How to Find a Summer Job Working Abroad

Golden afternoon in Stockholm
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Spending a summer working abroad is a dream shared by many young people. Working abroad can facilitate the mastery of a foreign language, provide an in-depth exposure to a foreign culture, help summer employees to develop contacts for post-graduate employment and spur personal development.  

Here's information on finding summer employment overseas, so you can transform that fantasy into a reality.

Get a Work Visa

First the bad news; foreigners need a work permit to be legally employed in almost any country in the world. Typically this involves an employer petitioning their government for a work visa for the prospective employee. It can be very challenging for a young American working on his or her own to convince an employer to take this action on their behalf when there are many native workers available with similar skills.

Enroll in a Working Abroad Program

Almost all Americans working abroad for the summer secure employment with the assistance of an intermediary organization with contacts in the host country or with access to positions designated for cultural exchange for young people. These programs charge a fee which can be modest in some cases and rather costly in others.

Study Abroad

Another option is for students engaged in a spring or full-year study abroad program to utilize that time to make contacts with local employers while they are pursuing their studies. Faculty and staff at your host college can be good sources for referrals as can the families of any native college friends whom you meet. If your study abroad experience includes staying with a host family, you can often gain access to some of their connections in the surrounding community.

In most cases, students can either work or intern during the semester in conjunction with their studies and if these experiences are highly successful, an employer might sponsor them for work during the coming summer. Consult with your college's study abroad or international programs office to learn more about how this might work in various countries.

Types of Summer Jobs

The most common summer employment opportunities abroad include resort jobs, particularly those catering to English speaking tourists, pubs, restaurants, retail establishments in resort areas, English teaching or tutoring, farm worker, au pair and camp counselor, especially those camps which teach English.

Summer Employment Abroad Programs

Here is a sampling of some of the programs which you might tap to help secure summer employment abroad:

BUNAC is one of the most common services that American students use to secure work visas for Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and France. BUNAC charges a reasonable fee for a work permit and provides assistance with finding accommodations and work but does not actually place participants in a job.

Planet Au Pair
Planet Au Pair secures matches between au pairs and families in Spain without a fee. Au Pairs receive room and board with a host family as well as 70 Euros of pocket money in exchange for about 25 hours of childcare per week.

CulturalVistas offers a paid summer internship program in Germany as well as unpaid internships in Chile, Argentina, and Spain. The organization does require a $75 non-refundable application fee.

IAESTE places students in technical disciplines including engineering, computer science, physical and natural sciences, architecture and agriculture into paid summer internships through their network of contacts in 80 countries.

Work Abroad Listings

Here are websites that list summer jobs and provide information on working in overseas locations.

Transitions Abroad has an extensive selection of articles about summer work abroad to enhance your perspective on the subject as well as an array of listings of programs and organizations.

Intern Abroad enables searches for internship programs by location and career focus. You will need to carefully research program fees before applying and make sure that the program offers summer placements. Most internships are unpaid, but some do include compensation.

The International Center at the University of Michigan offers a helpful site on work abroad with useful content and links to programs.

The Study Abroad Center at the University of California at Irvine provides another set of useful links on working abroad.