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Considerations for International Opportunities


Considerations for International Opportunities

Support & Expectations
General Considerations

Support & Expectations

The International Opportunities webpage provides different types of programs which have varying levels of support. It is recommended that you review the various options, as it will be up to you to decide which type of support you think is best for your experience. Here is a list of variables you may want to consider when comparing programs. Should you secure an international experience for the summer, you can apply to take part in the Columbia University Global Opportunities (CU GO) Program, which will provide additional professional development and support while you are overseas.

Cost and Organization/Program Evaluation

  • Is the program aid, unpaid or fee-based?
  • Review the history of the organization.  Is it well established?  Also, are there student testimonials that you are able to review to learn more about previous student experiences?
  • When you contact the organization, have you been satisfied with the customer service?  This is necessary as they may be an important point of contact during your time abroad.
  • Is it required to receive academic credit throughout the duration of the international experience?  (CCE is unable to provide documentation regarding credit)
  • Has the organization had Columbia students complete the program in the past?  Can you contact those students to learn more about their experience?


  • Is housing assistance provided? What are the arrangements like?

Health & Safety

  • What are the current health and safety issues of the country? Review the US Department of State website, specifically the travel warning and alert section.
  • Is health insurance provided? What does it cover?
  • Do you have access to a 24/7 emergency contact? Is that contact in the country or in the United States?

General Support

  • Do you receive an in-country mentor during the experience?
  • What is the level of support before, during, and after the experience?
  • Is there visa or work permit assistance?


  • Are language/tutoring opportunities available?

Length of Time

  • What is the duration of the program? Is there flexibility in the length or start and end dates?

Adapted from "Resource for Vetting Partners and Developing Work, Internship, Volunteer Abroad (WIVA) Programs" which is located:

 Haridwar, India - Photo submitted by Akshay Purohit

General Considerations


Positions are open to students of various majors, academic levels, and citizenships. Employers continue to seek diversity of applicants, so be open-minded about the locations and positions in which you apply. For example, some employers may be open to international students returning to his or her home country for an internship or full-time hire, while others may prefer students who have had less exposure to the country and culture. Make sure to review these basic requirements to ensure that you are eligible to apply.

Passport & Visa

Before you leave the country, you will need a passport. If you are a US Citizen, to apply for a new passport or for renewal, see If you are not a US citizen, please contact your respective consulate for more information. Normal processing can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks, so apply early. Make sure that the passport does not expire for at least 6 months after your experience abroad. 

For positions abroad, you may be required to obtain a visa in order to work legally in the country. Please consult the consulate of the country in which you plan on visiting. A list of consulates can be located at Review this information as well as speak to your potential employer. Please note that obtaining a visa may take up to 3-6 months and may require extensive documentation, so it is important to review the requirements early in the process. It is recommended that you call the appropriate consulate or embassy directly to confirm visa information. When you call the consulate or embassy, it may be helpful to provide the following information when discussing your position abroad:

  • Duration of experience abroad
  • Citizenship
  • Paid or unpaid
  • Full-time or part-time
  • If you will be enrolled as a full-time student (CCE is unable to provide enrollment documents for internship purposes)

It is also strongly encouraged that you review additional guidance and information on Going Global, an international careers resource. If you are a Columbia University international student, you should also consult the Columbia University International Student Services Office about entry/exit requirements of the United States.

Health & Safety

Before going abroad, it is critical that you review health and safety information. The following information provides a brief overview of how to start researching health and safety for international experiences. We strongly encourage you to review the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for health-related information and recommended immunization information. Also, take the time to review the US Department of State's resources for safety information, specifically the Tips for International Travel section. Make note of any countries that currently have travel warnings or travel alerts as well as review the general overview of the country before departure on the US Department of State’s website.

Enrollment in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is also suggested throughout your time abroad. STEP is a free service provided by the US Government to US citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.

It is also recommended that you obtain international travel insurance throughout the duration of your time abroad. If you are completing an experience as a Columbia University student, please contact International SOS (ISOS) for more information. Otherwise, check with your personal insurance carrier or obtain additional international insurance. It is recommended that the insurance includes repatriation and evacuation assistance.

Cultural Considerations

It is extremely useful to be culturally prepared before you begin your international experience. Cultural preparedness is a complex and ongoing learning experience which will continue throughout the duration of your time abroad and likely even after the experience has been completed. Review the following Cultural Knowledge which provides a good framework of information that may be helpful to know before you leave the country. You can continue to educate yourself about the country in which you will be visiting through a variety of different avenues, some of which include:

  • Meeting with a person who grew up or lived in the country in which you are visiting (i.e. an international student)
  • Reviewing various media sources about the city and country you are visiting (i.e articles from online news sources, travel guides, TV, Twitter, Facebook etc)
  • Extensively research the country to learn appropriate cultural information (i.e. dress code, history of the country, transportation)
  • If you are non-native speaker, learn basic phrases in the foreign language
  • Review the current events of the country in which you are planning to stay or travel to

See below for additional resources that will assist you in cultural preparation. Topics that may be of particular interest to students interning, volunteering or working abroad include: business etiquette, historical, education, and economic information about countries around the world.

  • Kwintessential:International guide to the culture, customs, social and business etiquette from countries around the world. 
  • Going Global: A provider of wide-ranging career and employment resources for evaluating, selecting, and transitional into a successful career in a foreign country.


Funding is a common issue for students interested in international experiences. Available funding is dependent upon multiple factors which include: financial need, type of experience, length, and duration. See below for some recommended sources of funding for international experiences.

  • How to Fund an Internship: CCE's resources on how to fund an ideal internship
  • Work Exemption Program: Columbia University’s enhanced financial aid program for undergraduate students in Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. The program is designed to enable financial aid recipients to take advantage of unpaid experiential learning opportunities.
  • Alumni Parent Internship Fund: The Alumni and Parent Internship Fund (APIF) is specifically designed to encourage Columbia College students to accept a quality internship which would foster their career exploration and build upon their academic studies, while alleviating some of the financial burden associated with unpaid internships.
  • Office of Fellowships: Committed to helping Columbia students apply for national and international fellowships.  We educate students, faculty, and staff about scholarships and research opportunities and aid students in determining the best scholarships for their intellectual, professional, and personal goals.
  • Inquire with the organization in which you are applying to see if there are any additional scholarships available.
  • Columbia-Specific Resources: Check to see if there is a center or institute focused on the region in which you plan to be traveling listed in the Columbia-Specific Resources section of the International Opportunities webpage.  It may be helpful to reach out to that regional center or institute to see if there are any additional fellowships or grants available for international experiences in that region of the world.
  • Academic Department: If you are completing an experience abroad that is focused on your field of study, you may wish to contact your academic department at Columbia University to see if there are any additional fellowships or grants that are available for your major of study.
  • Blogging and Additional Social Media Contests:Complete online research to locate opportunities where you may be able to blog, create a video or write an article about your experience.  Many of these opportunities provide financial support to winners.  For example, check out writing contests with Transitions Abroad.
  • Part-time Work: Students interested in international experiences abroad can help offset some of the costs by taking on part-time jobs before their time abroad.  Review opportunities available on LionSHARE.
  • InterExchange Foundation: Various funding options including the Christianson Award which is between $2,500 and $10,000 that supports highly motivated Americans between the ages of 18-28 who have arranged their own work or volunteer abroad experiences for six months or more.

Comments or Questions?

If you have interest in making an appointment with a counselor to discuss your questions related to international experiences, please do not hesitate to contact the Center for Career Education at: (212)854-5609.