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Internships and Service Learning

Some study abroad programs offer internships and/or service learning in various fields, including business, government, the arts, education and non-profit organizations.

An international internship or service learning experience allows you to engage with the community outside the classroom, gives you the chance to experience the work culture of your host country, and can enhance your overall academic experience abroad. Upon return, you may be able to use your experience as the basis for an independent study or post-graduate research.

Learn the basics:

For-credit and not-for-credit options

An internship or service learning placement may be undertaken either for academic credit or as a not-for-credit extracurricular activity.

  • For academic credit

    Many of our NU-sponsored and affiliated study abroad programs offer internships and service learning as a part of a regular course load, for which you can earn academic credit. Often the internship placement will be accompanied by a seminar course, scheduled meetings with a supervisor, or both. If you're interested in pursuing an internship or service learning opportunity for credit while abroad, be sure to bring this up when you meet with your academic and study abroad advisers.
  • As an extracurricular activity
    If your study abroad program does not offer internships or service learning for credit or you are unable to fit one into your course load, you still may be able to pursue this as an extracurricular activity. Many of our affiliated study abroad programs can arrange these experiences, so be sure to inquire about this during the application process.


Northwestern has the following requirements for for-credit internships and service learning abroad:

The internship or service learning must be unpaid.

The work must be substantial.

  • The work must be primarily professional, hands-on experience in the principal activities of the organization.
  • Hours on the job, contact hours with a supervisor or professional staff member, and on-the-job requirements (such as oral presentations, formal written work, or exams) must be substantial enough to provide a meaningful learning experience.

The scholarly components of your work must be evaluated.

  • A final grade for the internship must be posted to your study abroad transcript and you must earn a C or above. The evaluation must be based on written reports and/or oral presentations, usually including a final research paper in which you examine significant aspects of the field.
  • The topic of the paper should closely relate to the topic of the internship or service learning and draw on your experience. It is the University's hope that students will use final research papers as a basis for undertaking more advanced study back on campus in the form of a senior thesis, independent study, or graduate work.

Ideally, the internship or service learning will be pursued in a field that complements a course of study already being pursued at NU.

Credit policies and procedures

Credit limit
No more than one unit of academic credit at NU will be granted for an internship or service learning seminar course abroad.

Transferring internship credit to NU
If the credit is transferable and you are only seeking general elective credit, eligible credit will automatically be posted to your NU transcript.  If you are seeking major, minor or distribution credit, you will follow the instructions for your school's credit transfer process.

Special notes:

  • SESP students: You can only count internships or service learning opportunities abroad toward your elective requirements; you cannot petition for major or distribution credit.
  • Medill students: Medill cannot award credit for any type of journalism internship outside the Journalism Residency Program unless the student receives prior approval from the Medill Director of Undergraduate Studies. If you wish to complete an internship or service learning opportunity abroad in a field other than journalism, submit the course syllabus to the Medill undergraduate registrar to determine what credit, if any, can be awarded.