ABPA Insights: Internship Search Challenges

The internship search is nearly like a second job. Time spent browsing through job boards, trying to make good impressions with employers at career fairs, writing cover letters late at night after a long work shift or study session – it can become repetitive and discouraging. Although applying for internships is an additional burden to a student’s busy schedule, it is necessary to create a launching point for a successful career.

How can we better understand the concerns, desires, and needs of students looking for internships? What types of road blocks do they face and what are the solutions they use to overcome them?

Students in ABPA’s free internship placement program and told us about their trials and tribulations and also offered advice for fellow students who are also in the trenches of the internship search, fighting their way to a potentially life-changing opportunity! Here’s what they said.

What are students looking for in an internship the most?

“Research…opportunities to understand conflict in certain part of the world (in my case: Middle East North Africa) that I otherwise would have only understood the surface level of the situation.”

– Dahlia Mohamed, Government and International Politics student, George Mason University

“An ideal internship would be something that would prepare me for the workforce later on and give me the necessary experience to be an asset to the field that I want to go in. For me specifically, I am looking for internships in the public sector as an analyst/researcher so that I can learn how to analyze policy more efficiently and gain experience from government workers.”

– Emily Krout, Political Science & Arabic student, Georgia Southern University

“Something having to do with diplomacy, or international affairs, whether it’s working in the state department or any other apparatus of the U.S. government that deals with foreign affairs.”

– Daniel Zeineddine, International Affairs student, University of Mary Washington

“What I am mostly looking for is to somehow learn the expertise of whatever sector I get involved in and to be exposed to different working environments that would help me later in my professional choices.”

– Kenza Sandi, Political Science student, University of Maryland

Kenza Sandi at the ABPA-UMD Organization of Arab Students event with honored guest speaker, the Tunisian Ambassador to the United States.

What’s the toughest part about searching for an internship? What’s the toughest part about searching for an internship?


“Finding a balance between work, school, and the internship.” – D. Mohamed

“The most difficult part is finding internships that suit what your future career goals are. Sometimes it seems like every internship is found at a different place so I feel like I’m missing out on internships that I would really enjoy. It helps a lot that ABPA sends me internships I’d be interested in, and I know that I never would have known where to look without the program.” – E. Krout

“Finding internships isn’t not hard; there are many of them, but with that being said, the difficulty lies in distance from current place of residence and the large majority of people have better connections with my aspiring line of work.” – D. Zeineddine

“I feel that it is tough to find internships that coincide with your time availabilities and are flexible.” – K. Sandi

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How are the career resources you have available assisting you (e.g. college career counselors and services, courses, job search websites, networking events, or ABPA, etc.) and what’s missing?

“ABPA found me many internship opportunities on very short notice. They revised my resume and even offered to revise my cover letters. I can’t think of anything more that I could ask for.” – D. Mohamed

“The school that I attend is a research-based school and there are not a lot of Political Science/International Studies majors, so career services is very limited in the information it can provide to students in that field. However, my program professors often let students know when there is a possible internship, which was helpful, but the internships were usually only unpaid with legislators. My biggest issue in the past was being able to find everything in one place, as it can often be difficult to find internships located on different websites and students don’t know which websites to look on. I remember having to go to a specific government department website to find out more about possible internships, so it was time consuming. The ABPA has been very helpful in this so far, and I have been able to apply to at least 3 internships that are perfect for me already this semester with the limited time that I’ve been in the program. I can’t necessarily think of what the program is missing, as they’ve been very helpful of letting me know of opportunities, and by tweaking my application materials.” – E. Krout

“All have benefited my case, however it would be nice to have a ‘point-man’ when applying for an internship, someone who can relay information about the internship to me.” – D. Zeineddine

“For now, I am personally just relying on ABPA for internships because I feel like being involved with an organization that is directly in contact with the employers is more likely to provide me with the internship of my preference than the school career center, which is more specialized in orienting students towards future professional careers rather than placing them into internships.” – K. Sandi

Be prepared to explain your ambition profoundly in the interview.

What do you think would be the most helpful things for college students to secure internships?

“Contact the internships you are applying to—make them aware that you are serious. Ask yourself why you are interested in that internship and what you can offer. Be prepared to explain your ambition profoundly in the interview.” – D. Mohamed

“I think what’s most helpful in securing an internship is having the necessary skills to bring to the internship. Club and organization experience is a great way to do that, and I think that sets students apart and will help them get the internship that they want. Also, spending a lot of time on your application materials and having them read over by someone can help improve students’ applications.” – E. Krout

“Connections. Connections are the one way to ensure you will at least get an in-person interview.” – D. Zeineddine

If you give up, you’ll never win or get the internship.

What advice would you give other students in looking for an internship? Is there a way they can capitalize on opportunities by doing something in their routine differently or by changing their mindset?

“Maintain a high GPA. Start interning early in your college years. Don’t wait until junior or senior year to get field experience. Begin with local organizations. The more internships you do, the more experience you gain and then the more opportunities you will find in the future.” – D. Mohamed

“I think students should set time apart every week to make sure that they are spending the time to make sure that their application is the best that it can be. An extra thirty minutes could make the difference in whether a student gets an internship. I think ABPA is a great program to help students maximize their ability for opportunities as well.” – E. Krout

“I would say not to give up. If you give up, you’ll never win or get the internship. Research what you want to get into, truly look into the different things you can do with this internship and then apply. It gives the applicant time to process if they really want to fight for this job.” – D. Zeineddine

“I would say to these students to be open to any internship, to never stop looking for more opportunities, but also that being denied internships (more precisely around D.C.) is totally okay because competition is omnipresent.” – K. Sandi