Here we go again. The academic year is coming to an end and students are clamoring to find summer internships, including an increasing number of international students studying at US universities and colleges looking to stay and work. The upside is most of these students are eligible for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) visa if they are currently in the US on an F visa. The downside is international programs and career service offices are already overwhelmed so the responsibility and knowledge to make these “additional” opportunities lies everywhere and nowhere?
International Student Trends
With some of the world’s most dynamic businesses, a wealth of startups and tech innovators, fashion companies and finance giants, it is no wonder international students want to find an internship in the US. The lure of gaining practical work experience, building invaluable skills, and even landing future employment opportunities is attracting more international students to OPT internships than ever before. Most international students decide to study in the US to also jumpstart their professional development and build their international networking groups. Studying in the US is a huge investment and most students and their families expect a high level of support from their host institution to get them started in their career.
Unfortunately the immense growth in international students over the past couple decades has not seen commensurate growth in university budgets for helping provide the support these students need for finding and landing quality internships. Academic faculty, career services departments and international programs offices are all involved, but this leads to confusion on ownership. This situation over-extends campus advisors to do even more or leave a large number of international students on the internship unemployment line.
Source: Institute of International Education (IIE), Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange(Washington, DC: IIE, 2016).
Challenges Facing International Students
Beyond the challenges of serving thousands of domestic students, international students put needs on the institution as they require special support from advisors to assimilate to life, language and culture at a foreign university. When these students come to their typical source of information for internships, the International Students and Scholars Office, these challenges are amplified. The student may have limited or no professional skills, no business contacts, or not understand the US system enough to even know how to start the process much less find one of substance and interest.
Of course, finding an internship is not the only task at hand as international students (like domestic students) also need:
- Career development coaching to understand the job market and opportunities
- Document preparation for resume and cover letter
- Interview preparation
- Visa support and processing, often the most dreaded task of all as it requires employers to contribute a lot to the visa application process
- Oversight of the internship and mediation with employers
- Help finding suitable accommodations
- Travel planning, insurance procurement and more
Having the time and expertise to do all of these things well with limited funding and personnel, and for so many students is an unrealistic expectation that many international student offices are facing today.
For the student even if they are successful in finding an internship, what if it’s a bad fit for them or the employer? What if it doesn’t work out putting the visa/or limited OPT/CPT time in jeopardy? What if the employer turns out to be questionable or the intern is doing questionable work? Who is monitoring? Issues surrounding accountability and duty of care need to be considered. Is this a reflection of the individual university’s responsibility and will it hurt future recruitment?
the question ISSS advisors should be asking is “So what are my options?”
Working with 3rd Party Providers
One easily scaleable solution is to work with a third party provider who specializes in US-based internship placements and has experience working with the OPT and CPT visa process. Many providers, including Global Experiences, have built the capacity, systems, and expertise to provide a quality internship experience to large numbers of students.
With changing world political climate international student and scholar offices are being asked to do more and more; that years ago would have fallen outside of their realm. These additional activities can come as mandates from senior campus leadership that see a “need” but don’t recognize the added burden or need for funds, training or resources. Or they arise from an accurate assessment from ISSS offices but then the resources may not be made available to address the need so the activity isn’t accomplished.
Some 3rd party providers focus exclusively on internships and this presents a solution to the growing challenges facing advisors? A partnership with an organization like this can help lift a considerable burden from many university advisors while providing the level of resources, know-how and accountability required to provide quality internships for international students.
Global Experiences OPT & CPT Internships
Global Experiences has worked with OPT and CPT students, as well as navigating visa processes for F1 students seeking an internship placements in the US and abroad. Our traditional partnerships have been with advisors in Education Abroad and Study Abroad but realize that International Programs and Career Services are the "first stop" for international students looking for domestic internship opportunities.
All Global Experiences internship programs include a focus on career readiness and global skills development that is personal and helps students find a career they love. We offer a wide range of internship placement areas, academic credit options, full health and safety support, housing, and a guaranteed internship placement.