Oct 26th, 2015, 04:29 AM

What You Need to Know About Internships in France

By Natalie Barry
Image Credit: unsplash.com via Pexels
Read some wise words of advice from AUP’s Internship Coordinator, Nina-Flore Eissen.

The internship hunting process can be daunting. We've all had the same questions: How do I know if my internship is relevant, in the right sector and in the right industry? Which organization should I target? How do I present myself in an interesting way? All of these are valid questions, and they're only some of many questions students may be asking themselves as they propel themselves into finding an internship.  

Finding an internship requires a lot of logistical and mental pre-planning, including the nitty-gritty things that wouldn’t initially come to mind, such as prepping for an intimidating interview or ensuring your student visa will be valid throughout the duration of the internship. For this very reason, it may be tempting to delay the initial process of internship hunting. However, even as early on as freshman year, taking advantage of AUP's available resources will prove to be beneficial.

The internship hunting process is divided into two parts. The first part commences with the obvious: e-mailing and setting up an appointment with AUP’s career counselor, Danielle Savage. Savage facilitates career exploration in the broader sense, helping students think through what they want to do and showing them how to apply. Some majors will require a full-credit internship or full-credit senior seminar, which, in other words, means that volunteering or research cannot replace the internship. Savage also aids the student in assessing whether they will be earning academic credit or not. Once Savage has aided the student in identifying the dream internship, Nina-Flore Eissen is the go-to.

Eissen acts as the liaison between the company, the student, and AUP. Eissen will also help you handle the logistics of your internship. Those tasks include taking into consideration your budget (for instance, determining whether a one-credit internship done during the spring and fall would be a better fit for a particular student), living expenses, renewing your visa, and health care during your internship. Eissen and Savage do their best to tailor the internship process to each student’s academic and financial situation. The level of attention and support that is given to each individual student’s case is quite unique.

Eissen will also be the one reading the internship reports that you will write (yes, you do have written reports) after your experience, summarizing what skills learned in class helped you with the internship, and in turn, what specific professional competencies you have gained from the internship. For instance, as an economics major, you may consider interning at the OECD. You could very well write about how a particular subject in microeconomics class complimented a part of your experience at the OECD. As Nina puts it herself: "The assignments are there to give you an idea of what you’re interested in."

You will also be required to update your curriculum vitae—you’ll thank Eissen later. And a word to the wise from the Internship Coordinator herself: "All graduate school applications require professional experience. They want to see students that have some experience within companies and non-profit organizations instead of solely within the scope of academia."

Additionally, both Eissen and Savage understand that not every internship is going to go as planned. Maybe you won’t be offered the internship you desire, maybe you’ll have to go in for a second round of interviews, or maybe your supervisor will be unpleasant. Whatever the case, Eissen stresses that the internship is one of the best experiences that can prepare a student for the real world.

"It’s a rehearsal for the real thing," said Eissen. "Reflecting on negative experiences can help students learn a lot about themselves, lead to a career change, or even make a student aware of how to behave in the working environment."

If you’re still feeling uneasy about the internship process, here are ten of Nina-Flore Eissen's internship wisdoms.

1. Only 57% of internships done by AUP students are paid (and the legal minimum for paid full-time internships in France is 554 euros per month). Expect to be doing free, volunteer work for your first internships. Obviously a start-up won’t pay as much as a well-established international firm (or may not pay at all), but it's an exciting moment when you're offered a paycheck for an internship. 

2. Take advantage of the planned career events at AUP. This semester eight career events were planned, and the last two are in November. Check out the upcoming events here

3. Apply for the Global Talent Brochure. You'll send a mini resumé to Danielle Savage that will be sent to numerous comapnies in the Paris area who are looking for a specific profile. If they are interested in you, they will contact you.

4. Remember that you’re in France. If you’re not fluent in French, do your best to develop your French to working proficiency. Knowing foreign languages never hurt anyone and will always be an asset.

5. French legislation requires that you have proof of student status in order to have an internship. Plan ahead and extend your visa if you need to. This leads well to the next important step:

6. Defer your graduation. Let's say you’re about to graduate in spring, you've fulfilled all your academic requirements, but you've only had one part-time internship. You want more time, and a graduation deferral would allow that. A zero-credit internship (which will not not count for course credit), six months following the semester you were supposed to graduate would be a good fit.

7. Plan out your internships. You can opt for one long-term internship (six months) or two short-term internships. An interesting, rich profile would usually consist of 10 to 12 months of internship experience as a recent graduate.

8. Reach out to friends and family. The internship process is a conversation you can also have with family and friends, as well as your academic advisor. Different types of feedback will make it a richer experience, and who knows? Your dream internship might be just one connection away. 

9. Motivation plays a big part. It may seem trite and self-evident, but the more enthusiastic and motivated you are, the more opportunities you'll have in landing a dream internship. Apply to 30 internships at once—you may only hear back from a few.

10. Learn as much as you can during the intership. Acquiring professional experience during the internship is the key to getting hired.