Get The Details: Interning in Scotland

Interning abroad offers amazing learning opportunities to UCEAP students every year. Are you interested in incorporating an internship into your experience abroad? Read on to get all the details on how to do it:

1. Apply early for the right visa.

It is likely that you will need a Tier 4 Visa if you want to participate in an internship in Scotland. Make sure to check your UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist for visa information as soon as you are accepted to your host university.

If your situation requires it, you will need to request a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) from your host university at the time of application, or shortly after acceptance. You must be in possession of this prior to applying for the Tier 4 Visa. Note that some universities in the UK will not offer a CAS or sponsor a Tier 4 Visa for semester-only students, so it is important to establish whether this is feasible prior to proceeding with an internship search.

If you have any questions about visa requirements, you should contact your host university’s Visa & Immigration team for clarification. 

2. Understand cultural differences.

In Scotland, the cultures within professional and academic settings tend to be more formal than what you are used to. Make note of this when you are figuring out how to approach people about volunteering as an intern. Express your interest, qualifications and respect for their organization in a straightforward, precise manner.

You should also become aware of the terminology here in Scotland. Your understanding of the term “internship” is likely different from that of a UK employer. In the UK, these are usually referred to as “work placements.”

Make note of how the following terms are defined in the UK:

  • Volunteering: offering help to an organisation on an unpaid basis, with an understanding that the volunteer is willing to help with entry-level tasks; sometimes just an extra pair of hands is needed
  • Work Placement: offering help to an organisation on an unpaid basis but with a learning-the-ropes attitude in mind; this is more education-focused and is often participated in while enrolled in a university degree
  • Internship: usually a paid position that is done by post-graduate students

Based on these definitions, you will likely be seeking a work placement when approaching organizations.

3. Create a British-style CV and cover letter.

CVs in Scotland have a set of expectations that should be followed, and these differ from those associated with US-style resumes. Because this directly impacts the way you present yourself as an internship candidate, it is recommended to put a decent amount of time into crafting your CV and cover letter. Ask a friend to check through them.

Check out your host university’s Careers Office website to find advice about CV & cover letter writing, as well as some general guidance about approaching organizations. Some host universities also have a career hub that you can access via the student portal, which you’ll receive a login for once you are accepted.

4. Find an internship.

While there are ways to find support, it’s really up to you be proactive about discovering the best local organizations that work for you and your interests.

There are two methods of going about this:

  • Start by looking into host university offerings to see if any university-arranged internships or work placements are available. You can visit your host university’s Careers Office website for resources that might be helpful with guidelines and advice regarding organizations as well.
  • In many cases, internships are self-arranged by the student. To do this, you’ll need to research organizations on your own. In addition to utilizing the support offered by your host university, it can also be helpful to search for local organizations on Facebook, as most of them will have their own pages.

Note that some organizations may have an application procedure in place for internships. Make sure you begin your internship search early, and be aware of any additional requirements or supporting documentation that is needed. This might include things like references or police background checks.

We advise that you find an organisation with several members of permanent staff rather than one or two. It is important to have appropriate oversight during your internship and receive training in the organisation’s policies, expectations and safety procedures.

5. Reach out to your top choices.

Keeping in mind the cultural differences mentioned above, reach out to all of the organizations that you are seriously considering for your internship. It is best to do this via a formal email that contains your CV and cover letter as attachments. Remember to use the correct terminology.

It is also strongly recommended that you engage in a skype call and visit the organisation prior to committing to work there. This way you’ll get a better sense of the supervision and environment. If you have any concerns, always speak to us here at the Edinburgh Study Centre.

6. Learn about receiving UC credit for your internship.

UCEAP may offer UC credit for your internship. Make sure to contact the Edinburgh Study Centre staff to discuss this in more detail and complete the appropriate documentation. That way you can plan accordingly and be prepared going in!

Please note that it is not possible to award UC credit for any paid internships, which is why you should look for an unpaid work placement if hoping to receive credit.

7. Find out about your host university’s course load policy.

If you participate in an internship for UC credit, you may be able to take a slightly reduced course load at your host university. However, this very much depends on your host university’s policy, so make sure you look into this thoroughly and contact the UCEAP Edinburgh Study Centre staff if in doubt.

Know that taking part in an internship in addition to a full-time course load may be highly demanding, and you should carefully consider whether you are able to commit. We usually advise that your internship be limited to one day per week while class is in session. Hours could potentially be increased during vacations if that is something you and your organization want to agree to.

Good luck with your internship search! As always, feel free to reach out to us if you need further support.