My internship or how to get one in NYC

Hey all! So today’s post is going to be about how I got my internship in New York and how YOU can get one too! Let me tell you, it’s fucking kind of hard and it requires a lot of tedious work. But it’s definitely definitely do-able. I can’t guarantee you that it’ll be paid but it’s not unheard of. If you’re a schedule type of person, I recommend factoring in about 6-10hrs/week to look for one and prepare the applications. I think that’s how much time I spent, at least.

(Note: upon request, I’d be happy to make post about other non-internship types of visas)

Step 1: Figure out the type of visa you need to go to the US as a paid/unpaid intern from your country (if you’re a US citizen, skip to Step 2)

  • Unfortunately, you can’t do an internship with merely a tourist visa. At least not legally. I may not be an expert but I did read the US immigration website back and forth at least twice. 
  • The visa you want is the J-1 “exchange visitor visa” — find more info here
  • It is easier to find an internship and get an appropriate visa if you’re enrolled in or right out of university — find out at your career centre of what type of programs you can do to work abroad (e.g. in the US)
  • If you don’t want to bother with paperwork or doing it all by yourself, try to go through an “international exchange” or a “working holiday visa” program
    • The website you need to check out to find out about all the available exchange programs is — IENA is an organization that promotes cultural exchanges throughout North America. Not sure if this includes Mexico or not. It should but who knows, #racism. 
    • SWAP is the program I’m doing (note: pretty pricey)
    • You can also try  becoming an au-pair or a camp counsellor (cheaper)
  • I recommend checking at the US consular office/website of your country. You can also send them an email at
  • Important: before you start applying for internships you need to have a clear idea of how you will get a visa and make sure to include that in your resume or cover letter. Otherwise, your potential employer might not take you seriously. Don’t lie.

Step 2: Make a list of your most “marketable” skills

  • I’m serious, this will make it easier to find positions that suit you best
  • Include the following
    • languages you speak
    • communication skills (you write well? you can speak to people? include it!)
    • sports you play
    • any internet/social media skills (i’m dead serious)
    • computer software you can use (microsoft excel, imovie, etc.)
    • experience relevant to the position

I recommend including this as the first rubrique of your resume because it’s the first thing that a potential employer will read, right?

Step 3: make a list of all the cool places where you’d like to intern and their websites

Strategy 1 – Use google maps 

        • Go to google maps, search for “New York City” and type a few key-words relevant to the type of internship you want to get. For example, if you want to work in advertisement, search “advertising company/agency”, like this:

        • Then you’ll get a the location of all advertising companies in manhattan/brooklyn/queens. Like this:

        • Make a list (in excel or word) of all the ones that have cool locations or that seem cool and their websites
        • Go through the websites and see if they offer summer paid/unpaid internships – you won’t believe how many agencies, companies, organizations, and institutions do!
        • Apply

Strategy 2: General and specialized job search engines

Good luck!!!

Other recommendations:

      • Unpaid internships are definitely easier to get. If money is an issue (it is for me), make sure it’s not a full-time position so that you can get a part-time job
      • Make sure you have at least two people (a prof or a previous employer) who are willing to write you a letter of reference or be your reference
      • Check out the NYC group at — a travel online community (it’s free)
      • Go to New York as a tourist a couple of times and try to meet people – it REALLY HELPS to go on a “reconnaissance mission” before moving there.
      • Check out AIESEC – they have a bunch of programs for current university students and recent grads (global organization) who want to go study/volunteer/work abroad. definitely check it out!!!
      • Don’t be scared to email and re-email or even call if they initially get back to you and then stop.
      • Leave a comment if you have any more questions!

I found my internship through idealist, actually. It’s unpaid but exactly what I want to do, which is work in environmental education programs. I have no doubt it’ll be awesome. I’m gardening with kids all summer! So fun.

My next post will be on how I’m trying to find a place!


7 thoughts on “My internship or how to get one in NYC

  1. I’m using your tips to look for an internship. I do have a question. I’m a recent college grad, and I’ve noticed that most internships are listed for undergrad or grad students. Did you ever have a problem with this? I’m worried it might limit my options.

  2. Thank you! I enjoy writing it as well. You’re american so you’re half-way here as you don’t have to deal with visas and stuff. First do your research as recommended above. Be very meticulous and form an idea of what kind of work you want to do, and what kind of organizations are here. After than, I highly recommend that you save enough money to survive for like a month, come here, get a phone (VERY IMPORTANT), get a shitty part-time job, network as much as you can. Go to parties, talk to people, go to gallery openings….I can’t stress enough how important it is to meet people in your field! And just hustle your way into an internship. Focus on where you want to work rather than the options that are available to you on the internet. you know?

  3. Hi, great blog. Ive heard and read and researched that the J1 visa is only open to students, recent grads or under ‘trainee’ if you have 5 years experience in a particular field. Do you know of any other visa as I am none of these and looking to do either an unpaid or paid internship in NY? Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi there! I am not quite sure as I am no longer in NYC! If you’re doing an unpaid internship there, I’d just recommend going there on a tourist visa, as long as it’s under 6 months. It’s not “legal” but you’ll be fine an might even get a “crappy” survival job easily without a visa. My friend did that and eventually legalized her status. She’s canadian.

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