The View From Campus – How international students can best prepare themselves for jobs (2)

In a previous post, Christopher Connor, Assistant Dean of Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, shared with some of the resources many U.S. colleges offer their students to prepare them for work. This week we continue our interview, in which he gives us more information on the topic.  

Q: When students finish their studies, what is legally available to students who wish to work?
A: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than three months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to work for one year.

Q: What is STEM OPT and how can international students qualify for it?
A: STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization available to F-1 students who graduated with U.S. degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. It is important for students to double check with programs they are applying to whether their program is eligible for STEM OPT as it may not always be clear.

Q: Talk about the importance of a resume and cover letter in the job/internship search for international students?
A: Having a well thought out, clear concise resume and cover letter that appropriately showcases and quantifies their abilities is extremely important. The goal is to be recognized with a combination of translatable skills that will differentiate from other students you are in competition with.

Q: When there are jobs/internship fairs on campus, what tips would you suggest students take on board to improve their chances of finding a position?
A: It is important for students to keep in mind that the job search is many cases a relationship building process. Let the company representative talk (but listen) and pick pieces of “common ground” knowledge out of the conversation.. Use the “common ground” to your advantage. Listening is a key ingredient to these interactions.

Q: In your experience, how can international students make themselves standout most when beginning the job search?
A: International students should leverage any resources or events that are made available to them to help promote professional and personal growth. Students should attend job fairs and networking events well before they are ready to actively begin their job search.

Q: Do you feel that prospective employers value what international students can offer their companies?
A: Employers are looking to hire the best qualified candidates for potions and there is a known skills gap for countless positions in the US. Given the gap, International students help bridge that gap by offering many benefits to companies.

Q: Interviews can make or break an international student’s chances of securing their dream job. What advice would you give them as they prepare for this important step?
A: Practice, practice, practice. Make sure to leverage free services such as mock interviews. The more practice you have, the better you will do when it matters most.

Q: If students who are looking to develop a plan B for work after graduation (if not in the U.S.), what would you suggest would be good first step?
A: Keep your options opened. This includes looking not only in the US but in other countries for opportunities including your home country. Starting your career somewhere can help you obtain valuable experience to increase your future career mobility.

The View From Campus – How international students can best prepare themselves for jobs (1)

For many prospective international students considering the United States for higher education, the opportunities for work experience in their field of study is often an important consideration. This month we take a hard look at how U.S. colleges and universities are preparing their international students for work. Christopher Connor, Assistant Dean of Graduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, shares what is possible for international students in the United States.

Q: Describe your institution in 5 words?
A: Premier global innovative research university

Q: For what is your institution best known overseas?
A: Students and faculty from across the globe come to our school to conduct high-impact original research in science and engineering, to become leaders in engineering disciplines and related fields.
Our School also offers the SEAS 360 Professional Development program, a unique cost free professional development training for our undergraduate and graduate students to better prepare them for the workforce.

Q: What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?
A: – Industrial Engineering
– Civil Engineering
– Chemical Engineering
– Aerospace Engineering
– Computer Science/Computer Engineering

Q: What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?
A: India, China, Iran, Taiwan, and S. Korea.

Q: How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?
A: Our university accepts IELTS for English Language proficiency and requires a minimum 6.5 with no sub score below 6.0. Students meeting this criteria have been successful in completing their graduate studies.

International student work-related questions

Q: What resources are generally available on-campus for students to help prepare them for work?

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. have Career Services offices that offer assistance with:

Power or Soft Skill Development – Many colleges and universities and in some cases individual academic schools/programs offer their students cost-free workshops to develop soft skills or what employers have not deemed “power skills.” In some cases students may even be able to obtain an additional credential such as a certificate or a micro badge to include on their resume.

Career Decision Making – Self assessment tools to examine your values, personality, interests and abilities and making suggestions on which type of careers you might be best suited for.

Resume and Cover Letter Writing – career services offices help students write their resumes and cover letters. Additionally, they conduct workshops and provide one-on-one sessions during which they critique resumes and cover letters.

Interviewing – Campus career offices usually sponsor workshops to help students learn how to present themselves well in a job interview, from what to wear, to what questions to expect.

Recruiting – Career services offices host job fairs during which employers visit the campus to recruit students who are about to graduate. The offices sometimes maintain student files containing letters of recommendation from faculty, which they can then forward to potential employers and graduate schools upon the student’s request.

Networking – Career services can also  help students find networking events, where they can connect with professionals in their potential career.

Internships – Many academic units may have their own separate office that handles internships but career services offices also often work hand-in-hand with companies seeking college interns and internship advisers.

