Working as a student abroad is a great opportunity to cover some expenses, develop your hard and soft skills, start a successful career, or even stay in the country afterwards. Learn more about the pros and cons of the options you have.
There are various reasons that force foreigners to seek employment while still in university. Some work part-time to cover large tuition fees. Others find promising internships to gain experience and stay in the country after graduation. And some are just looking for new experiences and acquaintances. In this article, we will help you figure out whether combining studies abroad with work is worth it. We will talk both about simple part-time jobs, such as a waiter in a local cafè, and about more serious occupations for foreign students.
Advantages of working while studying abroad
Practicing a foreign language. Regardless of your job, you will frequently interact with local customers and other employees. This will allow you to improve your spoken language and learn professional vocabulary.
New acquaintances. This is especially useful if you work on campus. Finding someone to talk to and being the first to start a conversation can be tricky, but as you work, you get to know your colleagues and visitors. Some professions even make you feel like part of a foreign family. For example, this is often the case with dog sitters, nannies, and tutors.
Partial covering of the expenses. Generally, studying abroad is expensive. But even a side job in a cafè sometimes covers the cost of living and allows you to save money for travel and pocket expenses. For example, as a waiter working in the United States, a student earns about 5,760 USD over nine months.
It's easier to stay in the country. It is easier to get a work visa and immigrate if you find work during your student years. Not all countries allow students to stay for any prolonged period of time after graduation, so taking care of employment in advance is a good idea.
More professional opportunities. Often, students who complete internships in a company get a permanent position there afterwards. This gives an advantage in the labor market in the future — all other things being equal, an employer gives preference to candidates with experience. Especially if you have worked for a well-known foreign company.
Disadvantages of working while studying abroad
Less time for studying. Often you have to work at night, and sometimes even skip lectures due to the need to go to work. Less time and energy remains for studies. This can lead to a drop in academic performance or even to expulsion.
Psychological stress. Moving to another country, finding new friends, and studying in a foreign language environment are all stressful things. Some people fail to combine adaptation in the country with work. There is a risk of burning out emotionally and losing interest in what you are going through.
Low wages. Usually, the salary only covers monthly living expenses, especially in low-skill jobs. Before applying for a job in another country, carefully consider whether your efforts will be paying off.
Additional documents. In some countries, you cannot work on a regular student visa. You will have to get and regularly renew a work permit, and bureaucratic procedures take from several weeks upwards.
EU citizens have no restrictions for working in each other's countries
Part-time work in different countries
Great Britain. Students work part-time during their studies and full-time during vacations. You cannot become an entrepreneur or a professional athlete. At the same time, work permits are issued not only by the state, but also by the universities. Universities limit the permitted work time depending on the study program. Some only allow work on campus, and most doctoral students are completely prohibited from seeking employment. After Brexit, the rules for EU citizens have become uncertain — until the legislation is stabilized, checking with the Department for Work and Pensions is advised.
Canada. Foreign students apply for a work permit. It is not required if you are looking for an on-campus position. For illegal professional activity, violators are deported to their homeland.
Israel. You cannot work on an A/2 student visa. But many work off-the-record, caring for the elderly, taking out trash, or packing groceries. The only way to officially earn money while studying is to undertake an internship. To get a more serious position, after graduation, you must apply for a B/1 visa. Obtaining it is hard — it is issued upon request from the employer. The competition for official employment is quite high, so companies select only the best students by GPA and overall rating.
Turkey. Undergraduate students can start working after the first year of study. This requirement can be circumvented by obtaining a residence permit.
Germany. If you are getting a job as a teaching assistant or research assistant, there are no working hours restrictions for you. That said, even unpaid internships are regulated, and you can't be a freelancer or self-employed. Preparatory programs’ students work in their free time with the consent of the Federal Employment Agency. EU citizens can work as they please, but need to register in the local Resident’s Registration Office.
China. With a regular X1 visa, you will not be able to officially get a job. To work, you will need permission from the immigration authorities and the university through certified letters.
Czech Republic. Most companies require fluency in Czech. There are no restrictions on working hours, but you need to get a work permit first. It must be renewed every two years. Again, EU citizens can work freely, but have to register with local authorities.
Where do foreign students work
Usually, for the first two years, a student works part-time in low-skilled positions — in cafès, bars, supermarkets, or shopping centers. But for seniors, there is a need to practice in the area in which they are receiving education. The best way to do this is to get an internship. In this section, we will tell you what placements foreigners do at different levels of education and why it is important to start practicing while still studying.
