In-Semester Internships as an International Student

In-Semester Internships as an International Student

Many students cite Booth’s location and the access it offers to the resources of a big city as a key motivating factor in choosing Booth. In-semester internships, in particular, are a popular feature of Booth, offering students the opportunity to apply classroom theory to practice, gain experience in a new field, and occasionally benefit from supplemental income. 

Personally, I was very excited by the idea of in-semester internships, however, as an international student, I wasn’t confident that I could fully leverage these opportunities. After reading through the details of my F-1 visa and speaking to some of my peers who had successfully navigated the search for an in-semester internship, I found that the process was not as daunting as I had imagined. Despite there being restrictions to employment as a first year international student, there are still many different ways to engage in the professional network in Chicago. This quarter, I have been working at a Chicago-based VC firm with a focus on climate. It’s an internship I secured through the PE/VC Lab to learn more about the VC space and gain exposure to the innovation happening to address the challenges of climate change. The internship and lab have been a highlight of my Booth experience, pushing me out of my comfort zone and allowing me to develop new skills. 

To support other international students thinking about an in-semester internship, I wanted to share anecdotes and advice from my fellow classmates.

Name: Dhruv Kamath

Nationality: Indian

Fun Fact: I find cooking intricate meals very therapeutic (even if they never taste good!)

Why did you want to do an in-semester internship?

In-semester internships are an excellent way to supplement the academic rigor at Booth with some practical experience. For example, after learning about a customer discovery template in the Entrepreneurial Discovery class, I led a persona discovery effort at my company that is now implemented in all our product development processes. I have similarly applied many other learnings from marketing, negotiations, leadership classes in my work and have benefitted from this process.

If you are looking to pivot to a new industry or function, companies are hesitant to give you the opportunity without prior experience. An in-semester internship allows you to show your commitment to the field while gaining some useful stories to use in your resume. My internship has given me a strong foundation on working in B2B SaaS companies and in the deep-tech sector. 

Finally, the supplemental income has been a huge boon while combating rising inflation and piling interest from our MBA loans. 

What internship(s) are you doing?

I’m a Technical Product Manager at Sandbox AQ (a former Google-X company). Sandbox is a really cool startup that is discovering how fundamental research in quantum physics and Artificial Intelligence can be used to solve real-world problems. 

Here’s a fun fact: 90% of the world’s internet uses an encryption system called RSA. This is used each time you access YouTube, send money via Paypal, access your bank account, or send a WhatsApp message. With the rise of quantum computing (timeline ~10 years), RSA is rendered obsolete, meaning anyone can hack into your systems and steal your money or your data.

At Sandbox, I work in the Post-Quantum Cryptography team, developing highly secure communication channels that cannot be hacked by quantum computers. As a Product Manager, I understand the customers needs, and work with internal teams to develop the most effective security solutions.

How did you find/secure the internship(s)?

I’ve always been interested in deep-tech companies that harness cutting edge research in STEM to solve real-world problems that impact millions of people. I networked with many alumni across fields such as healthcare, agriculture, quantum computing, financial inclusion, and AI while I was looking for an internship.

Sandbox was the most interesting of the opportunities I had to choose from. I discovered Sandbox by talking to a Booth alum who was part of the founding team and joined the company just as it was spinning out from Google-X

What advice would you give to other international students looking for an in-semester internship?

The most powerful tool you have is the Alumni network—use it! Alumni tend to be fairly generous with their time and advice, and the relationships you build with them can go a long way. 

Our professors have solid connections in the industry, and I feel not many students take advantage of that. Hang back after class, take time to learn about your professors’ research, and ask them for advice on breaking into an industry where they have some experience. More often than not, the professor can put you in touch with a former student running a company in your field of interest!

Cold-calling is another effective way to find internships. Many startups do not publicly post their roles online and find roles through internal connections. Many don’t even plan to hire interns. As Booth students, it is up to us to put our negotiating skills to practice by actively reaching out to companies and pitching how we can contribute to their teams. I know folks who have created and sent small decks detailing how they can help the startup—and gotten hired as a result! Don’t be afraid to work a month or two without pay—as soon as you show your value to the company, convincing them to pay a stipend should not be difficult. 

Sign up for one of the industry-focused capstone classes at Booth. We have the PE/VC Lab, Lab to Launch, New Products Lab, Healthcare Lab, and a few more. These are classes where you are paired with a real client solving an actual problem. I know folks who have developed such a good rapport with the company that they continued to work with them after the course. 

