Reality Check on the American Dream
How Covid has affected International Students
By Hanan Majid
The term “American Dream” usually referred to the idea of attaining success in the United States irrespective of which nationality you come from. Thousands of international students leave their home country to come to the United States in order to find better opportunities. With Covid-19, Ripon’s graduating seniors who are international face new challenges.
International students come to the United States on an F1 visa. According to US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS), international students are only allowed to work 20 hours per week on campus, however, cannot work off-campus while they are enrolled in school.
Once international students have graduated, they are able to use OPT. USCIS defines Optional Practical Training (OPT) as a type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students, allowing students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study, however, this is only valid for one year.
After one year of work, international students either need to get sponsored by a company to work, enroll in higher studies, or get a green card. The USCIS states that the only exception to the one-year working rule is if they are a STEM student. The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student’s program of study in an approved STEM field.
Students who apply for OPT have 90 days to find a job after they graduate. After the 90-day period, if the student fails to find a job that relates to their major, they will be asked to leave the country.
International students have a hard time getting hired because a lot of companies do not want to hire someone for only a year. Due to COVID, the chances of getting jobs for international students have just become harder.
Ali Hamza, who graduated with the class of 2021, this spring has a double major in Politics and Government, and English, and minor in Nonprofit management. Ali graduated with a high GPA and was heavily involved on campus, yet struggles to find employment.
“I have been having almost one interview every day and still I haven’t heard anything back. When I tell them I am on my OPT, there is a sudden change in their behavior and they become really uninterested. I am really worried about my 90-day grace period. I have already used 2 months of it so I need to do something really quick.” Hamza said.
Daniel Garcia, a senior from Venezuela, described his concerns related to being an international student.
“Covid has affected my mental health for the most part. I was not able to get a normal senior year and as an international student it denied me the possibility of being able to visit my family or even meet them in a middle point,” he said. “Since it has affected me mentally, I have gone through a lot of thinking which has led me to decide to come back for an extra year to Ripon to get another minor and get my thoughts straight before starting looking for a job.”