Q: As it stands now, what do international students in the U.S. have available to them to work in their field during studies?
A: US colleges and universities may have funding research, teaching  or student assistantship positions available. Additionally, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary employment authorization for F-1 visa non-immigrant foreign students in the United States while enrolled in a college-level degree program. CPT permission is granted through a college or universities International Students Office or equivalent upon approval of advisor, based on the regulations established by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.


Why Work Part-time When Studying Abroad (Part 2)

In a previous blog post on the topic, we identified two benefits of picking up a part-time job while at university: improving language ability and getting to know more people.

Here are some more reasons why working part-time can be good for you.    

Becoming culturally aware

When living abroad, especially in a country whose culture is quite different to yours, there could be umpteen ways in which your words or actions may upset those around you. This is because what is seen as normal behaviour in your country may be considered inappropriate in another society.

One of the quickest ways to improve cultural awareness is by being in a cosmopolitan work environment, where you get to observe people from other cultures first-hand. Often work stress brings out the worst in people, highlighting differences in how cultures cope with tricky situations. You get to know why different people behave the way they do. In the long run, this will enable you to respond appropriately to cultural differences by being more sensitive to them.

Now, there’s no doubt that most universities too have diverse international student communities. However, students often confine themselves to small groups which make them feel comfortable. The workplace, therefore, is a much better place to learn about cultures, as it forces you to work with all kinds of people, even those whose behaviour you might find odd or annoying at first.

Getting introduced to the world of work

Working part-time is a great way of getting to know the world of work and the challenges it throws up, before formally beginning your career. For one thing, you become aware of various do’s and don’ts when working for a business. As well as this, you also learn to deal with office politics, which is an absolute must to survive as an employee. And if you don’t happen to enjoy certain kinds of part-time work, at least you’d know what to avoid later on in life. 

Overall, part-time work experience is invaluable, as it helps you understand yourself as well as the workplace better. So, when such opportunities come your way, make sure you grab them with both hands.    

Why Work Part-time When Studying Abroad (Part 1)

Looking for a part-time job is one of the very first tasks that international students take on once they set foot on foreign soil. For many, it generates a handy income that can go some way towards helping them meet their expenses. Some use it to fund activities which they think are beyond their limited student budget.

However, if you thought money was the only motive behind this, think again. Even those with the means to put themselves through college comfortably apply for part-time vacancies. Wondering why?

Here are some pluses of working part-time as a university student.  

Improving language skills

As a foreign student, the chances are you may not be fluent in the local language, whether it is English, German, French, or Polish. Being at the workplace presents the ideal opportunity to hone your language skills, as it is usually full of native speakers.

There’s enough evidence to suggest that putting yourself in real-life situations and forcing yourself to communicate is perhaps the best way to learn a foreign language that you barely know. When you are thrown in at the deep end, you may struggle initially but will very quickly learn to cope. That way, you learn a language faster than you would ever manage in a classroom. 

Meeting new people

Undergraduate or postgraduate students make up a sizeable proportion of part-timers employed by businesses such as pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, and call centres. So, if you’re feeling all lonely in a new country, your workplace may be the best place to start looking for like-minded people. As many among them may be facing the very same challenges as you, it becomes easier to connect with one another. What’s more, mates from work are usually more fun, as you tend to forget academic pressures in their company.

And don’t be surprised if some of these friendships last a lifetime. Many international students continue staying in touch with their foreign friends even years after returning to their country.

We’ll be back soon with more on the benefits of working part-time while at university.                     

View From Campus: Student Work in the U.S. Part II: After Studies

 

In a previous post we focused on opportunities for international students in F-1 visa status to work while in the United States while they’re studying. In this post we take you through the opportunities they have after they finish their studies.

For some people, knowing how a story ends before they begin reading a book can be an obsession. When it comes to learning what lies ahead for international students after graduation from university in the United States, students and parents are eager to know the ending as well.

By law, after completion of their studies, F-1 students have either 12 months (for non-STEM degrees) or up to 36 months for STEM degrees of Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorisation possible per degree level for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level students. There are 240 different Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) academic degree programs that can qualify international students for the 3 years of work. The challenge is finding the job that makes sense.

 

Where to start?

When starting out the job search Marcelo Barros, founder of The International Advantage, recommends that “savvy international students are not fixated on specific job titles or firms that they may want to work for. Instead, with time on their side, it is preferred that students focus on understanding the various professional fields their careers interests, skills and experiences might be a fit for, and that they may be aware of. It’s all about creating a bigger pool of employment possibilities.”

Also, students who go to sessions on putting together a resume and cover letter that gets sent to prospective employers, are off to a good start. As Nicolle Merrill, founder of GlobalMe School, remarked that cover letters and resumes are “the main tools students use to get an interview with a company. The challenge is that nobody is good at writing (them)…. Even Americans are bad at it.”

 

Making the most of opportunities

On many college campuses each year, there are job fairs and interview days held that can open the door to the right job. However, students should not go into those fairs without proper preparation. Research is a key first step. Knowing which companies are attending and whether they sponsor international students helps a job seeker focus his/her time on those potential employers that may be a good match.

