Whether you’re in the mountainous north or the plain-filled South, the beautiful country of Slovakia may not be one of the most popular countries in terms of European tourism, it may not be the most prominent forerunner in the economic race and some people may not even know that it is its own country these days, but the Slovaks have their own precious treasures and surprises. Through a peaceful disbanding, Slovakia became independent from its former state of Czechoslovakia in 1993, and can be located in Central Europe, between Austria, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.
Five million people call Slovakia home, and its capital city of Bratislava is populated by about 500,000, making it the largest city in the country. Bratislava also happens to be the warmest region of the country where temperatures reach 30 °C (86 °F) while the climate generally includes warm summers and cold, cloudy winters. The terrain is naturally mountainous, with caves, as well as castles and towns that make for great exploration adventures. There are also several ski resorts that fuel the tourist economy of Slovakia, in addition to the beautiful architecture, rich folk culture and beautiful High Tatra mountains.
Slovakia is a member of the European Union since 2004, part of NATO and is a Schengen area, as well as a participant in The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Slovakia’s economy is up and coming and considered an advanced economy and is one of the fastest growing countries overall, with their economic nickname being the “Tatra Tiger”.
Finding an Internship or Work Experience
Positions for internships or work experience can be found through three major sources: university departments, outside agencies, and company placement departments. Several agencies are accustomed to foreign clients and greatly assist you with all required paperwork and processing matters.
The majority of internship placements are through educational institutions pursuing research assistant and recent undergrad students, especially foreigners that can match the requirements for European Union funding. Just like when clubs have exhibition day to recruit new members, many companies have started participating in an open call day where they send representatives to educational institutions to meet with prospective students. The career centers at universities also help several students to find employment, both temporary and full-time, so inquiring for possible opportunities through the career services center is a great way to find out about what internships await you
Some major companies like IBM offer internships directly through their website, where you can bypass any agency fees or extra paperwork. Although IBM is a world leader, they still offer entry-level internships such as Summer Internship at Finance centers and Mobile Application Developer Internship. Many of the larger global companies are looking for applicants who speak English since they are usually dealing with international partners. The official language of Slovakia is Slovak, and not as large of a percentage of the population speak English as compared to other European countries, but in this case, your English skills are highly applicable in Slovakia! Some of their main industries are car manufacturing and electrical engineering companies, so searching for positions at companies like Volkswagen, Peugot Citroen, Sony or Samsung, might yield potential internships. Another company is ESET, an IT security company that is based in Bratislava but has locations all over the world, so a position here might produce chances for international travel through the company. Placement used to be much more difficult to gain, especially as a foreigner, but a policy aimed towards unemployed students and overall unemployment issues in the country now has the government providing a subsidy scheme for companies to take new workers on-board.
These agencies operate with maximum exposure as their premiere feature, meaning that they want to help you find as many suitable internship options as possible. They compile several applications from many different institutions and organizations and arrange them in a standardized way that makes it easy for you to navigate and apply through. These are not scam websites, but some are certainly more respected than others. Placement Slovakia specializes in internships for university students and graduates in programs that are supported by Leonardo da Vinci or Erasmus+. GetOn helps students find placements all across Slovakia and focus on transnational mobility programs throughout Europe.
Particularly for American citizens, the Slovak American Foundation, who’s mission is "to foster the relationship and strengthen the bonds between the United States and the Slovak Republic by providing educational and exchange opportunities that will enrich the economic, social, and political fabric, and help develop knowledge, skills, and abilities that will lead to prosperity", provide you with a representative to connect with and learn more about suitable programs. For international citizens, check out the International Exchange Erasmus Student Network is also a valuable source of internships; scholarships and tips from other individuals just like you. The American Chamber of Commerce caters to companies seeking students, but if you check the website you can see the upcoming openings.
Now You’ve Found the Internship, Now What?
Due to high unemployment rates and a lack of state supplied social benefits, Slovaks work extra long hours and most employers do not comply with European labor laws to the extent that they should. As a foreigner, it is crucial that you establish the boundaries of your work agreement before you agree to take the position, as well as any forms of. Although some countries have a minimum wage, interns usually are allocated a stipend if any financial compensation is provided at all. It is advisable to consult your host company about any responsibilities regarding income taxes, health insurance or even national insurance contributions.
A few things to prepare you for your Slovakian internship include managing your accommodations, finances, healthcare and visa documents as well as understanding the expectations awaiting you in this foreign country. If you have an internship at a university, dormitory residency is usually included in your agreement and this is usually a cheaper option than renting a flat. If you are not interning through a university, companies sometimes offer housing as a means of compensation. Cost of living is not exceptionally expensive; you can see some estimated prices of typical expenses here. Transportation in Bratislava is well organized and you can get certain discounts when you have an International Student Identity Card.
Health wise, there are various public hospitals and clinics and although urgent services will be provided for free for those holding a valid European health Insurance Card, further treatments will require cash or private insurance coverage. The Slovak word for a pharmacy is a ‘Lekaren’, so try and avoid some major health care bills and try to ask the opinion of a pharmacist instead. In case of an emergency, the number to call for emergency medical assistance is 112.
Similar to the rules of other countries in the European Union, the majority of country’s citizens are allowed to enter for 90 days, some requiring a visa while others do not, but for those looking for extended temporary residence permits. For more specific information, you can check with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic.