I live in an Asian country and completed my master's in Math in June 2020. I want to do a PhD in Europe, but I have had some difficulties in finding a suitable position. I do not believe doing a PhD in my country is a good option due to extreme racism and corruption, abuse. These issues had already taken a toll on my mental health and the system is delibrately and very heavily gamed against my group in the country I was born.

I wrote to professors in Europe 3 weeks ago whose interests align with mine to discuss the possibility of an internship. This would had help me get my foot in the door, and hopefully strengthen my PhD application. However, I don't have funding.

I sent an e-mail along with SOP that explained my situation (including past hardships, issues in my country, etc.) and providing my CV and master's thesis.

Many professors have already replied back negatively due to various reasons and hopes are not high that I will get an internship in Europe. It was already suggested by answers in this question: What is the best way to approach professors in Europe about the possibility of an internship (as an unfunded, international student)?. But I really want to do an internship. I was also thinking of writing to profs in China but I came to know that they are not much specialized in Pure maths and hence I didn't wrote to them.

A professor of France suggested that I should apply to USA, Canada as this sort of arrangement is more common there and there is no money for internships in France.

Before, writing to professors in USA and Canada, I wanted to make sure by letting know of your opinion that can such a plan with internship of atleast 2 months and atmost 1 year can materialize in the system in USA and Canada when a student is unfunded?

  • Is your country part of this program? If so, you can suggest that as a funding source to your contact! mitacs.ca/en/programs/globalink/globalink-research-internship May 26, 2022 at 13:38
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    Alright, we've done this question for Europe, China, and the US, and gotten the same answer 3 times. Funded internships for foreign students rarely work out. Let's not do this again for additional countries. Instead, I think you need to revisit your constraints. You say that you need (1) an academic position that is (2) fully funded and (3) in a foreign country. I don't know you and can't judge whether getting such a position is realistic. But you've been trying for some time now and not found anything, so I strongly suspect you'll need to compromise at least one of those 3 constraints.
    – cag51
    May 27, 2022 at 0:24
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    @Kalneol Please listen to what cag51 is telling you. "Unfortunately due to circumstances I have no other option" -- with a master's degree in math you are likely to have many options, although they might not be what you were hoping for. If you were aiming at an eventual academic position, please keep in mind that that academic job market is rough (and in the US is likely to worsen) and many people who earn PhDs don't find an academic job. I'm very sorry, but I urge you to prepare for the possibility that your present plans won't work out. Best wishes to you.
    – academic
    May 28, 2022 at 10:07
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    I know you desperately want this sort of internship to exist, but adding a bounty isn't going to change the answer that it doesn't. If someone has this money sitting around they're going to use it to fund a PhD student, not to pay someone who isn't a student to do student-like things. This path is certainly not your only option, as others have pointed out, it isn't really an option at all.
    – Bryan Krause
    May 28, 2022 at 15:27
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    @connected-subgroup Can you clarify if this internship is at a Canadian university where you are already enrolled on a degree schene?
    – Yemon Choi
    Jun 1, 2022 at 20:20

3 Answers 3



  1. Focus on the research only. Which means drop any story regarding being a victim of prejudice. That sends all sorts of red flags. In my opinion, the story of your troubles will significantly lower, not improve your chances.
  2. Be very selective about whom you want to work with. Make sure your research proposal is directly related to their research. Start a dialogue by humbly asking questions about the interface between what they have published and your interests. If it isn't a good fit, then chances are that you won't find the best experience.
  3. Think long-term, whomever you select as an advisor will have an impact on your entire career.
  4. Carefully craft a research proposal worthy of a PhD thesis. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the better the research proposal the better the discussions that will follow.
  5. Be humble and ask for feedback on your research proposal. That will start the discussion and allow you to ascertain the quality of a potential advisor's feedback, which is a measure of how well you will fit into your advisor's research team.
  6. Only after you have a good discussion, should you ask about the possibilities of funding.
  7. Should your contact be unable to fund you, (s)he may be able to recommend another professor to contact.

To summarize: Your initial goal is to open doors. This means starting discussions that demonstrate the quality of your mind, which will allow you to network into a funding opportunity.


Unfortunately, in the USA or Canada, funded internships in math are rare to nonexistent. I have never heard of any professor hiring for such a role: in my observation, opportunities for short-term funding are rare, specialized, and are limited to applicants who either have a PhD or are currently doing well in a PhD program.

Probably the easiest way to get your foot in the door here is admission to a graduate program. Admissions everywhere are competitive, but some programs are more willing to take chances than others.

Best of luck.

  • Actually, only a doctoral program is likely to come with funding. Internships in CS might be more possible, but still unlikely since the professor would need external funding or it.
    – Buffy
    May 26, 2022 at 13:06

In order to get a visa into the US, you need to show proof that you are not going to be a burden to the country, i.e. have funds to sustain yourself. This requirement is not unique to the US. You also have to show that you are likely to return to your country at the end of your stay.

If you have substantial means in your country, you can qualify on both of them. But any professor dealing with you wants to know about the visa hurdles.

Second, I assume that you do not need funds. Otherwise, no place I know of would invest money into an intern. Academic projects take much longer than the few month of an internship and as someone being there for a ten weeks period, you would have to be trained and talked to, but you would not be productive to justify the efforts. Even if you can pay for your stay and are not a financial burden on the academic group that you are joining, you would be an investment that is not likely to pay off. Somebody might take you on, but this would be an act of charity.

If you approach someone, professors are in fact quite busy. They will not have the time to read lengthy letters, and they already get their fair share of ill-directed requests from someone wanting to join their group. You need to keep your request clear and simple, and you should not go into the details of your tribulations in your home-country. Most professors read newspapers and tend to be better informed than the average citizen of their country. They will either already know about the situation in general or they will not care. Your motives also do not need to be explained at length. However, even if you write a good request letter, do not let your hopes get to high. Helping someone to get into a Ph.D. program elsewhere is not good for the professor and the institution, and regrettably, most people do not look to do good works, though most professors will really not be able to help you.

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