Because of the fall career and internship fair, students were busy this past week refining their resumes and researching companies. A somewhat fascinating yet scary and hectic process, students are already worried about having to navigate this huge event: how to find the companies that interest them, how to disguise their student masks and appear professional, and how to approach prospective employers. However, among them is a smaller group of students who are unsure about how many of the 172 attending companies are open to recruiting them in the first place.
President Trump’s immigration and work-visa restrictions reflect a much less accepting attitude toward non-Americans than that of previous years. Notably, he has excluded certain nationals from entering the U.S., accepted drastically fewer refugees, and limited legal immigration by rejecting green card and visa applicants based on their socioeconomic status.
Furthermore, even the President’s rhetoric of building a wall at the US-Mexico border alone has translated to a sense of exclusion by many non-Americans; and although the college bubble protects many international students from feeling or being explicitly excluded, it is inevitable that this growing anti-immigrant sentiment and the President’s active efforts to reduce overall immigration shape the way we view our position in American society.
Many of his policies actually directly affect international students in the U.S. Not only are there increased barriers to study in the U.S. in the first place-- including an increase in student application fees-- but there are several new policies that restrict international student graduates to obtain work visas and legally stay in the U.S. According to Paul Hughes, an attorney for a lawsuit regarding a policy for international students, such policies have invoked enormous fear and uncertainty among students regarding their post-graduation future.
This knowledge that I am at a great disadvantage has been clear in my hesitation to apply for school jobs, reach out to companies for summer internships, and, most recently, invest my time and effort into attending the fall job and internship fair. I run into several questions, most of which I do not have answers for. How can I politely ask questions regarding work visas for international students? Is it courtesy to mention that I am an international student before I begin a conversation with an employer? Is there a simple way to figure out which companies are more open to recruiting international students? Is it worth attending the career fair, or are there better options for international students?
Upon researching other colleges’ approach to this problem, I stumbled across Michigan State University’s advertisement for an international student career fair. Their description states that the fair not only “focuses on job opportunities… in the students’ home country” but also on companies that offer sponsorship for international students. The University of Southern California had also offered this option last year where they invited companies that were specifically looking for international students “with cross-cultural and multilingual talent”.
Although I believe it is important for international students to take advantage of the career fair-- networking and interacting with prospective U.S. employers-- I believe that both students and employers would benefit from an international student career fair. Not only would these companies utilize such an opportunity to scout prospective employees with skills that many international students possess (such as multilinguality), but students like myself would also be able to save time asking questions regarding visas and sponsorships and focus on finding a company that truly interests us. It’s almost like a faster and more efficient system for matchmaking: directing supply to where there actually is demand.
Over 10% of Northwestern’s student population are international students, many of whom are or will be influenced by the growing anti-immigrant climate and the increasing restrictions on finding employment in the U.S. Further efforts by the university to accommodate to our needs in such an unpredictable environment such as organizing an international student career fair would give students a sense of ease in the midst of constant worry. More importantly, it would provide us with the practical assistance we need.
Looking through Handshake to research prospective companies, I was elated to see that even as a sophomore, t43 companies were recruiting interns. Upon applying the “accepting OPT/CPT” and “will sponsor or doesn’t require US work visa” filter, however, I was left with 8 companies, giving me painfully few options even before getting the chance to read the job descriptions and judge whether I was even interested. With conditions like these and a lack of specialized support, it’s difficult to see a future here, where Northwestern had so firmly wanted to make our “home”.
Editor's Note: The views presented in this story belong to the writer are not necessarily reflective of North by Northwestern as a whole.