languages most studied and spoken in the world today, however, the vast majority of the world population (80%) does not in fact speak any English at all. Even those who do speak some English may be reluctant to express themselves in a language they do not feel at ease with.

It’s only polite to learn a few words in the local language when travelling, and will lead to encounters that are more positive. If you know a little of the language you will feel less estranged and more able to reach out – more open to your new surroundings.

Preparing for your language skills

Just as researching the country you are travelling to can help prevent culture shock, learning a little of the language will empower you to arrive with added confidence.  Depending on your own linguistic background, on the language in question, on your learning style and personality, there is a range of options to explore:

Language Courses

You may wish to take a course in the language in question – most beginner courses will take you through the basic steps of daily communication and help you develop your first understanding of the structure of the language. The Oxford University Language Centre offers a range of flexible language classes – you may even be eligible to receive funding from your college, department or Faculty for these courses through the Priority Funding scheme. If the Language Centre does not offer the language you need, you may wish to check if the Department of Continuing Education does. Taking a course is helpful to start with as it gives great support, communication opportunities and a regular rhythm of study.

Tandem Learning

You may wish to explore the possibility of learning the language by yourself with the support of a native speaker – make the most of the international hub around you.  The Language Centre hosts a Language Learning Exchange which facilitates and supports peer to peer learning – this is a particularly good option to also develop the cross-cultural skills you will need once abroad and to practice in a more informal and fun way – perhaps not so great if you are a beginner though!

Online Language Learning Social Networks and Apps

Although these apps arguably do not quite deliver on what they promise, some of them are very helpful in going through survival language and in enabling you to practise online with native speakers. Some of these apps enable you to communicate live or through recorded messages either learner to learner or through a community of learners who will give you feedback and earn points.  Busuu.com and HelloTalk are good examples of apps you can try, but there are many more and they are constantly evolving.  If you would like to learn more about the range of apps and see how language tutors rate them visit the University of Oxford’s Virtual Language Centre on Canvas….remember though, if you are registering on social networking apps to always protect your identity and privacy.

Self-Study

You may also simply wish to embark on a self-directed programme of self-study. The Language Centre library gives you access to resources in a wide range of languages through teach yourself books and resources – make sure, if you opt for this mode of learning, that you are practising all four skills and not simply reading and writing.

While you are away

Don’t be shy – try out and use what you have been learning from the first day.

You may not need to or have to – others will speak English, welcome you and support you of course – but do make the most of all the opportunities you will have on a daily basis to engage in the target language.  Taxi drivers, shopkeepers, waiters, local people in queues, people who help you find your way when you are lost all offer excellent (and repetitive) opportunities to practise and daily life becomes in and of itself a language lab.

Remember that language is a gateway to culture and to mutual understanding – learning and speaking the language while abroad will enhance your internship and strongly support its success and future impact.

Spending a longer period of time in a new country can be daunting for both first-time and more seasoned travellers.

Experiencing nerves and feeling unsettled is not unusual when first arriving in a country, but more persistent discomfort and psychological symptoms may be signs of culture shock. These typically include anxiety, depression, or feelings of being rejected by or rejection of the host culture.

The following is a guide to ways to prevent culture shock, ways to adjust/transition to a new country, and resources to help you prepare for your experience.

What is culture shock?

Culture shock is a reaction to both distance from the familiar and immersion in a new or unpredictable environment. Certain factors can exacerbate this, for example:

  • Language barriers and unfamiliar customs
  • Travelling sickness caused by different foods or water
  • Witnessing poverty and deprivation that you have not previously been exposed to
  • Lack of internet or phone connectivity, which can increase feelings of isolation
  • Different climates or extreme weather

Preparing for your trip

Researching the country you’re travelling to can help prevent culture shock by preparing you for what to expect. It is helpful to be aware of certain aspects of the host culture and country, such as:

  • Language – Learn some basic words and phrases, or familiarise yourself with a new alphabet.
  • Food and drink – Check the water is safe to drink, or taste some new foods before you go.
  • Locality and population – Read up about the area you will be living in, the surrounding regions, the seasons and climate, and the daily lives of the populations living there.
  • Cultural norms and values – Research the cultural practices, religious customs, and social behaviours of the host culture. It’s important to think about dressing appropriately and respectfully in more conservative countries. Additionally, some cultures think differently about topics such as gender, sexuality, and race; it is a good idea to prepare yourself for different attitudes you might face.
  • Politics – Research the current political situation in the country you’re travelling in and be aware of any potential dangers or safety concerns, as well as how to address these.

While you are away

Adjusting to a new country can take some time, even if you’re not experiencing culture shock. A few things can help the transition:

  • Be open minded to new experiences, but give yourself time – don’t expect to love it right away!
  • Seeking out familiarity is OK! Keep in regular contact with support systems at home or make some of your favourite foods from home.
  • It’s important to look after your general health during this time. Get enough sleep – especially if you are jet-lagged! – and make sure to eat regularly and drink plenty of water.
  • Plan ahead for the logistics of your arrival as much as you can. For example, think about transport in the region, how you’ll get from the airport, and travel to work once you’re there, or how you will access the internet and phone connectivity.
  • Speak to people who have travelled to the country for reliable firsthand accounts.
  • Think about sites and places you’re excited to visit in your spare time!

Useful links to help with culture shock:

Security

Although the Internship Office is generally aware of the security situation within internship countries, and in a few rare cases have had to cancel internships due to national security incidents, it is your responsibility to check the latest travel advice before leaving. The FCO website advises on safety and security threats.

Visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre for official data on disease outbreak surveillance.

In event of an emergency your country’s embassy will be able to provide consular assistance to nationals in distress. The Go Abroad website can help you find the nearest embassy that relates to the passport you hold.

Support

If you encounter difficulties while undertaking an internship, your first port of call should be the designated point of contact within the organisation for which you are working. If you are unable to contact them, or if the situation cannot be handled internally you should contact the Internship Office. The management team can be contacted to confidentially discuss any aspect of your experiences during or after your internship:

Dr Fiona Whitehouse
Head of the Internship Office
Tel: +44 (0)1865 274643
E-mail: fiona.whitehouse@careers.ox.ac.uk

Rachel Ruscombe-King
Deputy Head of the Internship Office
Tel: +44 (0)1865 274641
E-mail: rachel.ruscombe-king@careers.ox.ac.uk

The Counselling Service at the University of Oxford may also be able to help. They are there to help you address personal or emotional problems and offer a free and confidential service. Please note they are not an emergency service. They can be contacted as follows:

The Counselling Service
3 Worcester Street,
Oxford
OX1 2BX
+44 (0)1865 270300
counselling@admin.ox.ac.uk

 

The following are useful links for travelling students:

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