How international students spend their time with company representatives is critical. Students should know how they want to introduce themselves in 30 seconds. Ms. Merrill recommends that international students “practice your professional story. Know what you’re going to tell recruiters when they ask you to tell them about yourself.”

Ms. Merrill has an important suggestion on how to take the next step: “Follow up by connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn and sending them a personal message. You never know where a connection might lead in the future.”

 

Searching for jobs as a non-STEM graduate 

While the majority of international students in the United States are studying in the STEM fields, and have additional time available to them to work, a sizeable number are not STEM students. Barros suggests that these students “should create a competitive profile by creatively strengthening their profile with an eye towards the skills that are in demand by U.S employers.”

Merrill goes further indicating “there will be much more networking and research involved. It also takes longer to find the right role, so students need to plan for a 6-9 month search to see results…. For non-STEM students, I recommend targeting nonprofits or universities.” In addition focusing on higher education institutions, Merrill suggests “students should also target roles in less competitive locations. This means targeting less popular cities and regions such as in the Mid-West and South of the United States.”

In the end, there are no guarantees of employment for international students after graduation, but with extensive planning and preparation, significant initiative and follow-up, and meeting the right company, the opportunities exist. Good luck!

 

View From Campus: Student Work in the U.S. Part I: During Studies

Image courtesy of AliveCampus.com

 

After students arrive on campus at a U.S. college or university, one of the questions they have about their privileges and benefits as an international student involves work. For many of their American classmates, working while at college is very much a part of the day-to-day experience. U.S. students can find employment wherever they want to and can be hired. That is not the case, legally, for international students on an F-1 visa.

 

On-Campus Work

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services F-1 students may accept on-campus employment during their first academic year. That on-campus work is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and up to full-time (40 hours/week) during school breaks or vacations.

Many international students, like ones we have profiled on this Opportunities Abroad blog, do take on-campus jobs for a variety of reasons. Madhav now works as a resident adviser, Swati serves as a Global Ambassador for her institution, and Rasana was a graduate assistant in an international office. Oftentimes the work is a good way to help pay for personal expenses students have above and beyond their tuition and fees.

 

Curricular Practical Training

What most students hope to do before they graduate is to get some experience in their intended career field. The regulations governing this type of work for international students, called curricular practical training (CPT), allow for the college’s Designated School Officials (DSOs) to approve either full-time or part-time work for international students off-campus with certain restrictions.

U.S. colleges and universities may have very different definitions of what a required internship or practicum is. Some departments, for example, in engineering, health fields or even education, may have courses that are designated as “coop” or practicum or student teaching programs that students must register for as part of their degree requirements. Others may have a special internship course. Other academic majors may not have any options for CPT for international students, so students should be sure to check with their advisers to see what is possible.These kinds of internships can be invaluable for international students during their time in the United States.

There is a restriction that does limit the amount of authorized CPT a student can work. Students cannot exceed 365 calendar days of CPT approval if the student wants to take advantage of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of their studies. We’ll discuss OPT and other work opportunities in the next The View From Campus post. Stay tuned!

Future Proofed: Are Humanities the Answer?

How will technology change the work we do?

 

In a ever-changing world, trying to predict what the future holds is proving harder by the day. The rise of ‘Big Data’, mechanisation and ‘machine-learning’ suggests that whatever the future does become over the next 50 years or so, automation will play a big part in it.

Companies, governments and citizens are increasingly harnessing its powers for innovation and expediency.

So what does this mean for education and the future of work? Can you count on your humanities degree being relevant in 25 years time?

It is hotly debated and no-one can know for sure, but from a purely practical standpoint, here is one reason why any humanities degree will still be needed. Even when it is your car that is driving you to work.

 

Being Human

While research and development in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, will undoubtedly be important in the future work we do, they cannot do all of the jobs that societies need to thrive.

The clue is in the name: the humanities are, broadly speaking, studies into humankind.

From history, politics, and literature, to art, philosophy, anthropology and sociology – each one of these areas of study and research shed light on how we organise our world and how humans are, in turn, shaped by it.

And while there is overlap between the sciences and humanities in terms of what students learn from those degrees,  (analysis, examination, problem-solving, methodology, and so on), their real-world applications differ.

 

Brave new world

So, as well as honing their writing and debating, humanities graduates have skills that can be applied to problems, such as how we govern a world that is constantly changed by technology.

New moral and political questions like this one will need to be answered as that change occurs.

It seems a reasonable assumption to make that as long as there are humans, the humanities will be needed.

 

Computer Science: Skills to Shape the Future

Image courtesy of Josh Graciano via Flickr (CC 2.0)

Shaping the future

In a world that increasingly relies on computers to run it, the need for graduates with computer science skills has never been greater.

