International Internship Primer


By Bryan Phillip North, Account Manager, Model Media

Work experience abroad opens endless possibilities for PR students and graduates alike.  As an American interning for Ketchum’s London office, I was provided with great connections, a strong career foundation and a dynamic view of British culture outside of the usual tourists spots. While acquiring a good internship in your own home country can be quite the task, international students need even more preparation before working abroad. 

Here are a few tips to help you make a smooth transition into the PR world across the pond:    

  • Gain local experience. The first step to acquire an internship in the U.K. is to gain experienc back home. I was fortunate enough to have three previous internships (one non-paid). Also, I was heavily involved in three student organizations. For all PR students I recommend joining PRSSA  and writing for your university’s newspaper. Experience requirements are different for each organization, but it can never hurt to have more. Visualize your own experience in the U.S. as a strength that adds perspective to complement any business in the United Kingdom. 
  • Find the right format. Don’t let your resume get lost in translation. Change it into CV (curriculum vita) format. CV’s can be longer and they tend to focus more on academic experience (hence the word curriculum). A few small enhancements, like translating your G.P.A. to the U.K. equivalent and changing the American spelling to British style will help you secure a job with your “favourite organisation”. Make use of the British eye, since real people can help enhance your CV in the relevant areas that online research misses.
  • Connect. Make personal connections both here and overseas. Inform every person you know that you are going to the U.K. and that you desire an internship. You will be surprised at the connections that others have overseas. I was able to enjoy a pint along with some helpful insight into the U.K. job markets from an American who works in the U.K. for Major League Baseball. He shared his experience about transitioning from one country to the next and was able to provide a few leads. I was fortunate enough to meet with him through a former co-worker from a previous internship. 
  • Get official. Get your student work visa. If you are not currently taking classes, then you must have a student work visa. Bunac is by far the best organization to help you through this process. They aid students with legal issues, housing and travel. They also post job listings and internships daily at their London office.
  • Meet the requirements. Know the governmental restrictions and how to work with them. Your student visa (which is different than a student work visa) allows you to study overseas. Unfortunately a student visa prohibits you from legally working for money. However, this does not prohibit you from non-paid internships. If the internship is good, then it’s a smart sacrifice. Start here and by the time your student visa is dated, you might find yourself in a better position for a paid job once you acquire a student work visa. 
  • Use the resources. Lastly, utilize recruitment agencies. According to Reuters, recruitment agencies in the U.K. have shown tremendous growth over the last few years. There are many choices, but I recommend Kelly Services, as well as Craigslist’s British cousin, Gumtree. At first you may find yourself placed in a low paying administrative job, but if the position is with the right company you might learn just as much as a temp, if not more depending on the organization. I personally know of at least two people (one in the U.S. and one in the U.K.) who found lasting public relations positions through short contract positions.

The perspective you gain from working abroad is an asset to your PR pursuit at home and throughout the global marketplace. Plus, you have the ability to forge the most exciting network of friends, the access to travel to breathtaking locations, and hopefully the balance to raise a pint or two in a crowed pub chalk-full of roaring football fans. Cheers!

5 thoughts on “International Internship Primer

  1. Brian, Thank you so much for your insight! I too was an international Ketchum Intern (Madrid SEIS) and I loved hearing an additional perspective on the value of the international PR internship!

  2. Bryan,
    Thanks for the great tips. I am looking into interning in London when I graduate in May, and had never even heard of a CV! I am so glad I read your post so I can make the most of my applications.

  3. Bryan,
    Wonderful and very useful tips for anyone hoping to study/intern in London! It is a once in a lifetime experiece!

  4. Bryan,

    This is good info. Do you have any interview tips? Like dress? What is considered profession wear in the U.K.?

  5. Just as in U.S. interviews, the U.K. dress attire is business formal. However, it can’t hurt to keep up on the local style. I would recommend visiting your local shops whilst in London.

    You should always prepare yourself to answer questions about your work visa in international interviews. Know the dates that your current visa expires and know the regulations for other visas and sponsorships that you might be able to acquire.

    It is also an added benefit to present your foreign experience as a strength. Study that country’s news, markets and trends. Relating the country’s markets show that you’ve done your research and can adjust to work in a new environment. Besides that, the only other difference is being offered a cup of tea. Always take the tea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *