International students face hardships in job hunts

Certificate program at Career Center aims to help international students


Sabrina Yan

A student meets with James Castree, graduate assistant for career planning and campus outreach for the Career Center. The Career Center has several advisers that can offer guidance to find internship, review resume and cover letters.

By Jiejie Wang, Staff Writer

Like many international students on campus, Chuchao Luo spent many of his hours searching for an internship. After 10 months of hard work, he was offered one as a C++ developer in Akuna Capital.

“I searched for internships for 10 months, applied to over 200 companies on Handshake and attended career fairs on campus, and I revised my resume through the Career Center. Finally, I got three interviews,” Luo, senior in Engineering, said in an email.

Luo said the challenges for international students during the job search process inevitably include a language barrier, increasing competition in computer science positions and the need for sponsorship in the future. This may generate extra costs for the employer.

“It’s really hard, but it’s exciting to find one,” he said. “I was declined so many times that I was even suspicious whether I can even get an internship. This offer rewards my previous effort.”

Un Yeong Park, assistant director for career and professional development for international students at The Career Center, said the number of internships offered to international students is increasing.

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However, Park said the growth of international students who got internships in the U.S. was modest last year compared with previous years due to the political environment, and he is curious about what the number will be this year.

“Companies are using internships as a pipeline for securing better talents,” Park said. But it may be hard to convert these internships into full-time positions for international students.

Park said international students who found internships successfully possess several skills, including technical skills, communication, teamwork, problem-solving and networking.

“Everything is requiring these skills. The balance is important,” Park said. “Changing your mindset and going back for internships in home countries can also be a great idea.”

Park said international students may not understand the job search culture in the U.S., and added that they may not be aware of the power or importance of networking.

“They don’t have parents, relatives or some friends here, so they should create and expand the network very intentionally,” Park said. “Use spring break as a networking opportunity. Don’t just spend your spring break for fun; please set up a time to meet at least two alumni.”  

Shuang Wang, graduate student in Labor and Employment Relations, has been looking for internships since September last year.  

“It’s very hard for me because I don’t have good communication skills, and there are fewer sponsorships this year,” Wang said. “Some companies where my friends did internships before don’t offer sponsorship anymore.”

Wang is participating in the Career Certificate – International, or CC-I, students program offered at The Career Center every semester for free, to improve her job-searching skills.

“It’s very useful and I would like to recommend it to everyone,” she said. “We learned elevator speech and how to improve LinkedIn profile in this class.”

Wang said she will keep taking CC-I classes in the future, and she is trying to find internships both in the U.S. and in China.

“I have my graduate program here, so I am thinking why not make connections here and try to work here,” Wang said. “There are many Chinese students here. We can communicate with other international students and co-workers. This experience will be useful for my career.”

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Correction: A previous version of this article stated Park said the growth of international students who got internships in the U.S. was modest this year compared with previous years. The article also misstated that a language barrier increases competition in computer science positions and the need for sponsorship in the future. The Daily Illini regrets these errors.