Story of an Exchange Student

Mon, May 17, 2010

Internship Information

My name is Fabien and I am a French exchange student from a town Lille in the North of France.

I am currently interning with ATS Environmental in Sparta, NJ as a web marketing project manager to complete my Masters degree with the University of Central Lancashire in England. Focus is on solving complicated environmental problems & employing new technology to control environmental risk. The company is divided into several services; each has a different name and activity. Advanced Tank Services is in charge of oil tank testing and soil testing. No matter what kind of tank it is: above ground tank or underground storage tank, they are able to test it to see if there is any environmental risk as well as locate abandoned tanks. If someone is looking to remove or replace their tank, ATS Trust, a division of ATS Environmental, assists customers with this complicated process and grants from the state of New Jersey.  Two other divisions, Advanced Water Technology and Advanced Septic Inspections can provide customers with private well testing and septic inspections.  I found this internship through an agency based in France: ADOUT International.

My main goal with ATS Environmental is to work on search engine optimization for every division’s website and find strategies to drive more traffic using Adwords & Google Analytics. I am also working with a Webmaster to rebuild some of the websites and improve content.

So far, it has been a great experience as I am learning new things and developing skills every day.  New Jersey is a very beautiful State and Sparta is a wonderful town; just an hour away from NYC.

If you want to live the same experience, here is some advice:

First of all, you really have to be motivated because you won’t get your internship just by snapping your fingers. Try to start looking for your internship at least 6 months before the date you want to start. Indeed, it is a long process and the J1 Visa takes around 8 weeks to get from the moment you secured your place in a US company. Moreover, it is going to be even harder to find an internship if you are looking for a remunerated one. You have to know that interning in the USA can be very pricey: the VISA can cost up to $2000 depending on the length of your stay. Besides, you have to add the airfare, the agency fees (if any), your deposit, etc.

You may have to use the services of an agency as I did to get your internship faster and easier. Nevertheless, doing that does not mean that everything will be done for you because sometimes they just give you access to their companies database and you will have to prove that you will be a real asset to the company.

Once your internship is secured, you will have to acquire your VISA application. Usually, you will have to apply for it through a sponsor (go to the CIEE’s website: Council on International Educational Exchange for more information about it.). Note that you will have to go to the US embassy in your country or in the country you are currently, to have an interview. They are just going to ask you a few questions including the reason why you are going to the US. Moreover, a biometric passport is required.

Then, here comes the accommodation research. Looking for an accommodation from another country can be a really tough process. You cannot visit the place, you do not know the laws regarding the real estate, etc. which is why you have to be very careful otherwise you could be scammed easily. I nearly got scammed when I was looking for my accommodations so do not send any money if the landlord asks the payment by western Union or if you see an ad from Emily Brown.

Try to contact the employees of the company you are going to work for to ask them if they know someone who is renting a room or an apartment. A really good start would be Craigslist.org which is where I found my accommodations. Once again, anyone can post anything so call the person who posted the ad and ask as many details as you can to have an idea if it is real or not.

Once everything is done, you are ready to live your American dream 🙂

Bon voyage!

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