3 Ways to Work Abroad for the U.S. Government as a College Student

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If you’ve ever dreamed about representing the United States of America on a global scale and gaining work experience abroad with the government, dream no more! The U.S. government wants to help top-notch, highly motivated college students gain internship experience abroad while serving their nation and making the world a better place. You are automatically eligible for these internships if you’re a U.S. citizen.

These opportunities not only prepare you for a future career with the government or abroad, but they also provide an excellent introduction into the workforce for students of any field. Through an overseas internship with the U.S. government, you’ll gain a better understanding of the world, build valuable skills and establish a powerful network.

There are three main branches of the U.S. government that host student internships abroad:

  1. U.S. Department of State Internship Program
  2. This branch of the government heads the U.S. foreign affairs agency with employees in over 265 different locations abroad. They work together with domestic employees to promote democracy, security and prosperity all over the world.

    Heidi is a Foreign Service Officer working at the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina after stints in El Salvador, China and Malaysia. Hear more about her experiences in this video:

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    Most internships with the U.S. Department of State are unpaid, but funding is available for students demonstrating financial need. You may even be eligible for financial support and academic credit from your college. For all overseas placements, the government also tries to provide interns with free housing. To be a competitive candidate, it’s best if you’ve studied in a relevant field and it will help if you can speak the local language of the placement country.

    The U.S. Department of State also hosts the Pamela Harriman Foreign Service Fellowship Program, which grants awards worth $5,000 for students to work in the U.S. embassy in Paris or London for the summer.

    If you still have any questions about the internship program after having done your research, you can also contact a Diplomat in Residence (DIR). DIRs are Foreign Service Officers who provide guidance and advice. Your DIR can answer your questions and provide an insider’s view on what it’s like to work with the U.S. government.

  3. USAID Internships in the Bureau for Africa
  4. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the government’s foreign assistance branch that works around the globe to expand democracy and improve the lives of people in developing countries. This agency works in over 100 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East.

    USAID’s Bureau for Africa currently offers month-long summer internships abroad. In order to qualify, you must be able to speak a foreign language proficiently (either French, Spanish or Portuguese) in addition to the local language, depending on the country of placement.

  5. U.S. Commercial Service Overseas Work-Study Internship Program
  6. The U.S. Commercial Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, works to advance and protect American companies abroad. You would benefit from and be qualified for this program if you study economics, business administration or a related field. These internships are designed to accompany your college education.

    This opportunity would allow you to apply what you’ve learned in another country for one academic semester or at least 10 weeks during the summer with the understanding that you’ll return to complete your studies. If you’re in good academic standing, you would send your resume and application directly to the Senior or Principal Commercial Officer in your country of interest.

If you have worked for the U.S. government, how has it impacted your job search and career path?

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  1. Vinny T
    Posted May 30, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    These programs are really great and provide an excellent basis for future employment. However, be forewarned,you better be academically gifted, have an impressive resume, and be able to excel at a personal interview to be considered. The average run-of-the mill student will never be accepted into one of these programs and would be well advised not to apply. You suggested as much, Samantha, but I would emphasize that point.

  2. Samantha Bangayan
    Posted May 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s true, Vinny! You need to be a dedicated student, but I think motivation plays a big part too! =) Thanks for your thoughts!

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