Part-time work outside the specialty
Students work in low-skilled positions for several reasons. Firstly, students usually get approved for formal practice only after two years of studying for a Bachelor's degree, while you might need money way before that. Secondly, in some countries (Israel, India), foreigners are completely prohibited from officially working. Below we describe the most popular options.
Foreign language tutor
You can teach your native language as a freelancer or at a language school. This is convenient — usually, lessons are held through Skype or Zoom. It is worth remembering that official employment often requires additional paperwork. If you decide to become self-employed, make sure you are legally allowed to do so. Some countries (USA, Germany, China) closely monitor extracurricular activities of students, and in case of a violation, they can be immediately deported.
Call center operator
Although candidates are required to have a high level of knowledge of the local language, this is an attractive option for international students. It is suitable for those who are stress-resistant and know how to communicate with strangers. In this position, you have to learn a lot about the company's products and services — combined with the information load at the university, work can be very exhausting. Also be prepared for night shifts.
At the same time, you work in comfortable offices and do not have to spend hours on your feet. Most likely, your salary will be higher than that of other students. As a pleasant bonus, companies often arrange trainings, where you get to improve your knowledge of English or the local language.
Waiter or bartender
The easiest way to find a part-time job abroad is to look for a position in the service industry. Previous professional experience is usually not critical. If you can convince the HR specialist of your advanced communication skills, getting a job will be easy. Often employers request a high level of proficiency in the national language, but on university campuses, the requirements are softer.
The biggest drawback is a rigid work schedule. As a rule, students work in the evenings and do not have time to rest after an intensive day of studying. Night shifts can seriously harm both academic performance and health in general.
To get a job, you will need to take several courses on child care and development. Experts recommend starting with volunteering to build a decent resume. But the best way is to get a relevant experience back in your home country.
In some countries (Italy, USA, Germany) there are even special agencies for foreign babysitters. Getting this position is more difficult than most others. But if successful, you practice the language, learn to cook national dishes and make new acquaintances. Some employers even offer students to live in their home, which significantly reduces the cost of living in another country.
A typical list of duties is to walk and feed the dog. But be prepared that the owners often ask to stay with the pet at home or even teach it basic commands. Dog sitters take them out for a walk even in the worst weather, and if the animal is large enough, then more attention has to be paid to it — you will run a lot, play games and train the dog.
The work seems enjoyable, but it is also stressful. It is always necessary to be on the lookout — make sure that the dog is not injured, does not fight with other dogs, nor frightens passers-by. The owners admire their pets, so even minor mistakes can get you fired.
Work for foreign students at the university
The most popular option for a part-time job is to work on campus or at the university itself. This is an attractive option for foreigners for several reasons, the main one being the lack of alternatives. In some countries, including the United States, according to general rules, you are only allowed to work after a year of undergraduate studies. But in universities, exceptions are made — even freshmen can work there. You can become a cashier, a waiter, a university newspaper editor, or a salesperson. Most often, students get jobs in gyms, libraries, and bookstores.
Some choose to work as teaching assistants. This is especially important if you are going to devote yourself to an academic career — you gain experience in teaching and conducting research projects. Most commonly, graduate and doctoral students apply for this position.
But not everything is so simple. Many people want to work on campus, which creates competition between foreign and local candidates. To increase your chances of success, prepare for your interview in advance and take a responsible approach to writing a resume.
International students typically work 12 to 20 hours a week for three to five months. As a rule, during free internships a student mostly learns rather than actually helps the company (and sometimes even receives academic credits from the university), and as for paid internships, the opposite is true.
Why it is important to take an internship while studying
During your internship, you can understand what you really want to do. At lectures, it is difficult to conclude whether a profession is suitable for you — you will definitely understand during an internship.
Many companies require hands-on experience — you've tried yourself, made mistakes, and most likely fixed them. Even a two-month internship makes a difference. Upon completion, request a letter of recommendation — it usually helps with further employment.
You communicate with professionals and gain knowledge that is not analyzed in much detail at the university. Bear in mind that the expectations from an intern are lower than from an experienced specialist — the company is tolerant to silly questions and mistakes.
Internships in foreign universities
Internships at universities can be mandatory and optional. Those of the first type are part of the curriculum, and without them, you will not be able to graduate. As a rule, they last about a year and are primarily the case for IT, biochemistry, engineering, and pharmaceuticals. For example, Washington State University obliges students of many programs to do internships — even Hospitality programs require at least 1,000 hours of practice placement. This gives noticeable results. In 2015, a record-breaking 100% of WSU graduates found a job, and to date, the figure is hovering around 91%.
