Whether it be to work, study or intern abroad, Paris has got to be one of the most popular destinations. And with good reason, the City of Lights has plenty to offer: a colourful history, a booming arts scene, architectural beauty and gastronomic delights around every corner. That however results in it coming at a price, both literally and figuratively, as prices and competition for internships are at a meteoric high, meaning they are hard to come by. But fear not, if you know where to look for an internship as well as how to apply yourself, you should have no problem snagging the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of an internship in Paris.
The need-to-know basics
Firstly, to be an intern or stagiaire in France, you have to be a student. When you are offered an internship in Paris, you will be required to sign a convention de stage which is an agreement between your employer, your university and yourself. If you are interning for more than two months, you are entitled to a minimum salary of around €430 per month, approximately a third of the minimum wage. Some companies do pay more however the previous minimum salary is the norm. Although it will not go far in Paris, it is at least a start and other ways to fund your internship in Paris will be dealt with later on in the article. You may also receive other benefits such as lunch vouchers and access to the company gym.
With regards to holidays, if you are interning for than two months, there is no strict legislation stating that you may or may not have paid leave, therefore you will have to negotiate with your employer.
And last but not least, in order to land an internship in Paris, it helps to have a good grounding, although not a necessity, in French (at least B2 CEFR competency). Your main selling point will be the fact that you speak English fluently therefore depending on the enterprise, French may not be required.
The Internship search
Now that the basic details have been covered, let’s focus our attention on the job search. Begin by asking your university careers service, academic staff and any of your contacts if they know of any internships in Paris themselves.
Next step, go online, Google and consult social media. Head to internship search engines, targeting jobs that specify English speakers. Whilst searching online is a good way to look for internships, the best way to finding leads and internship offers often relies on you taking the initiative by contacting companies directly. Send them a copy of your résumé – note this is a false friend in French and is in fact un CV - and cover letter (lettre de motivation). In general, French CVs are more concise and include a passport-sized photo and personal details such as marital status and age. With regards to explaining your qualifications and grades, try to find the French equivalent ie. The closest equivalent to the High School Diploma would be le baccalauréat. Cover letters follow a similar format to that of other Western countries but have particular set phrases such as the sign-off phrase L’expression de mes sentiments distingué(e)s as the translation of Yours sincerely. As always, make sure to have a native French speaker give it the once-over to avoid any simple mistakes or mistranslations.
If you don’t speak French to a high standard, your best bet are the anglophone businesses that have an office in Paris. If you are to take any advice on board, heed this one: be persistent, follow up if you receive no response and find out if your prospects know of other internships going in Paris.
So, you've landed yourself an interview, how do you prepare for it? It’s simple stuff: do your research about the company, the position, the industry and read up on current news related to it.
If the interview entails speaking in French, immerse yourself – read articles online, listen to radio and French music and practise out loud responses to potential questions. Nervous about speaking French? Prepare flashcards with useful phrases and fillers to give yourself time to think up an appropriate answer.
It’s quite likely that the interview will be via Skype so give it a test run beforehand to make sure your microphone, web cam and connection works. This should go without saying but have a presentable, professional appearance for the interview. Even if you’re just having a telephone interview, being dressed to impress puts you in the interview mind set, psychologically preparing you to be ready, impress and succeed.
The next step
Congratulations! You've nailed the interview, you've impressed the interviewer and you've accepted the job offer. Now is time to get ready for your big move to Paris. Without doubt, the biggest worry is money. As previously mentioned, €430 does not go far in Paris considering average rent is approximately €550-€700 a month. However, there are other ways to fund the duration of your stay. Student loan is an obvious resource as well as any current bursaries or grants. Find out if your university, local organisations and businesses offer specific travel bursaries too. If you are from the EU, but not France, you will eligible for the Erasmus grant which is approximately €250 per month. The application will be done via your university and is a fairly straightforward process. Another source of income worth looking into is CAF. CAF is the French equivalent of housing benefit and as an intern, you will be eligible. Unlike Erasmus, claiming CAF is not a simple procedure however it is around €100 per month extra if you are willing to jump through the various hoops that French administration will throw at you. Otherwise, you could tutor English for an income boost or get a weekend job, although it is advisable to avoiding doing so.
Finances aside, the next big worry is finding accommodation. If at all possible, arrive at least a weekend in advance to flat hunt. Ahead of time, prepare your dossier, essentially proving that you have the finances to sustain yourself and pay the rent, bring photocopies of your passport, pay slips, bank accounts, parents’ bank accounts, work contract, student loan documentation. The more documents you have, the better. Find as many leads as possible, following a process very much similar to looking for an internship. There are Facebook groups such as Roommate and Flat Finder Paris, and many more. Student halls of residence, whilst competitive and being obliged to abide to curfews, is a very economical option for Parisian accommodation, with specific ones reserved for interns. Look on international student websites, expat communities and Shakespeare and Company, the bookshop known to have welcomed Hemingway in his time, has a notice board advertising apartments and rooms. Ask around, see if past students or present alumni can help out or when you’re in Paris, ask the locals; word of mouth comes in handy when looking for an apartment.
Other than that, the usual advice to impressing throughout your internship in Paris and having the most amazing, incredible and rewarding time ever applies: throw yourself into the whole experience. Be keen, motivated and willing to learn. In and outside of work, take every opportunity that comes your way and to reward yourself after the internship, why not finish off with some travels around France or even Europe? But regardless whether you travel or not, make sure to explore the different sides of Paris – you will discover something new every day!
Have you interned in Paris? What would you say about the experience?