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A Guide to Pursuing an Internship as an International Student


By Delyash Tsarstaeva

A Guide to finding an internship as an international student:      

Hi, I’m Delyash Tsartsaeva.  I’m an international student from Russia and I’m pursuing my master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy (Student Affairs). I work as a career coach in my graduate assistantship, and I’m also doing an internship at the Bennion Center. If you want to learn more about internship search, read this article!

Here are 5 tips to increase your chances to get an internship as an international student:

  1. Start your internship search early.

Internship search requires time and effort, especially if you are an international student like me. As an international student, you have to navigate a new job market, and you have to stand out among other applicants. I recommend you to dive into your search at least 5 months before your preferred internship start date. Even during the fall there are some summer internship opportunities available on Handshake, LinkedIn, and other job boards.

Personal example: I started my summer internship search in winter, I had to edit my resume and cover letters multiple times, and in March I had my first interviews, and it also took time to get ready for them.  In April I got an internship offer from Cornell University, but due to CPT (Curriculum Practical Training) complications, I couldn’t start my internship there, so I had to start my search all over again. Sometimes, it’s really frustrating, so if you do things in advance, you will feel less stressed out, and if something doesn’t work out, you will have some time for a Plan B. 

  1. Schedule an appointment with a career coach.

If you are wondering about resumes for specific internships, cover letters, interview preparation, internship search, salary negotiation, or any other related topic feel free to schedule an appointment!

You can also download sample resumes from the Career & Professional Development Center Web site, so you can get a better understanding of American formatting and use some of the examples as templates for your own resume.

You can also attend our Career Studio in-person to get a quick resume review, and you don’t need an appointment!  Finally, you can email your resume to resumereviews@careers.utah.edu to have it reviewed.

Additional support is available at the online chat function at our Web site (look to the bottom right of the screen).

Personal example: When I was editing my resume, I needed someone to take a look at it and review it. I scheduled a meeting with career coach Olga Kingsbury.  Olga was also an international student, so she totally understood the struggles I was going through. On our team, we have several career coaches (including me) who have experience of studying abroad and who have advanced multicultural competence. I strongly recommend that international students reach out to us and get support.

  1. Meet with ISSS to be sure that you understand CPT (Curriculum Practical Training) procedures.

We highly recommend you engage with ISSS (International Student & Scholar Services) to be sure you are following all the rules.  You can attend a workshop or make an appointment with an ISSS advisor. CPT will allow you to have an internship off campus, but there are some requirements and criteria.  Please read this guide to learn how it works at the U.

Personal example: I assumed that the process of getting a work authorization through CPT would be easy and straightforward, and most of my friends got their CPT approvals without any issues. I did not fully understand the rules of CPT, and it turned out that due to the nature of my program I would not be available to do an internship outside of campus. This case is quite unique, but I just always try to make international students aware of potential challenges.

  1. Expand your network and connect with people you already know.

Networking is really essential when it comes to internship and job search in the United States. More than 60% of people find opportunities through networking. It is always a good idea to ask career advice from different people inside and outside of your network.  By interacting with friends, faculty, classmates, advisors, career coaches, alumni and people on LinkedIn, and having career related conversations with them, you increase your chances of learning about internships, and getting a foot in the door.

Personal example: I discovered an internship at Cornell University through one of my classmates. She mentioned a Facebook group for students pursuing master’s degree in student affairs, and she said that there were many internship posted in that group. Without her advice, I would never have found this opportunity.   

  1. Don’t underestimate on campus internship opportunities.

The University of Utah provides internship opportunities on campus. You can find them here. They are in different areas, like marketing, graphic design, web-development, analytics, event planning, and video production. You can also cold-email to an office on campus and ask them whether they are looking for interns in the area you are interested in.  Interning on campus is convenient because it doesn’t require any additional work authorization.

Personal example: I didn’t look for an internship on campus on the website, however, I reached out to my classmate who works at the Bennion Center, and I asked him about their internship opportunities in their office.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post!  We hope it is helpful to you!