Cornell University

International Opportunities

Clarifying Your Goals

If you are considering an international job, gap year, internship, or volunteer experience, it is important to identify your goals for the experience.

Would you like to:

  • Improve your language skills?
  • Gain experience in a particular career field?
  • Pursue a “working vacation” where you earn money to support travel to a variety of places?
  • Establish a long-term career abroad?
  • Learn about different cultures?
  • Work abroad and then return to your home country?
  • Volunteer to help a specific cause or community?
  • Develop your intercultural competency?

Understanding Your Skills and Experience

After identifying your goals, then consider your skills and experience. Do you have:

  • Foreign language skills?
  • Technical knowledge or skills?
  • Business knowledge or experience?
  • Significant experience in your field?

Make a list of what you have to offer an employer. If you are having trouble identifying your skills, you may want to explore career counseling and testing resources available through Cornell Career Services.

Focusing Your Search

After considering your goals, skills, and experience, start narrowing your search by identifying 3-5 keywords that are the most important to you: these keywords could be a country name, a language, career area, or even a job title. If you would like assistance with identifying these keywords, please meet with the international career advisor in 103 Barnes Hall.

During your search, it is important to pay attention to the visa requirements for your international experience.  Depending on the country’s work authorization requirements and the marketability of your skills and experiences, you may need to consider participating in an international program that helps you with obtaining work authorization and an international job, internship, or volunteer experience.

For example, if employers need your skills enough to sponsor your application for a work permit, then it is likely that you can use the same basic job or internship search strategies you would use if you were looking for work in the United States.In this case, you could conduct your search, secure a position, and then obtain work authorization.However, expect the international job or internship search to take more time than in the United States; building a network may pose particular challenges, especially if you are new to your field.

Alternatively, if work permits are difficult to obtain in the place(s) that interest you, or if you lack experience, you may want to consider an internship or volunteer program. These programs assist you by providing a work permit and/or placement in an organization, and they may also provide other support services for you once you arrive.  However, keep in mind that some countries may require a visa to volunteer, so you should check with that country’s embassy in the United States about visa restrictions.


Browse the “Resources” section to learn about the potential benefits of an international work, internship, or volunteer opportunity.  You can search through the Career Services’ Library catalog for books on international careers, gap years, internships, and volunteer opportunities.  The Transitions Abroad website provides an overview of international opportunities, resources, and logistical considerations, whereas the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ publication, Working Abroad: Finding International Internships and Entry-Level Jobs, includes a list of international exchange opportunities