Usually, an internship is arranged without additional paperwork — it is generally enough to complete two full years of a Bachelor's degree program. But there are also exceptions. In the United States, for example, foreigners must receive a separate permit for practical training.
How universities help find internships
If you need help finding a job in your specialty, contact your International student services office. Usually such a service is available in every university. You register in the system, fill out a portfolio and wait for an invitation from the company. When you need to get a job as soon as possible, university staff send you the necessary links and resources. If there is no special department for foreigners, visit a general career center at the educational institution. There you will be offered a list of current vacancies in partner companies or even within the university itself.
For example, the University of California Berkeley has created the platform Handshake, where students seek part-time jobs and internship options. And the University of Toronto implements the ProfessionalExperienceYear (PEY) InternshipProgram. Within this framework, it selects paid internships in Canada.
Companies themselves often come to universities with job offers. For example, Microsoft does this for students of all academic degrees.
Where to look for internships yourself
The most effective way to find an internship is to constantly check the websites of the companies you would like to work for. Experts recommend that you first look at the available positions in a particular firm and only then look for an internship by a general request. Do not limit yourself to one vacancy — statistically, one in four companies responds to the application.
For internships in large companies, the competition is intense — up to 200 people per place. Overseas employers often look at GPA and run challenging entrance tests. If you think the competition is too high, don't be discouraged — there is another way to practice in a good organization. Try to find a suitable position on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or Chegg Internships. It lists internship options from all over the world.
Bonus: study and work in the United States
Most international students in the United States take part-time jobs. This is mainly due to the need to at least partially cover the high cost of studying.
You can work on campus no more than 20 hours a week. During the holidays, the working time limit is increased to 40 hours. Students help in libraries, cafès, and shops. Foreigners often choose this option because it does not require a permit from the immigration office. If you're lucky, you can even get a job in your specialty — at a faculty department as an assistant teacher or in a commercial company on the territory of the university.
Exceptions to remember
You can only work in companies that directly serve the students. For example, a construction company that is building a new building on campus is not eligible to accept foreigners with an F1 visa.
There are facilities that are located off-campus. Some courses are taught there, there are also research centers and laboratories. In this case, foreigners are allowed to work on their territory. It is important that the cooperation between the university and the company is official.
In some cases, students work for companies that have nothing to do with educational institutions. Here is a list of reasons to work off-campus.
Financial difficulties. The foreigner officially confirms that they are in a difficult financial situation. Generally, off-campus pay is higher. But even in this case, it is necessary to have studied at the university for at least a year.
Voluntary internship. You can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and practice in an American company for the next year. You are only allowed to work in a position that is related to your specialty. General restriction — no more than 20 working hours per week. STEM students can extend this permit for another 12 months.
Compulsory internship. In some programs, the diploma is received only after practice — this is called Curricular Practical Training (CPT). While the study visa is valid, you can work in your specialty without restrictions.
You cannot work off-campus on an F1 visa — be sure to get permission from the immigration office even for Curricular Practical Training. If your academic performance is good and there are no problems with documents, it is not difficult to do this — just contact an academic officer.
US Immigration Services closely monitor students who come to study from another country. For working illegally, a foreigner risks being expelled from the university, and in the worst case, being deported from the country. Sometimes violators are banned from entering the country for up to ten years.
You do not need to be a student of a foreign university to work abroad. To do this, it is enough to find an international mobility program that allows you to undergo an internship in the territory of another country. In this case, you can get a job outside of your specialty. There are many volunteer centers and companies that offer, for example, summer jobs in the service sector. These will let you feel the spirit of the country and gain valuable experience. You can read about all types of international internships in greater detail in a separate article. Below is a small selection of existing options.
These are entirely focused on the practice of the skills you learn in university. Typically, professional internships last from three months to a year. If the employer is satisfied with your job, they will renew the contract.
EF Global Intern
As part of the program, you visit three cities in America, Europe, or Asia. In addition to the main internship, EF Global Intern offers free language training, which lasts two weeks. But it is not so easy to become a participant — the selection is highly competitive. Candidates record a one-minute video on the topic "What does it mean for me to discover the world through education?" Usually, applications are accepted from the beginning of November.
Capital Placement is held remotely. The program allows internships in London, Singapore, or New York, and lasts from six weeks to six months. In total, about 1,500 companies cooperate with Capital Placement, including BOSCH, Huawei, and Deloitte. You take a full-time (40 hours a week) or a part-time job (20 hours a week). You are introduced to a personal mentor and at the end of the placement, you are paid 634 USD for the entire period of working. To participate in the program, fill the application (63 USD), complete an online interview, pay an entry fee (571 USD) and pay for seeking an employer (571 USD). If you are denied employment, the money will be returned in full.
Volunteer internships allow you to see the world from an unusual perspective. Participants rescue endangered animals, teach literacy to children and help fight for the rights of vulnerable groups. For this, volunteers often receive international and university scholarships.
International Volunteer HQ
The program lasts from one to 24 weeks and costs about 180 USD per week. Applications are accepted all year round. You can volunteer in Europe (Belgium, Greece), Africa (Morocco, Uganda), Asia (China, India), and many other regions.
There are no complicated requirements for candidates — it is enough to complete 120 hours of training, get vaccinated, get insurance and tickets. 5,000 students participate in the program annually.
Volunteering Solutions offers a variety of volunteering options: teaching children in Africa, helping animals, caring for the homeless, and advocating for women's rights in developing countries. The program takes into account the employment of students, therefore, it often organizes two-week trips during the holidays. Most of the volunteers travel to developing countries such as Nepal and Vietnam, but it is possible to go to Spain and Australia.
Candidates write a motivation letter, talk about their skills and pay an entrance fee of 149 USD.
These are usually held during the summer holidays. Exchange programs are aimed not at professional growth, but at gaining new experiences and acquaintances. Typically, students work part-time as waiters, sales assistants, and cashiers in amusement parks.
Work and Travel
You get to work in one of the 50 US states. In parallel with this, you are exploring the culture of the country, improving your language proficiency and making new friends. Work is allowed from May 15 to September 15 — you choose the date yourself. After finishing work, you have the right to stay in the country for 30 days and use this time as you wish — including traveling around the USA.
Full-time university students who know the language at least at the B1 level can get into the program. In total, the participant pays about 2,500 USD, but the cost of Work and Travel is partially covered during work.
Au Pair is a student who lives with a host family and works as a nanny there. The idea of the program is that you temporarily become an older brother or sister of the child. This helps to improve the knowledge of a foreign language, to study a foreign culture and even to feel like a member of a foreign family.
The requirements for candidates are simple: age from 18 to 30 years old, no criminal record, language proficiency and complete secondary education. The program connects you and the employer online. If the interview is successful, then you conclude a contract. Families often require a nanny for more than a year, but you can also find a part-time job for two or three months. On average, an au pair receives 325-433 USD per month.
Best countries for student immigration
The best way to immigrate to a country after graduation is to start working during your student years. To exchange a student visa for a work visa, in most cases it is necessary to obtain an invitation from a company. This means that immigration officials do not consider applications from alumni, however outstanding they may be. Such a measure guarantees that the foreigner does not sponge off the state, but contributes to the economy. In this section, we will tell you about the countries that are easiest to stay in.
Australia. After graduating from a university in Australia, you apply for one of the two visas to look for a job. For the Graduate Work stream, which is issued for 18 months, you take an exam. It is not available to everyone — the specialty should be on the list. But the Post-Study Work stream is received by students of any academic degree who have passed IELTS at 6.0+ or TOEFL at 64+. Permission lasts from two to four years.
Germany. You have the right to stay in the country for 18 months after graduation in order to find a job. To do this, it is enough just to provide a certificate of financial solvency. After two years of staying in the country, you can apply for a permanent residence permit. EU citizens wishing to move to Germany can do so freely; they just need to officially register within three months after arrival in the country, and after eight years, citizenship will become available.
Canada. By the time you graduate, you receive a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) and can look for a job for three years. It should be noted that this permission is not issued to everyone. If you attended a non-Canadian university branch in the country, participated in certain exchange programs, or received a government scholarship, you cannot apply for a PGWP. A complete list of requirements is available on the official website.
Korea. After graduation, you change your status to a job seeker on a D-10 visa. Job search takes from six months to two years. But if you are finishing your master's degree and have already got a job in a Korean company, then you have a chance to become a resident under a simplified system. To do this, you need to speak Korean, be a volunteer, and have a certain income. Age is an important criterion in Korea — the older you are, the less likely you are to qualify for permanent residency.