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The USA is one of the most popular destinations for German students. The Bavarian economy has close links with the US industry, and American investment in Bavaria is greater than the investment of both neighbouring countries Austria and France in Bavaria. For example, Google, General Electric, AGCO, MSD Sharpe & Dohme, Microsoft and Amazon have offices in Bavaria. Siemens, Allianz, Adidas, BMW and Linde are present in the USA. There is an active exchange going on in research and at the cultural level. A work experience placement in the USA is therefore a spring board into an international career that can simultaneously remain rooted in Bavaria. When searching for a placement, the US based Bavarian supply industries of small and medium enterprises are a good place to start.
As a world economic power and with a GDP that has grown over the last few years, the USA offers many opportunities. Primary exports include cars and automotive parts, computer and electronic products, electro technology, machines, chemicals and medical devices. Small and medium-sized businesses in the IT sector in particular are searching for new people. The media sector with film and music industries is famous around the world and the service sector is of great economic importance. Since every business also needs to look after things such as marketing and HR, there are options for students from all fields of study. You just need to be clear about which area interests you the most and where your existing knowledge and experience may be useful in order to improve your chances when applying.
From a cultural and financial perspective, you should think carefully about which region in the USA most appeals to you. Life in New York is very different to small town life in the southern states. This is true in many regards, and not least the cost of living, which is significantly higher in the well-known urban centres. Other than your desire to gain practical experience, what attracts you? Is it nature, culture, sport or the intercultural mix? Each region has something different to offer. Economic relations between Bavaria and the USA have seen many Bavarian companies establish offices in the southern states (e.g. BMW in Spartanburg, South Carolina including supply industries). The Research Triangle in North Carolina also has a wide selection of companies that take on interns from Germany (e.g. Freudenberg IT).
More facts about the USA:
Since you will need a visa to do any kind of work (even unpaid), you must give yourself plenty of time to arrange everything – at least six to eight months is recommended before starting your placement. When sending the application you will also need to find out about visa formalities, which may be different depending on the type of placement you are doing (see visa and entry requirements below). You will generally only be able to fill out the DS-2019 form once you have secured a placement.
As well as the adverts available through our portal, you can also look at the following links and conduct a search using key words for your field along with “internship” and “work placement”:
Please note that these links will take you to external job portals run by private companies. We are not responsible for the content of these sites. We would love to hear about your experiences looking for a placement. In particular, we would like to know about any links that you would particularly recommend or that you would advise against using.
You can find information about US companies here:
You can also get involved in volunteer projects in the USA. Work placements are also available for students of social work/social pedagogy. There are various charitable organisations with similar offers. You will also need a visa for this type of work if your voluntary work has an effect on the job market (e.g. if you work on a farm with free board and lodgings). For example, you can volunteer on an organic farm as a helper during the harvest. Such placements can be arranged by organisations like “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms” at low cost. You must consider carefully whether this is something that you really want to do as work on a farm can be hard. Unpaid volunteer work can also be arranged by commercial agencies for a fee (search for “volunteering and gap year”).
It is worth noting here that, as with placements in schools, the visa conditions regarding work with children and vulnerable people are not very clear. They can be interpreted to mean that direct contact with these groups is not permitted for foreign interns. You would then only be allowed to work in the administration offices of the institution. The simplest thing to do, therefore, is to find a programme that will arrange your volunteering opportunity as well as providing support for your visa application. Many, but certainly not all, visa agencies do not provide you with any support if you try to find a position working with children and vulnerable people by yourself.
- The Education USA site provides a broad overview and information with links and explanations about the specific nature of visa applications in the social/education sector
- Amerikahaus provides detailed information along with PDF documents that include contacts for volunteering, farm-stay and Camp Counsellor organisations.
- Information about non-profit organisations in the USA can be found here
- United Neighborhood Houses – social project in New York
- Database for finding placements and volunteering opportunities in the social sector
The following programmes arrange placements for language assistants or work experience in schools. Students from all subjects may apply, however, students with the objective to become a teacher and linguists are preferred.
- The Amity organisation arranges teaching internships
- In Germany, you can use the educational exchange service of the KMK (Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education) to arrange a position as a language assistant in the USA (priority is given to students with the objective to become a teacher). This programme with the USA is run in cooperation with the Fulbright Commission and Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education.
- Teaching internships from the Bavarian Teaching Associations for students with the objective to become a teacher who are a member of the Bavarian Teaching Association (BLLV)
- You can also apply to schools based on your own research. Please note the special particulars for getting a visa here. The sites for the individual State Departments of Education are a good starting point.
Work placements in the USA are generally seen as a learning experience and are therefore often unpaid. For longer stays, however, you may be able to negotiate remuneration or support with food and accommodation. Success will depend on your negotiating skills and the sector to which you are applying. You should deploy previous experience that you have also been able to acquire through social engagement, for example. Information about minimum wages is available here.
- Financial support for a work placement in the USA may be available from money your university receives from the DAAD Promos programme. Access the DAAD bursary database here.
- The information sheet from Amerikahaus provides further lists of potential funding sources.
- Students of technical subjects and engineering can apply for the Travel Bursary from FISITA. You must be a member of The Association of German Engineers to be eligible.
- Students of life sciences, health sciences and agriculture can also apply to the international Fellowship Programme of the Bayer Foundations to finance cross-border research and international work placements.
- International BAFöG funding must be applied for no later than six months before departure – the Studentenwerk Hamburg handles applications for the USA. You may be able to claim money for increased costs and should put in an application even if you fall just below the threshold for domestic BAFöG funding.
To work in the USA you will need a good level of English. The job interview via Skype and the visa interview will require you to put your skills into practice. You can also provide evidence of your level of English in your application documents by taking a language proficiency test. The TOEFL test is common. Since testing centres in Bavaria are extremely busy, you should register to take the test at least a few months in advance. Alternatively, you can sit the IELTS test which the British Council also organises in Munich among other places.
You need to ensure your application is presented in the format that is normal in the USA. Your marital status and age should not be included in your CV, for example. Your CV should:
- preferably be no longer than one page, maximum two pages, in length.
- be carefully worded, with no complex sentences – use simple and concise language
- relate to the job description (or the field in which the business operates)
- highlight your qualifications and experience –including your social, cultural and sport-related activities.
Get some feedback on your draft CV from your international office. You can also ask your lecturer or the international office if you need technical help with a Skype interview.
Further information is available from the following sites:
- International Placement Service at the Federal Labour Office – click here
- We recommend the USA brochure from the Information Centre for Practical Training Abroad, which has extensive tips for your applications and placement search.
Work placements generally require a J-visa. There are two categories: “Intern” for those getting practical experience during their studies (max. 12 months in duration) and “trainee” for those who have recently graduated and have a year or two of work experience (max. 18 months in duration). For both categories it is important that your placement is related to your studies or profession. The visa is arranged through an authorised exchange organisation called a “legal sponsor”. You cannot apply for the visa yourself. The exchange organisation checks whether you meet the requirements for the visa and only then will they provide you with the DS-2019 visa application form. They will check that you have suitable insurance and that your employer has made you a serious placement offer. Many organisations require you to obtain the necessary insurance through their own services. There are around 100 “legal sponsors”.
- The German-American Chamber of Commerce in New York is permitted to arrange J1 visas.
- Most American universities and a few large employers are able to arrange visas if your placement is with them.
- The information sheet from Amerikahaus has information about other providers.
- A complete list of J1 visa sponsors can be found here.
Before you decide on which sponsor to use, you should check whether you are getting good value for money. Prices for this service can be between €500 and €800. Sponsors can also help you locally e.g. with tips for finding an apartment or help if problems arise. The information sheet from Amerikahaus has a timetable for the visa application process that you should pay close attention to.
- Apply for an international student ID card to get access to any discounts that may be available.
- Apply for an international driving licence – this is valid in conjunction with your original licence.
- Placement contract: written placement contracts are not always given in the USA like they are in Germany. For the purposes of insurance and quality assurance, you should agree a contract. Get advice from your international office on this matter.
- Find a local bank to open a “checking account” where you can deposit pay cheques from your employer. Anti-terror measures (money laundering) require you to provide proof of identification when opening a bank account (2 items that prove your residential address in the USA, e.g. rental agreement or electricity bill with your US address; placement contract with your US employer; ID numbers such as tax number or passport number.
- Important – never transfer a deposit before you travel for an apartment you have not seen. It is possible that the accommodation does not actually exist and that you have been tricked by a scammer.