Frustration at the internship and job fair

NSU does a wonderful job of preparing students for life after graduation. Renowned professors, who have vast experiences in their respective fields, provide students with an excellent education. Combined with state-of-the-art facilities, the university clearly aims to give students all the tools necessary to succeed in a highly competitive global market.

One amazing opportunity that NSU has for students is an internship and job fair, for which the Office of Career Development invites many employers to campus to recruit students for internships and jobs. This, no doubt, can be a valuable opportunity for some alumni and students – undergraduate and graduate, domestic and international — to learn more about organizations and companies they’re interested in and, possibly, be hired for temporary or permanent positions.

I, however, was highly disappointed when I attended the internship and job fair on Feb. 19. I am an international graduate student, and I decided to attend the fair to see what opportunities might be open to me. I was shocked by the responses I received from the representatives of most of the organizations I was interested in; I was told that only permanent residents and U.S. citizens were eligible.

I found it mind-boggling, because if, as international students, we come to the U.S. and pay to get educated, shouldn’t we be given an opportunity to put the skills we’re taught into real practice outside the four walls of a classroom?

I recognize that many U.S. employers offer amazing internships or even full-time positions to international students. As such, my frustration stems from the particular representatives whom I approached at the fair.

As an international student who has been in this country for about five years, I fully understand the process, along with all the requirements and limitations of obtaining employment in the U.S. as a non-citizen. So, it isn’t as if I went to the job fair blindly expecting that I would receive the same treatment as a citizen or permanent resident.

I think that it would be extremely helpful if the Office of Career Development would clearly specify which organizations and companies consider international students in the list that they hand out at the fair’s entrance. International students would then know which tables to approach. I know that the office includes all that information on its website, as well as in the packet emailed to students. My problem with this, however, is that if you don’t print it out or have a photographic memory to remember which employers to approach, you’re just left to walk up to whichever appeals to you and likely be told that there are no opportunities for international students.

I also suggest that the Office of Career Development advises the organizations and companies attending to send representatives who are knowledgeable about the process of hiring international students, because, clearly, some of the people I spoke with had no idea what they were talking about.

I had specifically asked one representative if I would be able to intern or volunteer if I had my employment authorization document (EAD), and he said no, because even volunteers are paid. So, I was ineligible.

Clearly, this representative had no idea what he was talking about. An EAD is a work permit that allows eligible non-immigrants to work in the U.S. at any organization for the duration of one year, after which he or she can reapply for another work permit, if he or she is still eligible.

It is my opinion that employers who attend the fair needed to do a better job at educating their representatives on responding to international student employment questions. They should have realized that they were coming to a university that has a large population of international students, and, as such, expected that these students would be at the fair asking questions and seeking opportunities.

I don’t think it puts the organization in a good light when their representatives don’t know how to respond to some important questions. I would rather have someone tell me flat-out, “I really don’t know how that works” than to just say, “We don’t accept international students.” I actually had one representative tell me that he didn’t know, and I greatly appreciated that.

I would echo again that the Office of Career Development does a tremendous job of working with students and providing them with opportunities to succeed professionally after graduation. I would definitely encourage its staff to continue because their efforts are undoubtedly helpful to students.

That being said, I propose that they find a way of making this process more inclusive of all students, possibly by inviting more organizations and companies that are willing to offer international students, like me, opportunities to practice what we’re taught here. I can’t speak for other international students, but I really felt out of place and frustrated at the job fair.

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