International Internships: The Nitty-Gritty…Dirt

by Laura Meloney

Traveling abroad for work or play can be both exciting and nerve-racking as questions on how to prepare, what to bring, and what will be available abroad weave in and out of one’s mind.  Luckily for students choosing international internships for the first time, these roads have already been paved and well traversed by preceding travelers, such as Nicole Brewer, RD, FPAN ’10, who was stationed in Liberia for the summer of 2009.

Below are a few tips and links mentioned by Nicole to aid in the planning and logistics of an international internship.

Landing the internship: Nicole found her internship with Equip Liberia by talking with some friends who had previously volunteered for the organization.  Because it was a small organization, Nicole took the initiative and emailed the director to ask if it would be beneficial to have a collaborating RD on board for the summer.  “Sometimes you just need to ask.” Using connections through friends from undergraduate, previous work experience, and current Friedman students help expand networking opportunities and options for potential internships.

Passports:  Perhaps one of the most important pieces to traveling abroad is a valid passport.  If you don’t have one and are anticipating traveling, even to Mexico or Canada, plan on applying for a passport as soon as possible because they take anywhere from one to two months to process.  For those who already have a passport, make sure the expiration date won’t overlap with any dates of travel.  Go to for more information.

Flights: Nicole, like other international travelers at Friedman, was granted a stipend through the school. Internship scholarship applications are due April 19, 2010; the internship contract is due shortly-thereafter, on April 30, 2010.  Do remember, while the stipends are helpful, they often don’t cover the entire cost of traveling abroad. Flights to any developing region are expensive and often difficult to find.  At first, Nicole attempted to find flights on her own, but then later resorted to using a travel agent specialized in not-for-profit travels. If your internship is going to take you to many countries, it is best to work closely with a travel agent who will be able to find the best deals and safest ways to travel.

Book flights early! While it’s tempting to wait for stipends to be granted first, waiting to book a flight will ultimately result in increased flight prices, less flight options, and the potential for timing issues with visa qualifications.

Immunizations & prophylaxis: Like many of us, Nicole has medical insurance through Tufts, so she utilized it entirely by going to the Tufts international travel clinic (see side panel info).  At the travel clinic appointment, a doctor will discuss your previous medical history (bring all prior immunization documents and health information you can), the proposed itinerary, and necessary vaccines for the areas you will be visiting.  The CDC has a great website for the required vaccines to travel abroad:

For the most part, vaccines are covered by the university’s health insurance.  For those insured by outside insurers, it will depend on the type of coverage, but most insurance companies cover travel vaccines and co-pays are the only expense incurred by the traveler.  Keeping track of the immunization documents are crucial for the visa qualification, so be sure to keep things organized.

Nicole ran into a bit of a problem in regards to her anti-malarial medications and insurance coverage, “Make sure that you have enough medication for one-week prior to departure and up to four-weeks after return.”

Visa: An important and often overlooked aspect to traveling abroad is working visas.  Before heading over to Liberia, Nicole had to first square away a visa with the Liberian embassy.  In order to obtain a visa for Liberia, Nicole needed proof of her return flight (or monetary means to purchase a return flight) and immunization coverage.  Nicole learned a good lesson here: she waited for funding from Friedman before booking a flight, but then was caught in a tight time-crunch to have her visa approved. In the end, she spent more money than necessary on her visa because it had to be a rushed delivery.  It is important to allow enough time for the proper order of operations to flow fluidly- book your flight, get all necessary vaccines/prophylaxis, and then obtain required visas.  Use to find out necessary information regarding visas.

While the internship preparation was a relatively easy process for Nicole, other organizations and/or countries might not be so easy, so be prepared with patience and gratitude!



Traveler’s Insurance: Lucky for Friedman students, International SOS is free to Tufts students traveling abroad for school, saving approximately $200! To apply, log onto:

Other helpful websites:

Website for travel agents:

Websites for immunization needs/medication options: and

Websites for travelers insurance:  and

Website for visa requirements by country:

website for international alerts:


Things you wouldn’t travel/live abroad without:

  • Bednet
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Any/all meds that you wont have access to
  • Power bars
  • Sterilization pen for h2o
  • Sim card for country
  • Travel insurance
  • Candy

The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

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