Life After Graduation From The Perspective Of An International Student

 

Pre-Completion OPT. Post-Completion OPT. H-1B. These are just a handful of the endless acronyms that flood my inbox as I realize that I only have one year left before I graduate college.

 

Talking about graduation can be a hit-or-miss topic for different people. Some already know exactly what their plans are - they landed a full-time job, were accepted into graduate school, decided to do research in another country, and the list goes on. For others, however, graduation can be a daunting subject, especially for those, like myself, who are studying here as international students on F-1 or J-1 visas.

 

 

For those who don’t know, an F-1 student visa is the visa type most commonly used by international students coming to study in the United States, and it is designed for those who want to study full-time in order to pursue a certificate or degree. A J-1 student visa, on the other hand, is generally intended for students who are studying in the U.S. through an exchange program, and it is required that the majority of the financial support comes from sources other than personal funds.

Before even coming to university, most international students go through a lengthy immigration process to receive either F-1 or J-1 visas. These visas allow us to stay in the United States for the duration of our studies, and in the case of the F-1 visa, can even permit us to stay an extra 12 months if we opt to do Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training, which is temporary employment that is directly related to one’s major or field of study. Nevertheless, it is a lengthy process to get approved by both NYU and the State Department. On top of that, for international students, the job search becomes a process of finding employers who are willing to sponsor Work Visas and accept our Post-OPT approvals. It can feel tiresome at times, but when things work out, it makes everything worth it. Furthermore, there is the option of going to graduate school, whether it be in the U.S. or in another country.

 

 

As an international student who is graduating in January 2019, I have already started thinking about applying for Post-OPT and when I am going to do so because it takes about three to four months to get all of the paperwork in order. There is a part of me that wants to stay in the United States and work here on Post-OPT, yet another side of me wants to explore working in other parts of the world.

 

That being said, one of the biggest dilemmas that international students face after graduation is deciding whether or not to go back home. This decision always depends on the place that the person calls “home,” and if further education or employment opportunities are available there. For example, due to my dad’s job, we move from country to country every four years, and we currently live in Madagascar. For me, personally, moving to my current home after I earn my degree would not work for me, since I am planning on going to graduate school and possibly starting a job as well. I know others who definitely plan on going home and figuring things out from there, as they would have a safe foundation to start on.

 

Graduation is just as scary and uncertain as it is exciting. For international students in particular, it feels like the pressure to figure things out quickly is augmented by the current political climate in the United States. Obtaining a work visa has become more difficult, and many companies and industries require their potential employees to already have “full unrestricted work authorization,” which many international students on student visas don’t usually have. While all of this becomes overwhelming very quickly, it doesn’t take away from the fact that attending college in New York City as an international student is an incredible experience and a great avenue for personal growth. Although thinking about the next steps after graduation is something that will always be in the back of our minds, we cannot forget to soak in the present moment and acknowledge how much of a privilege it is to be where we are.

 

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