Very few international students are under the illusion they will graduate from a US university and step straight into employment.

The Brown and White spoke to international students and graduates in the US who have navigated the world of job applications, visas and generally figured out life post-graduation after staying on in the US.

Associate Director of Graduate Student Career Development at LeHigh University, Lynn D’Angelo-Bello, works with international students to help them navigate the application process, to succeed in mock interviews, and also to ‘self-brand’; a process that makes them much more attractive to recruiting US employers.

“International students do have some additional challenges in securing a job or internship, mostly because they need to obtain sponsorship from the organization,” she said.

With tightening and ever-changing immigration policies, D’Angelo-Bello even encourages students to apply for jobs in the more-welcoming Canada.

International student Christina Qin said she didn’t understand quite how tricky the career process can be until she went through it herself.

In Qin’s junior year she attended every single event her university put on for the fall recruitment process and applied for as many internships as she could find… yet, she was unsuccessful.

“I didn’t land any sort of interview my first semester of junior year, and I was pretty upset,” Qin said. “I thought I put a lot of effort into it. Being an international student, it was extra hard to land a job or interview.”

Internships are key to securing full-time employment

International student Bohan Chen also experienced similar problems to Qin in obtaining an internship – often donned as a paving stone to securing full-time employment in the US.

Chen claimed he applied to over 80 internships before he was finally offered a place.

He attributes his success to his growing confidence, networking opportunities, and taking the chance to speak to international alumni about their own experiences.

Arshia Bhatia, an international student in the US originally from India, claimed she applied to a number of summer internships before she was finally offered a position in New York City.

She claimed trying to get her internship was a lengthy process: “Normally, when you fill out an application, one of the first questions they ask you is if you are a US citizen.

“There were a lot of internships I didn’t hear back from or there were certain companies only accepting US citizens, so I couldn’t apply to them.”

To her delight, after her internship came to an end, she was offered a full-time position which she is looking forward to beginning after she graduates this year.

Visas and sponsorship can be difficult to obtain

Student Ada Tao told The Brown and White there are so many hoops to jump through before you can work in the US – something she didn’t quite understand when she first started studying there.

Tao claimed that after she came to study in the US, she managed to pick up a lot of information from international students in higher years than her.

“They said internships are so hard to find especially for international students.

“I understand because the firm has to do extra work for us — once we have a full-time position they have to hire a lawyer to file the H-1B [visa].

“They are also worried we might not be able to fully merge into the culture and work with other American employees.”

Director of LeHigh’s Office of International Students and Scholars, Samba Dieng, told The Brown and White that in the current political climate many students are anxious about what the future of working visas will look like in the US.

“The nature of the status of your visa is […] really hard,” Chen said. “If you cannot get your H-1B selected why would a firm hire you?

“You won’t be able to stay in the US potentially after one year. Plus, the company has to pay money to sponsor you for your H-1B.”

When Bhatia was navigating the job application process, she found that, due to her international status, it was less about whether or not she was qualified or capable of doing a job and more about whether she could convince an employer to hire her.

“It definitely is a reality you have to get used to that it is not an even playing field because, even if you are qualified, you may not get it because they would have to pay for your visa,” Bhatia said.

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