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The international student guide for the summer

When you study abroad, you usually think of school or work abroad, but now that final exams are done and the stress of school is gone, many students find themselves thinking about what to do with the long summer vacation. As the temperature rises, our motivation to do anything decreases and the long, boring summer months can be just as cruel as exam season. However, summer can be an energizing time used as an opportunity to get some good experience and find new areas of interest. Here are some tips on how to make summer exciting and productive.

Internships Abroad
If you are looking to add to your work experience and something major to your resume, you should consider an internship, especially one related to your field of study. Partaking in an internship has many benefits such as skill development and professional connections. You can add experience to your resume and develop connections to important people. If you do well enough at your internship and impress the people working there, they may even offer you a full time job when you get out of school. Also some internships in America are paid.

Volunteering Abroad
Another activity that will help you gain skills and add experience is volunteering. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in America such as raising money for the people with special needs or helping save animals. You can also choose to volunteer in developing countries and develop leadership skills, cultural understanding and good work ethic, all of which will help you during your school year and future career. Many organizations like Projects Abroad, Volunteers around the World, or Build Abroad exist and can help you find the best program for you in South or Central America, or in Asia. You will build houses and help feed people in poverty. This also gives you the opportunity to create friendships with new and exciting people from around the world who will volunteer with you. While it is not something you would get paid for, it is something that you will learn a lot from and experience new skills in a really positive way, and more importantly - you will make a real difference in people’s lives.

You’re in a new country! Take some time over the summer to explore your surroundings and view both the city life and nature. Go hiking or skiing or try out a new restaurant. Travel to different cities and see what each place has to offer. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience so make the most out of it by taking in everything the country has to offer. Exploring can also help you get over culture shock, and make you feel closer to the locals. Remember to also take a lot of pictures so you can make your experience last forever.

Now is the best time to sit down and relax after a hard semester. Read a book, watch a TV show or eat your favorite meal, you deserve it! This is the best time to reenergize for the next semester. Take this time to call your friends and family back home. Stay relaxed but don’t get too comfortable, the next semester is right around the corner, and graduation is not too far away. Beyond relaxing, try to take advantage of at least part of the summer to do something productive that will position you towards success following graduation.

Need more help with planning your studies, internships and the steps following graduation?

How to build your resume for studying and working in the US

If you’re applying for a job or university in the United States, you’re probably wondering how you can make yourself stand out amongst the thousands of other students competing for a spot in that university. The best way to distinguish yourself from everyone else is to provide an organized and impressive resume. When applying for a US job or university, the first thing potential schools or employers look at is your resume. No matter where you apply to, you will be asked to present your resume. Here’s how to build a winning resume:

Rules of a good resume
  1. Do not make it longer than one page - Employers and universities spend 2 minutes at most looking at your resume. Only put the important information on there and do not put anything that does not help you.
  2. Do not make any grammatical mistakes - If you have any grammatical mistake in your resume it is perceived to show unprofessionalism and carelessness. If you need, have a native English speaker look over your resume before you finalize it. Also, in resumes it is better to avoid the “I” pronoun and the first person tense.
  3. Make yourself look as good as possible - Use past leadership experiences and titles to your advantage. The best place to brag about who you’ve worked with or what you’ve done is in your resume. If you founded an organization or did some interesting volunteer work, mention it! The resume is not the place to be shy.
  4. Format and organization are very important - Keep your resume consistent with the tenses and wording you use, otherwise it can end up being very confusing. Also keep related information close to each other, for example put all of your personal information at the top and all of your work experience in another category somewhere else on the page. Do not mix between the sections.

