How To Land International Summer Internships

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Photo courtesy of Chrisjtse

Note: Before you begin to start applying for foreign internships, please remember that it is a very demanding and gruelling task. Be prepared to put in lots of hours and hard work on creating your resume, shortlisting universities, emailing the professors, reading their research papers, visa process etc. This is by no means a simple task and requires lots of dedication and patience.

We have outlined a 3-step process towards finding that perfect internship with full funding and visa sponsorship. This process can also be used for landing a final year engineering project abroad with full funding.

  • Step 1: Research and shortlist
  • Step 2: Resume and cover letter
  • Step 3: Email, email and email



Step 1: Research and shortlist:

The first step towards finding the perfect internship is to come up with a list of universities where you would like to do your internship. It is highly important that you choose a university that suits your background. Top institutions typically expect students with good grades and from prestigious undergraduate institutions in India such as the IITs, NITs, BITs etc. So, choose a university that you believe suits your academic qualifications. You can use tools such as USNews, TopUniversities for this purpose. Try shortlisting at least 20-30 universities for a start. Now, based on your field of interest, go to each university’s respective departments and look for profiles of professors in that department. Each departmental website will have a list of professors names, their webpages, profile and publications. Go over the details carefully and make a list of professors whose research work aligns with your interests the most. Once you have a list of professors whose research work aligns with your interests, you are ready for step 2.

Step 2: Resume and cover letter

Once you have a list of professors with whom you would like to work for the summer, take some time to really learn about their work. Each professor's webpage will have a short paragraph about their current research interests and a list of publications. You obviously can’t read each and every journal publication. Therefore, read publications that are their most popular or jump started their career. Such papers typically come with plenty of citations. You can find all this information in Pubmed and Google Scholar. Once you have these papers in hand, read them thoroughly to understand how the professor and his team solved the problem. If you have a few questions, jot them down. You can also ask for help from your departmental professors to clarify some of your questions regarding the paper. Once you understand what kind of work these professors are doing, start focusing on developing your resume and cover letter.

For tips on writing an impressive resume, please use this resource. When it comes to writing the perfect resume, please remember that no one size fits all. Sometimes it is perfectly okay to have a resume that is more than one page long unless and until there are specific instructions stated in the professor's website on how long a resume should be. For more inspiration on writing an impressive resume, please look around in Linkedin as well. This will give you some good ideas on how to go about formulating sentences for describing your work and many other things. If you are a CS student, go ahead and create your resume in LaTeX for added punch. If you want to go really out of the way, start a website of your own and write about your research experiences, things that you learnt in college, useful tips like efficient code examples that you wrote etc. This will help immensely when it comes to landing a full time job after college or graduate school. Also, make sure to create your linkedin profile and include the link in your CV.

Once your resume is ready, start preparing your cover letter. One word of caution here is that professors are extremely busy individuals. Some professors get hundreds of emails a day. If you are going to create your cover letter and attach it as a doc, it is only adding more trouble for the professor to download the doc and then read it. Instead of creating a separate cover letter, type everything in the main email itself and attach your resume with the email. This is the quickest way to catch the attention of busy professors. Now, coming back to the contents of the cover letter, keep it short. Again, as mentioned before, professors are very busy people. If you want them to sit up and take notice of your email, keep it succinct and short. Following is an example,

Dear Professor X,

I am X, a sophomore/junior* student from XYZ University in India majoring in Computer Science/Biomedical/ECE.

I have been following your research papers for the past few months and I find the way your team solved [explain what you have understood from the professors publications] very interesting. I am presently working on a similar theory under the guidance of my professor in --------. [Explain in a few sentences about the results that you got from your project, what you learnt from your experience while pursuing the project and what interests you the most about their work. This paragraph is most important and likely to catch their attention.So, pay close attention to what you write in this paragraph. You can also write about certain ideas that you have in your area of interest].

I am aspiring to eventually enter graduate school and do my MS/PhD in CS/Bio/EE. It would be a great honor for me to have you as my mentor. I am very keen to work in your lab in the summer of 2015. This would give me considerable experience in the field of XXX and much required guidance for my research career. I have attached my resume with this email explaining in detail my academic achievements. Looking forward to hearing back from you.

Thanks,
X

Wrap your email with an eye catching subject line. Since professors receive so many emails, it is very important that you write an impressive subject line. One example is: Prospective student from India looking for summer research internship in your lab. If you are from a reputed institution such as the IITs, BITs etc. then include the name of your university in your subject line.

Step 3: Email, email and email:

Now this is the part where you have to develop tons of patience. Some professors may not reply while some will take a long time to reply. If a professor does not reply for more than two weeks, send them another email. Given how busy they are, it is highly likely that they must have not noticed your email. But be sure NOT to bombard them with emails, A 2 - week waiting period is good enough. Since professors have to fund you, be prepared to exchange quite a lot of emails. Do not expect professors to accept you immediately as they will not fund students without being fully sure of their capabilities.

Important things to remember:

  • Please do not email more than one professor in each department. Professors discuss among themselves and some professors will not like it if a student emails to multiple professors. Wait until you hear back from one professor. If they are not responsive inspite of sending multiple emails or email you saying they are not accepting any students for summer internships, then you can email another professor in the same department.
  • Start the process as early as possible. If you are applying for the summer of 2015, then you must start emailing professors by August of 2014. Since this process takes so long, an early start will keep you calm and relaxed with ample time.
  • If your university has a strong alumni network and several of your seniors have already done foreign internships, it is highly recommended that you email them for tips, advice and insights. Also, if your professor or HOD has contacts with professors abroad, that will also be very helpful.
  • Please read this link on why you should not spam professors.


All the Best,
Team Peshaa