Finally, I know that many students find internships via the Polsky Center. The center is an incubator for startups across diverse industries and they actively recruit interns for these companies. Just write to them, or visit their second floor office at Harper—they are quite proactive in helping students find ideal roles at these startups. 

Name: Yuganshi Sharma

Nationality: Indian

Fun Fact:
I’ve traveled to 28/29 states in India and plan to go to the last one this year! 

And, I had never tasted cheese until I was 18 and when I did, I did not like it at all!

Why did you want to do an in-semester internship?

Having worked with multiple social entrepreneurs in India, one of my goals coming to Booth was to work with a fund that provided financial and operational support to founders with a mission. With no experience in the VC space, I wanted to do an in-semester internship with a VC fund to test the waters before committing to this industry for the summer/full-time and have an informed opinion. Further, working in a new industry while being at school also helped because I was able to concurrently take classes with professors who provided valuable support/guidance in navigating a new industry. For instance, my VC Lab professor and classmates provided a great ecosystem to bounce ideas and take input!

What internship(s) are you doing?

I worked with VestedWorld, a Chicago based VC fund targeting early-stage companies with potential to catalyze economic and social development in select African economies. I was an Investment Fellow and had an extremely fulfilling experience working with them to provide input towards all stages of the VC process (sourcing, due diligence, deal closure, thesis generation, etc.)

How did you find/secure the internship(s)?

The Polsky Center’s resources combined with the PE/VC Lab were extremely useful in helping me find this opportunity. There was a database of VC funds that Polsky provided to me as part of the application for VC Lab and I applied to funds that were the best fit. Once I received the interview invite, the Entrepreneurship & VC Club had great resources to read through and the biggest help was the Booth network—I found 2Ys who had interned with this fund earlier and they helped me prepare via mocks and sample questions!

What advice would you give to other international students looking for an in-semester internship?

Based on my experience, I would say prioritize, put yourself out there, and definitely prepare in advance. It is very important to know what kind of internship you want to do and once you have some basic minimum criteria, do not hesitate to cold call, reach out to the Booth network, and leverage Booth resources. Finally, the most important advice I got from a 2Y is to always be ready to interview because most companies hire just-in-time so they would not give enough notice before an interview!

Name: Fabian Castrup

Nationality: German

Fun Fact: Avid Tina Turner Fan

Why did you want to do an in-semester internship?

I wanted to use the chance to explore an industry that is new to me, and to learn more about financial services in general.

What internship(s) are you doing?

I have been working at a hedge fund in their Corporate Strategy team as a part-time intern, and previously interned at a tech firm in their Corporate Strategy team over the summer.

How did you find/secure the internship(s)?

My process was very “traditional”—I applied on their website and interviewed through that process.

What advice would you give to other international students looking for an in-semester internship?

I recommend that you a) make clear what you want to get out of it, b) ensure you understand and manage tradeoffs with academics and your social life, and c) ensure you understand visa implications.

  • It was very helpful for me to really understand what I wanted to accomplish in the internship: which was to learn about financial services and hedge funds in particular, and to explore a potential career path. This helped me weigh my options, and also helped me get the most out of the internship.
  • I had to limit the number of classes I took to three a quarter to be able to do the internship. That means that I wanted the internship to be at least as valuable as another class would have been. I also made sure I managed the time I was investing, so that I didn’t compromise my social life too much—the MBA is supposed to be fun and a bit of a step back from work, so don’t overdo it!
  •  Make sure you talk to OIA or research online how and whether your visa allows you to work part-time. In my case, I was allowed to work 20 hours a week if I got permission from the OIA.

Name: Juan de Dios (JD) Cardenas

Nationality: Peruvian

Fun Fact: I recently did an Ironman, 10/10 would recommend.

Why did you want to do an in-semester internship? What benefits did you find?

Two main reasons: The first is that I wanted to keep my mind busy before returning to a full-time job. Secondly, I wanted to add some structure to my days, and having the internship helped me to be more organized regarding classes/training/work/social.

I found that after some months (almost 7 months in my case) I was able to develop deeper connections with everyone in my office, and I really appreciate that opportunity.

What internship(s) are you doing?

Equity Research at Vaughan Nelson Investment Management.

How did you find/secure the internship(s)?

I am working at the same firm where I did my summer internship. After I finished the summer internship, they asked if I wanted to stay on and work on a part-time schedule, and they were flexible with my classes and trips.

What advice would you give to other international students looking for an in-semester internship?

Find something that you greatly enjoy or are very interested in trying so you will never have the regret of why I didn’t try “XYZ” job—right now is the moment.