A year ago, Andreas Palmlöv, 22, came to the U.S for a year-long study abroad program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After wanting to experience work in America, he found an internship in his ideal city. He began his internship for the Swedish-American Chambers of Commerce in Washington D.C in June – working to promote relations with businesses all over the U.S. From Stockholm, to Chicago, to D.C – this is a story of how opportunities come if you work for them.
Editor’s note: Our interviews are sparsely edited to keep the authenticity of everyone’s story.
When did you first know that you wanted to live in the US?
I’ve always wanted to get educated at an American school, but I wouldn’t have been able to afford it was it not for the scholarship covering tuition costs for a year. Not only did I seek to study at the University of Illinois because the American quality is unquestionably the best in the world, but the culture itself has always appealed to me.
What was the first step you decided to take after making the decision to move here?
The way I did it was to begin my studies at Stockholm University and as soon as I met all requirements to apply to study abroad at an American school I did. Exchange studies is the superior way to experience the U.S for anyone who is not ready to take on major financial debt to meet tuition fees, especially with a strong dollar rate as a foreigner.
The exchange coordinators at your home university are there to help but can be busy, so make sure you get the help you deserve by making their life easy and doing your own research. The application process before leaving for your study abroad experience is time-consuming and involves documentation, visa paperwork and days of planning. However, it is easier than ever before to make it happen.
How did you land your internship at SACC-USA?
Whatever you are doing in the U.S, you will have to have a visa of some kind. As an exchange student in the U.S, you are given an “Exchange Visitor” visa called J-1. Every visa has its own purpose and the Exchange Visitor visa is to promote cultural and educational exchange between our two nations. As I was accepted to the University of Illinois for a full year of studies, I automatically received the right to extend my Exchange visitor status for doing what they call “Academic Training”.
This is actually a less known way to work temporarily in the U.S as a non-immigrant, but to receive training within the field of your studies. As I am pursuing a double degree in economics and political science and studied business at Illinois, it came naturally to seek a position with the most respected organisation working with Swedish-American trade relations.
Tell us about the process of getting your internship visa?
Because your Exchange Visitor visa has to be sponsored by an employer or school for a specific purpose, the most important part is to make sure you follow all the information given by your visa sponsor. The University of Illinois was and still is my visa sponsor, and they encourage exchange students to pursue “Academic Training” after their studies. This means that as long as you lawfully meet the requirements for an extended Exchange Visitor status, and you have an internship lined up, you may intern for as many days as you were on the exchange. But extending your visa is not a short process so don’t expect to have your visa extended just because you have found an internship – it’s actually pretty cut-throat if you fail to provide all documentation on time or struggle to find an internship. I had a few options lined up because I was early in my search, but I have friends who could not find internships and thus had to go back home without doing “Academic Training”.
What does your days at SACC-USA typically look like?
SACC-USA is a non-profit that works for its members to facilitate trade relations and investment opportunities between Sweden and the U.S. In one way, my position at SACC-USA is a way to give back because I work with bringing Swedish talent over to the U.S for internships at all kinds of organisations. We can help you as a Swedish student to find an internship in the U.S and we will sponsor your visas. What we are doing is truly great for the cultural and educational exchange between Sweden and the U.S, and being the spider in the net and encouraging more Swedes to come grow in the U.S is my drive. SACC-USA has an unparalleled program for students seeking to intern up to 12 months in the U.S, a service we provide to our 20 regional chambers and companies all over the U.S. I encourage you to apply to any of the positions we advertise at http://sacc-usa.org/trainee/positions/
How did you figure housing out?
Housing is often “the” issue, not the least if you’re an unpaid intern in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I would not have afforded the regular rents other people pay here in D.C, but I got lucky finding the ideal housing on Craigslist – living with a professional foreign service fraternity at Georgetown University campus. Anyone can do what I am doing, you just have to be willing to adapt culturally to all kinds of new settings.
What’s the best part about living in the US?
I mean, it’s the place to be if you want to be in the centre of attention and change the world, whether you want to be in business or government. As a 22-year old, I find that fair enough. As I have tried to make American friends, one gets to really understand why America works the way it does. It is a different lifestyle, and people walk with confidence, so there are definitely lessons to learn and bring back.
Favourite places in Washington D.C?
I live on campus in the historic Georgetown area, so the quiet yet young neighbourhood is the ideal place to live – especially as I got into a good group of friends from the fraternity I live with. D.C is a very young city, and most people are her for their careers and are actively looking to find new friends, so if you like people you really can’t go wrong – in the most powerful city in the world.
What do you want to do in the future?
Inspired by the political nature of D.C and the business centred way of life in Chicago, I see myself working somewhere in between government and business, for businesses. My internship at SACC-USA allows me to explore that field.
Editor’s note: By August 14th 2017, Andreas will begin his internship at the office of house majority leader Kevin McCarthy.