4 Important Questions about Foreign (Research) Internships

A foreign internship is precisely what the name suggests. It is an internship in a foreign country, more specifically in a foreign university.

1) What are you expected to do (during the internship)? Are you capable of doing that at the end of your second year?

Ideally in these kinds of internships, you are expected to do some mild research work with a professor from the university you are going to. This is ideally some sort of research assistantship, and in the same vein you are paid some sort of stipend for the same. As for the second part of the question, generally, in most cases, students are not really equipped for intensive work at the end of their second years, while the peak internship year for undergraduate students is the end of their third year. From my interaction with professors, I know that a lot of professors don’t expect kickass work from undergraduate students, but they most definitely do get upset when students spend their summer time in the new country going around places, but don’t really do any research work at all. Then there are those who do some really awesome work in summer, and get it published and all. So, capability of doing decently good work is an individual attribute. Some are more than capable, everyone else is capable but they just don’t put in enough work (well you don’t get to go to the internships unless you’re fairly okay, so I guess everyone IS capable).

2) What exactly does the university offer? (housing, visa requirements, etc.)

Generally most of these universities are part of a tie-up with an organization which offers the internships. So generally all the basics are offered by the universities, which includes housing, visa requirements and all that. Sometimes these organizations also give some sort of an allowance, which is generally used by the internees to explore the country your are going to.

3) How do you get one? Do you just randomly mail to professors, and expect a positive reply?

You don’t just GET an internship. You need to earn one. It is not a single step process. Firstly, you don’t randomly mail professors, you mail professors you are interested in working with. Professors easily see through random mails.You need to check this out : IIT student seeks internship at your esteemed institute. It is one of those blogs that make you look at yourself, your friends, fellow Indians and put your head down in shame. The ridiculous extents to which we Indians go for a foreign internship.

How you rather get an internship is, figure out which programs offer an internship, like DAAD, MITACS, SURF, Khorana (this is a BT specific internship which a friend of mine did), Viterbi, EPFL etc, These are some of them which came off the top of my head. They all have specialized procedures, ranging from technical interviews to writing statements of purpose, Ones who are found competent at the end of these procedures, My tip would be to keep your eyes open for these programs, and catch them at the right moment, because Randomly.Mailing.Professors.Just.Doesn’t.Work!!!!

4) How much benefit does it provide? ( for e.g. resume, personality, knowledge)

This is a very objective question. It does provide the benefit of being a new experience no doubt, so definitely on the personality and hopefully knowledge front you are richer. As for the resume benefits, I’m not really sure. It depends on which intern you are doing. For someone in DAAD, or MITACS, it isn’t really a great resume boost, unless you do something really good. For someone at SURF, the very fact that you got taken into Caltech for an internship is a huge thing on your resume. I’ve had friends who’ve wasted their time over a foreign summer internship. I’ve also had friends who found their real calling over a summer internship. So I’m sure for anyone who goes with a sincere mindset, and not just for the kick of having a foreign intern to his name, will be able to get something good out of it!

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