Serving an internship has almost become de rigueur for college students who want to gain some experience—and make valuable connections—in the field they plan to enter after graduation.

But what if you are a student who’s planning a career in international affairs or foreign aid work? It might not be so easy or affordable to take off a semester to head to Botswana or Chad for an internship.

Turns out that students don’t have to leave the country—or even their dorm rooms—to gain international experience, thanks to the Virtual Student Foreign Service eInternship program offered by the U.S. State Department.

The three-year-old program “enables smart, technologically savvy young people to work remotely from their schools, dorm rooms, and homes to support U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development’s domestic offices and overseas U.S. diplomatic posts.”

Students with good computer and social media skills can get involved in all sorts of projects in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.  According to the program website, projects can involve research, “contributing to reports on issues such as human rights, economics or the environment” or “technology oriented, such as working on web pages, or helping produce electronic journals.”

These unpaid, year-long academic eInternships begin in the fall and last nine months. Students are expected to work virtually an average of five to 10 hours per week on their projects, according to the website.  

For the 2012-2013 program, there are 177 projects total, with more than 313 eInternship spots open in a wide range of areas. As the program has grown since its inception in 2009, so has its competiveness: more than 1,400 students applied for last year’s eInternships.

But students interested in applying for this fall will have to hurry: the application deadline is before midnight tomorrow.

Here are just a couple of the eIntern projects available for 2012-13:

Bostwana: Cultivate connections among young business leaders in Botswana by establishing a platform for social networking using mobile phone text messages and e-mails.

China:  Build a network of relationships between U.S. and Chinese environmental student groups. Or: Build a digital map of environmental pollution in South China and conduct trending analysis of pollution events and responses to them.

Zimbabwe: Undertake research on women’s empowerment in the agriculture, food security and livelihoods sectors in Zimbabwe.

Cyprus: Assist with public affairs outreach programs by using social media, website, and audio-visual tools to connect with and inform various target groups about lesser known areas of U.S. culture, education and policy.

For more information on available projects and countries served by the program, check out the eInterns positions map.

Julie Rasicot

Julie Rasicot can be reached at julie.rasicot@bethesdamagazine.com