American resumes have specific rules:
  1. Use keywords - Unfortunately, some resumes aren’t read very carefully, there are simply too many that the company or school are looking at. They look for key phrases and words that they think will fit with their environment. Most keywords are action verbs that show you have a diverse skillset such as proficient in, facilitated, mastered, negotiated, led and specialized. Also use keywords related to the degree or position you are seeking. It will help you get noticed.
  2. No pictures - As opposed to many other countries, on an American resume you should not put too much personal information (such as date of birth or ID number), and you should definitely not include any pictures. There is a fear of discrimination in the US based on these factors, and you do not want them to have this fear when they are reviewing your materials.
  3. Think about how you will fit in - A lot of companies and schools are looking for fit more than specific accomplishments. Use your resume as an opportunity to express how you stand out and how you will be a better fit than anyone else. If you need to, do some research on the company or school to figure out what they are looking for.
Main differences between a job resume and a university resume
While a university and job resumes have the same basic structure and intent, there are a few key differences. In a job resume you want to express what you are looking for in a work environment and that you have the right skills and experience to be able to perform the job you are applying for. Professional fit is the most important aspect for a job resume. For university, they will want to see how you as a person and as a student will fit into the academic and social environment, therefore you will need to show how you were involved in extracurricular activities such as clubs leadership activities, so include organizations, volunteer work and sports teams that you have been a part of. Another difference between the academic and professional resume is the order. In the academic resume, education will be first. In the professional resume, list all of your professional experience first and put education further down.

Whether it is for a Job or a university program application, your resume is the first contact with your future employer or university so you should really perfect it. You can also ask your professors, friends in your current school, or a GradTrain coach to review it if necessary. Use all the help you can get!

Need more help with planning your studies, internships and the steps following graduation?

Best tips for finding a summer internship while studying abroad

As a foreign student on an American campus, you surely want to enjoy your long summer vacation, but you also might want to take full advantage of this time to prepare yourself for the next step after graduation. Summer is the best time to explore the country, but also to learn and develop professional skills. With a student visa (F-1 or J-1), students are eligible to work (in some cases paid and in some cases unpaid) in study-related positions to help develop skills and to start a professional network abroad.
Continue reading if you want to know about the best strategy to land a great summer internship.

Summer job or Summer internship? Gaining a summer job or internship depends on the type of visa that you have. If you have an F-1 visa you can apply for a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) position and get paid for it or for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) position. Still, some conditions must be met and your internship must be approved by the school’s International Student Office and the Immigration Office. For students with a J-1 visa you can access OPT positions like students on an F-1 visa and your internship must be related to your field of study.

Where to search and how to apply?
The internet can help you find the perfect summer internship or job. The following websites are great to search for a summer internship : USA internships,, or AngelList if you are looking for internships at start up companies.  
Also, do not hesitate to check in on your student careers office on campus. You can find some internships or job opportunities for the summer and can sometimes connect with previous students who can also share their experiences with you. Do not hesitate to use your network on campus to help you think about and find internships.

Adapting your profile to the market is also key, especially your resume
American recruiters spend no more than 2 minutes on a resume (and in many cases less than 10 seconds), so think about what to write! It should be no longer than one page and without any pictures or personal details. Have it reread by a native American or a career counselor on campus. Once you are ready, send your resume with a personalized e-mail to the recruiters or directly answer to the job opportunity.

What to look for?
Summer internships can be a great opportunity to gain work experience in your field of study. Ask some of your professors which jobs would help in building your career and would look great on your resume for after your graduation. Most of the time students are very particular about the companies they want to intern for and are willing to consider only top multinational companies, but this might not be the best place to learn a lot and have interesting tasks. Law students can apply to work with law firms as summer interns or at the in-house legal department of a foreign company. The American Bar Association itself also has some internships.  As to business or finance students, a great experience is working in a bank during the summer and you can find offers for these positions on Indeed. You will help clients, deal with checks and simple bank operations which will help you develop practical skills. If you want to work extra hard and get serious experience, big banks such as Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase offer a lot of interesting positions. Even though the experience may be limited, you will experience the reality of work and stand out on your resume as motivated to work and learn, with some real world experience to show for your efforts.

But above all, do not forget that a summer internship experience is what you decide to make of it! Be proactive and see what you can learn during this time. Take this opportunity to create relationships and make connections to learn about your future, which will help you make the right career decisions towards graduation.

Need more help with planning your studies, internships and the steps following graduation?