Graphics, University News

Internship search difficult for international students

Visa complications, fewer opportunities abroad on BrownConnect limit summer opportunities

By
Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 2016

With the spring semester well underway, many students have embarked on the summer internship hunt — an endeavor that some international students might find “tricky,” said Sujay Natson ’16.

A large factor that hinders international students is that they often “can’t get paid in the U.S.,” Natson said. Due to visa regulations, limited funded opportunities in the United States exist for students from outside the country. Natson, who is from Singapore, has found unpaid volunteer experiences in the United States before but has yet to find a paid job, he said.

Bia Bugane ’18, who is from Brazil and Italy, cited the Curricular Practical Training — a work license for international students — as a factor that also complicates the process. For internships under a CPT license, the student has to be at least a sophomore, Bugane said, adding that the internship has to be related to one’s concentration.

International first-year students often have an especially hard time landing internships, said Chantal Marauta ’19, who is from Italy and the Philippines. “Freshmen have it more difficult than juniors and seniors” because of their inexperience, but “international freshmen students have it even worse” because there are even fewer opportunities for them, she said.

In addition, fewer opportunities usually exist abroad than in the United States, which may force international students to spend more time away from family, said Minoshka Narayan ’18, who hails from India.

For some international students, BrownConnect — Brown’s alumni networking and internship posting site — has not eased the process. “I’ve never found BrownConnect helpful,” Marauta said. Interested in law and EU foreign service, Marauta said she hasn’t been able to find relevant internships, such as ones with the United Nations or the European Union, through the site.

Narayan echoed similar sentiments, commenting that while she has looked up alums through BrownConnect, none of her outreach has “led to anything yet.”

Greg Seiler, international and signature internship programs manager of the CareerLAB, stated that mostly domestic companies come to recruit students through BrownConnect, whereas most international employers “may not think to do so” because Brown is “not on their radar.”

BrownConnect, in the second year since its 2014 inauguration, is “just at the beginning stages of developing more internship placement internationally,” said Matt Donato, director of the CareerLAB. At the end of last month, 60 of the 371 internships on BrownConnect were international, according to Donato and Seiler. Donato highlighted the Hong Kong BEO Signature Program — which will offer 10 to 12 funded internships in Hong Kong this summer — as a major accomplishment of the CareerLAB this year.

Seiler encouraged all students to start the internship hunt early. “An application deadline isn’t necessarily a due date. A company might close off an application if they get enough impressive submissions,” he said. He added that internship opportunities constantly change on BrownConnect and might be posted for short time frames.

Donato highlighted the value of reaching out to peers as well as faculty, which is “often overlooked as a source of connections,” he said. He also recommended that all students start by networking with alums, which, he added, could make a difference “between a student not knowing anything versus a student knowing a little more.”

Wenjie Zheng ’17 praised the “ease” and “transparency” of networking in America compared to networking in China, his home country. “When you reach out to people here,” all you have to do is “ask (them out) for coffee,” he said. But in China, networking requires months of cultivating relationships. “It’s a different culture,” he said.

In addition, Zheng stated he personally has not encountered problems finding internships in the United States as an international student. “Smaller companies might not want to sponsor your visa,” he said, but he has found that the bigger companies usually will. He added that he and many of his friends prefer internships in the United States because they would rather “stay somewhere that’s more developed.”

While BrownConnect is intended to be an “awesome starting point” by the CareerLAB, it is “by no means the final destination search tool for every single student,” Seiler said. All students have to be “proactive” and resourceful in their search for summer positions, he said.

“You have to keep an open mind” and be “flexible,” Natson said.

“If you really stand out (and) have the talent, you’ll get an internship. That applies for everything in life,” Zheng said.

Bugane stated that not landing an internship is not the end of the world. “There are many ways to pursue your academic growth besides an internship,” she said.