Visa demands complicate internships

Lucy Li, Features Editor

2018 comes and goes, and the first month of 2019 has flown by, too. Some students are approaching the end of their college days, and starting another chapter in their lives.

Most students face two choices after graduation: go on to graduate school or work. Either way, it can be important to have internship experiences during their four years of undergraduate school.

As competitive as the market is, one group of students face more challenges than others: international students, because they need visa sponsorships to work in the U.S.

Senior Diao Xianhua, a Chinese student, received one paid internship offer after completing 15 applications.

“I was an IA intern at Laureate Education Inc. last summer in Baltimore.

“I’m not really sure what stood out in my application, but I think it depends on the applicants in that year. 

“For example, you might be a strong candidate this year, but you might be the weakest next year.

“They interviewed many people for the position I had, and they only took one. A lot of the other applicants had better backgrounds than I have, and they have geographical advantages. I guess luck plays a part, more or less.”

Diao said that he didn’t need to go through any additional paperwork for his internship, but, he did say that being an international student can be disadvantageous when applying for jobs or internships.

“A lot of companies think it’s too troublesome (to hire international students).”

Another international student who successfully found an internship is junior Xu Ruixue. She said she had an internship as a greeting ambassador at UPMC Altoona.

Xu said that having an internship is one of her major requirements. 

“Once you’re in the nursing program, the nursing coordinators will be responsible to place students in different hospitals,” Xu said.

“It is an unpaid internship, and I don’t think being an international student put me in (a) disadvantage getting this internship,” she said.

Career Services Director Sherri Rae said that students can use the Pitt Portal to find internships.

“Internships are posted through our Handshake system, which every student can utilize through the Pitt Portal. 

“We also will send information about internships to faculty members in the specific division to share with their classes, and to students we have met with who meet the appropriate criteria,” she said.

Rae said there is no separate portal for international students, but they do keep an eye on those who are willing to hire them.

“As internships are posted, we can assess whether or not there are visa implications (usually included as a part of the posting). 

“Unfortunately, it is up to the individual employer to be willing to cover an intern’s visa requirements, but if we know of employers willing to do so, we will make sure to foster those relationships.”

She said that she does not have a number for how many international students get hired or go to graduate school.

“All of our data is self-reported, and we are finding that our international students are not responding to our First Destination surveys in strong enough numbers to give good information.”

The advice that she could give to international students when finding internships or jobs, according to Rae, is to take advantage of the common portals.

“The search functions on most of the common resources (Handshake, LinkedIn, CareerShift) have filters that can be used to narrow down to employers willing to sponsor visas (or)hire international students,” Rae said. “Depending on the major (or) career path, we can also recommend employers we have worked with in the past with success.”