And for those students considering studying in this arena, there’s a world of opportunity out there for them to exploit.

Not only will those skills make a real impact in shaping the world, they are required (and valued!) across a range of sectors and careers. From entrepreneurial start-ups to governments, the demand for these skills goes beyond the traditional fields of years gone by.

 

Growth

And computer science jobs are growing at a far greater rate than other degrees. According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer science careers will grow by 12 per cent in the decade to 2024. That’s almost double the growth rate for other fields.

So, choosing a computer science degree is a good bet to have a range of options when you enter the world of work.

 

Where to study

In terms of where the best universities are to study computer science, two countries dominate the world university rankings: United Kingdom and United States. The top three of Stanford, MIT and University of Oxford have all produced groundbreaking work in the development of computers, so good English skills are needed to compete at the highest level.

If you’re thinking of joining them, then you’ll need IELTS.

IELTS is the most popular English test for people who want to live, study or work in another country. IELTS is also accepted by more than 3,300 institutions in the U.S, including all Ivy League colleges, and across universities in the UK.

So wherever a computer science degree takes you, the future looks bright.

View From Campus: Swati from Bangladesh

Swati Roy

 

This month we invited Swati from Bangladesh to give her insights on studying at a U.S. college.

 

Who are you? Name, university, academic degree program, and home country.

My name is Swati Roy. I am an international undergraduate student from Bangladesh at Ohio University, majoring in Accounting and Finance.

 

How would you describe your experience in preparing for and taking the IELTS test

I would describe my experience in preparing for and taking the IELTS test as simple. It is avery simple way to demonstrate your English proficiency since it’s broken down into components and the British Council has plenty of resources to prepare for each. The process was seamless from preparing for the test, taking the test, to submitting my scores through British Council to my university choices.

 

How did you decide on the U.S. as your study destination?

I decided to study in the U.S. because colleges in the U.S. provide a greater flexibility to study what you want. You can explore multiple courses to recognise your passion before you declare your major. And there are various resources to help you with the decision.

 

How has IELTS prepared you for your degree program?

I believe the IELTS prepared me to better understand the content in my college classes because the curriculum is in English. It has also saved me time because I was able to enrol directly into my degree program without having to go through any English learning program or proficiency testing upon arrival. Especially, preparing for the listening and speaking components of the IELTS has also prepared me to effectively communicate with my faculty and peers at the university.

 

Why did you choose Ohio University?

I chose Ohio University because it is one of the best public universities for studying business in the U.S. It provides top notch, student centred learning. In addition to that it has a college culture that is unmatched and an extremely beautiful campus.

 

Describe your role as an international ambassador at your institution?

As an Ohio University Global Ambassador, I work as a liaison between the University and prospective international students. I help answer any questions they have about the admissions process or the university in general. It is always more relatable to them coming from an international student already studying at the University than someone from the administration. I also work along with other Global Ambassadors on different media and outreach efforts to attract more international students to the university and add more diversity to our ever-growing international community at Ohio University.

 

What is most important thing for students considering coming to the U.S. to know about applying to colleges and universities?

I believe the most important thing for students considering coming to the U.S. to know are the specific requirements of a college or university for admission that includes minimum SAT/ACT score, IELTS, minimum GPA, high school transcripts etc.

 

What are your plans after graduation?

Upon graduation, I would love to move to a big city such as Chicago or New York. I would like to work for a multinational consulting firm.

 

 

The Key to Study Success? Don’t Set Goals, Create Habits

Image courtesy of Geraint Otis Warlow via Flicker (CC 2.0)

 

We’re always told that it’s good to dream big. That we should have our goals planned out: write a hit novel, become a surgeon, run a successful business.

 

But as we embark on making those dreams a reality at university and beyond, we can come unstuck. Most people have experienced those difficulties to some extent. The progress to achieving our goals is slow-moving. There are still a lot of blank pages that we’re trying to fill.

 

So, what’s the key to achieving the goals we set ourselves and realising our dreams?

 

Some Psychologists suggest that instead of setting goals, we should create habits.

 

They argue that a goal is too far off in the distance for it to have a significant effect on our daily lives.

A goal doesn’t help you get the thing done. In fact, until you reach the goal you exist in a sort of state of failure, e.g.  ‘I haven’t written a novel yet.’

 

Instead, we should create a habit that fits with the sort of person we are, or want to be.

 

For example, writing that thesis is a daunting prospect, with many thousands of words to compile.  But if you create a habit: ‘I’m the sort of person who writes for an hour every morning,’ the thesis takes care of itself.

 

In both cases (goal or habit), the end result is often the same (these completed). But crucially, our happiness, and therefore our ability to produce our best work, is far greater when we employ habits.

We’re creatures of habit after all.

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