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. 

The Careers Service and Internship Office is not able to provide detailed advice on visas, and you are encouraged to research the visa that you require. If you are doing an internship or working abroad, check with your employer which visa you should apply for.

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.

Definitions

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.

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 documents 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.

Internship documents for selected countries

France

The Internship Office understands that internships can still go ahead in EU countries now the UK has left the European Union. However, please note that visa requirements may now be different, so we strongly advise you to check your individual requirements.

 

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 start an internship before the Michaelmas of the following academic year. If you are a finalist or recent graduate and you need a signed Convention de Stage, please email internships@careers.ox.ac.uk.

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. Please fill in the details and email internships@careers.ox.ac.uk for a signature.

Please note that when undertaking an internship in France you are entirely responsible for your own insurance (both medical, accident and third-party liability). 

Italy

The Internship Office understands that internships can still go ahead in EU countries now the UK has left the European Union. However, please note that visa requirements may now be different, so we strongly advise you to check your individual requirements.

 

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.

Spain

The Internship Office understands that internships can still go ahead in EU countries now the UK has left the European Union. However, please note that visa requirements may now be different, so we strongly advise you to check your individual requirements.

 

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.

External Visa Information Sources

CIBT Visas has good visa information by country. (This is a commercial site, not officially endorsed by the Careers Service).

For more information on embassies in the UK, see the government list of official embassy websites.

Health insurance

Health or 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 health insurance to have:

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

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

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.

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
  • Delays, trip cancellation or interruption
  • Medical evacuation

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 better cover

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 for
  • 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 fee. 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 global University Rooms website. Alternatively, you can contact the housing office directly of a particular university 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  has listings all over the world but particularly in 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 impact what could otherwise have been an enriching experience in and out of the workplace. The vast majority of the world’s population (80%) does not speak any English at all so a lack of any language skills may lead to feelings of isolation.  With this in mind, it’s worth learning key words and phrases in the local language when travelling. It may lead to some great encounters and if you know a little of the language you will also feel less estranged and more open to your new surroundings.

 

Preparing for your language skills

Depending on your own linguistic background, on the language in question, on your learning style and personality, there are a few options to explore:

Language Courses

The Oxford University Language Centre offers a wide range of online and in-class language courses – 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!

Language Apps

Language apps can also be helpful for learning the basics.. 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.  If you are registering on social networking apps remember to always protect your identity and privacy.

Self-Study

Another alternative is to embark on a self-directed programme of study. The Language Centre library gives you access to resources in a wide range of languages through teach yourself books and resources.

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  but make the most of all the opportunities you will have on a daily basis to engage in the local 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.

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 and laws 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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