Internship stress: International, domestic students struggle with job search


Sydney Laput

The University’s Career Center, located on Wright Street, provides resources relating to internships and other job related topics. However, students express the difficulty in finding job opportunities.

By Jenni Kallenback, Assistant Features Editor

Oishee Nandy, senior in Engineering, had her sights set on a startup she wanted to intern for since her freshman year. She was in communication with the startup every recruiting season and finally during her junior year, she passed the first round of interviews and the recruiters said they would send her resume through to the next round. 

She didn’t hear from them after. Nandy said everything seemed to be going well, but then she received an email saying that they noticed she was an international student, and they would not be able to accept her because they didn’t have the funds to sponsor work visas.

“It’s honestly very common for a lot of companies to be this way, that they don’t mention it on the job posting and then you spend the time to apply to only be rejected, which is also very demotivating,” Nandy said.

When attending Career Fair, Nandy said the number of companies she can apply to goes from 120 to 14 because of her need for work sponsorship.

Students can struggle with securing internships for different reasons. For international students, getting approved to work and be sponsored by a company can be a lengthy and tedious process. Both international and domestic students are affected by automated interview processes and algorithms that filter out applicants at early stages.

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Manan Sanghavi, sophomore in LAS, has struggled to secure an internship as an international student, mainly because of bureaucratic challenges and limited opportunities.

International students can apply for off-campus work authorization after completing one year of study. Obtaining a social security number is another important step in applying for off-campus employment, but Sanghavi said he has experienced delays with social security administration offices during COVID-19. The International Student and Scholar Services website indicates that SSA offices are currently closed to foot traffic and only taking appointments for students in dire need.

For Sanghavi, this creates a cycle where he can’t secure an internship because he doesn’t have a SSN but can’t obtain a SSN because he doesn’t have an offer letter for employment.

“You need evidence that you have been sort of in the process of being employed,” Sanghavi said. “So without one, you can’t have the other.”

Sanghavi is pursuing an internship in healthcare and he pointed out the limited number of opportunities for practical training in C-U. As a first-generation international student, he is unable to return home during breaks to look for other options.

Sanghavi also found that the positions he wanted required prior experience.

“A huge, huge factor has just been the entire question to do with like, ‘OK, how do I get experience if you’re not gonna let me get any experience,’ you know, ‘How am I supposed to prove to you that I’m competent and willing to learn on the job?’” Sanghavi said.

Nandy estimates that she has applied to about 100 internships since junior year. She thinks that about half of her applications have been filtered out by automated systems because she requires work sponsorship as an international student and that the other half of unsuccessful applications have to do with the nature of computer science internships.

“CS jobs don’t really take the time to speak to you personally,” Nandy said. “It’s always like, okay, you know, you submitted your application, here’s the coding challenge. And if you get through this, then we’re gonna talk to you.”

She said she wishes the first round was more personal.

Alexis Carter, junior in Media, estimates that she has applied to at least 75 internships since she was a freshman. She is hoping for an in-person internship for the summer and said she struggles with pre-recorded and virtual interview processes.

Carter has had one internship she considers “official,” at a smaller company where she was interviewed directly by her future boss.

“(With) larger companies, there’s a screening process,” Carter said. “And sometimes you don’t even get to meet the person, like your potential boss.”

She said the University should make interview skills part of everyone’s curriculum and encourage internships as college credit.

For international students, Nandy said there should be a mandatory seminar that explains how to get internships, jobs and when students need to start applying in order to be able to stay in the U.S. after graduation.

Sanghavi said he also struggles with the “how.” He was told to job shadow, but he was unsure how to seek out job shadowing and mentorship opportunities. He said it would be helpful for international students to be paired up with former international students who have gone through the same process.

“So just to build a stronger social network between graduated UIUC alum and students in general,” Sanghavi said.


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