Getting an internship in the UK: How international students can get the skills they need for a graduate role

The importance of work experience for a graduate job is clear, but for many international students, it can be hard to know where to start. As an international student, you can work up to 20 hours during term time and full-time during vacations, we suggest checking the UKCISA website to see what the requirements of your visa stipulate. We met with three international students from UWE Bristol who have successfully undertaken internships in the UK. The information they shared can be used to enhance your employability and maximise your chances of getting a job in the UK by drawing the attention of employers.

Through GradLink’s work to support international students and connect them to employers, the skill which appears time and time again as lacking from employers is commercial awareness. This key skill enables individuals to take the knowledge gained during studies and apply it to a workplace setting and being able to function in the working world. The best way to gain commercial awareness is through work experience where you can learn what the workplace expectations are in the UK and gain valuable contacts.

UWE Bristol has a work experience scheme specifically for international students called The International Talent Scheme which enables uniquely skilled emerging international professionals to take on paid internships during their studies with support from the university. There are both short, full, and part-time options available to meet the UK legislative requirements. Here are the experiences of three students who participated in the scheme.


Ulyana first began to look for work experience during lockdown and was able to find a remote role through UWE’s scheme. She says that researching the company thoroughly and with genuine interest made all the difference during the application process. One of the first things she was asked in the interview was “What do you know about the company, and what image do we convey over our social media?” This was her time to shine with her company research and share her enthusiasm for their sustainable business model. The internship scheme allowed Ulyana to create new connections, attend private conferences and look into competitor analysis alongside other tasks. She was also given the opportunity to work closely with one of the business owners, giving her greater insight into how businesses work in the UK. Ulyana explained that gaining work experience improved her hard and soft skills and boosted her confidence vastly. Her advice for others is, apply for positions that genuinely interest you, make sure you put time and effort into the company and position research and tailor your CV for each application. She ends with a positive reminder to remain optimistic and try not to take any refusals personally.


The internships that Viyada undertook were what prepared her for her graduate job. While studying, she needed guidance with her career plan so spoke to a career advisor for help. They helped her find a short-term internship to start her on her journey. Choosing the right career is a complex problem, not everyone knows what steps to take after graduation, so gaining experience can push you to get noticed by the right employers. Viyada explained that she was understandably nervous on her first day, but her first few days taught her a lot and grew her confidence and communication skills. She found her internship was an opportunity to adventure in the industry she wanted to pursue but also a safe practice trial run before launching her graduate career. Another important note she shared was that she didn’t just learn new skills but learnt from her mistakes and how to rectify them in a professional setting. Many graduates worry about making mistakes, however, it’s how you handle them that counts.


Before taking part in the International Talent Scheme Mattia’s CV didn’t show relevant work experience, so he took the matter into his own hands and started a course in Marketing and bid writing. He developed social media strategies for a B2B company and ran marketing campaigns for new businesses and worked for a start-up where he learnt the inner workings of a UK business. After learning additional skills and taking part in the International Talent Scheme he was offered a part-time Pricing Analyst role outside of the scheme. This, he states is proof that once you start collecting experience, you’ll soon have enough to tell employers where your strengths lie and relate them to the workplace. His determination ensured that he collected enough experience to be considered for graduate schemes at Amazon, Hargreaves Lansdown and Santander and has just started a graduate role. His advice is to start to build your profile as a professional as soon as you can, and to remember it’s not always easy so don’t be hard on yourself!

The International talent Scheme at UWE Bristol helped each of these students to build their strength and experience, so they were ready to go onto the job market feeling confident. If you’re not sure what steps to take, speak to a careers adviser at your institution and see if there are similar schemes or help available. For more of the latest news, jobs and tips for international students, register with GradLink today!

By Jen Garmston Published: Jul 08,2021

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