Internships are extremely popular -- 9 of 10 college students complete at least one in their careers. However, the process of finding, applying, selecting and participating an internship might be difficult to understand the first time around.
Internships are basically an opportunity to go somewhere and work, generally without compensation (although you can sometimes receive sponsorship from the OCC and CES). In its ideal, the monetary gain passed up by doing an internship is offset by other benefits, principally the professional connections you build and the opportunity to try out a career for a limited amount of time without any commitment.
Most internships aim to recruit college students, and thus take place over the summer.
Apply early, apply often - all you need is one place to say 'yes' and you're good. There are tons of opportunities to apply to, but sometimes the best internships are the ones you make for yourself. Don't be afraid to ask - everyone loves unpaid help (as long as you don't abuse the privilege like this Amherst student).
If you can't afford to work without pay for a summer, don't let that stop you from seeking an internship at a nonprofit or in entertainment. You can apply for one of the OCC alumni internship grants (check out Fellowships and other cool opportunities). While you're there, check out the write-ups by students of their internship for persuasion or dissuasion.
Nearly every paper offers an internship - just plug in the title and the word 'internship' into Google to find the page. However, the more prestigious or big the paper, the more selective the internship. At newspapers such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, you compete against students in J-school and need to apply in November. Those newspapers pay a fairly competitive internship salary, but the majority of papers expect you to work for free, especially if it's your first summer as a reporter. At less prestigious papers you will be competing against students enrolled in undergraduate journalism programs. They will have a portfolio of clips, and you will need one, too.
Many American embassies and consulates around the world welcome (unpaid) interns every summer. Though jobs vary widely by post, interns often find themselves on the forefront of American diplomacy. From the tiny, 6-person embassy in Brunei to America's largest embassy, Cairo, spending the summer abroad can be a rewarding, eye-opening and enriching experience for upperclass students and graduating seniors.
One of the big, powerhouse think tanks for foreign policy. Covers every corner of the globe.
A medium-sized think tank that deals with Latin American relations through specific issues such as human rights and trade.
A tiny think tank in Washington run that does Latin American policy (see the main page for a good sampling). A great opportunity to jump in and get involved with the day-to-day world of policy analysis.
- Pros: The entire staff is exactly one person, so the interns run the place, writing all the articles, attending all of the conferences, editing and publishing a magazine. It's pretty easy to get an internship - Alan Cordova got one having only taken Intro to IR.
- Cons: That one person is quite a personality, and if you don't like his politics (somewhere in between Chavez and Castro), it is sometimes difficult to get things distributed (he approves all articles). Also, COHA is not exactly the go-to place for Washington power brokers, though if you were at those places, your work would be much less interesting.
Yes, quite a few people are looking to make money off hapless college students. Investigate before committing to anything. Here is one to look out for:
Nice title, flashy web site, good marketing pitch, sounds like a winner, right? Wrong. For $6000 - $9000) you get a "guaranteed internship." in NYC, Chicago, LA, or London. You know a program is bad when they don't list the cost anywhere on their web site.
Don't let the .org fool you. For many thousands of dollars, you can get an internship available for free with a little determination and timeliness. For example, the Institute on Political Journalism places you with organizations that offer their own (free) internship programs. While it's not a complete scam - you do attend Georgetown University classes for much of the time - it does charge for things (namely, internship placements) that shouldn't cost anything.
Costly - again, you're getting something you don't have to pay for.
Can be heaven or hell, depending on your ability to handle politics 24x7. While it can be intimidating (and the humidity oppressive), you can't beat playing frisbee on the National Mall or being able to stroll past the White House on your way to work.