You got accepted to an American university, parted with your friends and family at the airport, traveled all the way here to attend university, and now what?
International students have to adjust to an American college lifestyle pretty quickly. It is your responsibility to do the very thing you came here to do: attend classes and hopefully get good grades in them. It is also expected of you to socialize, make new friends and join various groups and organizations on campus. You can’t forget about calling your parents once in a while, because, well, they miss you. Did I cover all the bases? Not quite. There is also one more important thing you have to start doing when you get settled in your new routine, which is searching for opportunities.
Applying for jobs, scholarships and summer internships is something that every college student has to do. These opportunities help you gain experience in your field of study, and you figure out what you want to do in life. Here are several tips that can help you get started with the effective opportunity searching process:
1. Utilize the university website. Scholarships, job openings and internship opportunities affiliated with your university will most likely be listed on the official university website. If you are looking for specific opportunities, looking at your department website would be a way to start.
2. Talk to your professors. If you got a good grade in biology your first semester, it won’t hurt to email your professor and ask if there’s an opening for a teaching assistant position.
3. Allocate time to search for these opportunities. Do it as often as you can: once a week, every other week, or at least once a month. There have been numerous times when I found a great opportunity, but the deadline had already passed. Speaking of which…
4. Know the deadlines. Different opportunities have different deadlines. Yet, mid-October to early November are generally the times for deadlines for spring and summer opportunities. Utilize your mobile calendar app and set yourself weekly reminders about important deadlines coming up.
5. Ask your professors for recommendation letters. Don’t forget to send them a thank you card as well. They really appreciate that. Trust me.
6. Keep a continuous resume. When you have new things to add to your resume, it will be convenient to have a “work in progress” resume saved in a Word document. I repeat: a Word document, not a PDF.
7. Check your eligibility for the opportunities. A lot of job openings are only open to U.S. citizens.
8. Go to career workshops. Those workshops are there help you improve your cover letter, resume, personal statement and more. So go there, and grab that free slice of pizza that they advertised on the flyer.
9. Attend guest lectures. This is a tangent, but it is an important tangent. College is the time to learn new things and expand your knowledge and understanding of the world around you. Universities spend a lot of money (including yours) to bring in distinguished speakers from all over U.S. and the world. If the speaker is an expert in your field of study, asking interesting questions at the end of his or her lecture could make a positive impression.
10. And lastly, surround yourself with good, motivated and hardworking people. If your friend group or your community from home is negatively impacting your life, there is nothing wrong with letting them go.
When you get to your university, nobody will go out of their way to help you succeed in college and your future career. That is why it is your responsibility to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Your goodness, kindness and hard work will shine through. Once you demonstrate your eagerness to succeed in college, your professors will notice that. Hopefully, at least one of them will truly invest in your success by writing outstanding recommendation letters, letting you know of scholarship opportunities, or even inviting you to stay with them over Thanksgiving break.
You have access to most of the opportunities offered at your university. Don’t ever think that you can’t do this internship, or you can’t apply to that job because you are not an American. Yes, there are certain opportunities like the Truman Scholarship and work-study positions that are only open to U.S. citizens. That just means that you have to search a little bit harder for opportunities that are available to you. And if your resume is almost identical to your American classmate’s, your international background might be that one thing that will stand out to the employers. So use that to your advantage.