International Student Edition
Nod your head if you know how it feels to meet all the job requirements until you read the line towards the end that says: “Must be a permanent resident or citizen to apply.” “Not again!!!!” is usually what I say in great frustration. Being an international student is such an enriching experience: It brings maturity, new skills, cultural knowledge, etc. Nevertheless, one thing foreign universities forget to mention in their brochures is the challenges and limitations international students will have to confront when looking for jobs after graduation. It’s inevitable to fall into depression and desperation as an international student especially when you have family back home counting on your financial support. How should the Christian international student take this situation?
Let’s face reality, most international students come from countries not doing so well that the idea of staying and working in the host country seems more appealing and rewarding. In the U.S., for instance, if international students decide to work after graduation, they have to extend their student visa through Optional Practical Training (OPT) or a sponsored work visa (a requirement that many employers are reluctant to initiate). OPT allows you to stay in the country for another year and find a job or internship related to your field of study. You cannot be unemployed for longer than 90 days – any longer, then you will have to return to your country. This means that for those who graduate from college without a job, the job search has a time limit (Vongkiatkajorn, 2013¹). I mean the current job market is already tight and competitive enough and as an international student, you still have to add your immigration status into the equation. A lot of international students tend to crack under these cases particularly when the job search has proven fruitless overtime; consequently, many resort to marriage for papers or continuing education.
For the Christian international student, we know that marriage for paper is not a union blessed by God, so it’s either we continue our education or eventually get a job. For those of us with financial pressures, finding employment is the only option, and for that P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.A.N.C.E. is highly needed. “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised” Hebrews 10:35-36. In this context, the author is referring to brethren that need to rest assured in the Lord and endure (persevere) amidst the persecution of their faith, for soon the Lord is to come. Applying this to international students, we need to stand firm in the Lord and not give up on Him. We need to persevere in the faith that the Father will meet our needs for work. So many references² in the Bible support the importance of work in the life of a believer, “for even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess 3:10). For this reason, we can be confident that the Father will not refuse us this request. We should be faithful in prayer and reading/meditation of the Word to renew our strength, and be filled with the Holy Spirit, who will do the supernatural in us. It doesn’t stop there, we need to find ways to apply strategically for jobs knowing our status limitations. From experience, I have found that staffing agencies help students get jobs quickly regardless of your conditions. Another way is to be in contact with the friends or profs you had in school. They are a great source of assistance because they know your situation and can have connections here and there willing to accept international students based on qualifications and experience.
Don’t lose hope or be discouraged, otherwise you’ll only be inviting the devil to capitalize on your weakness to lure you into making bad decisions. As international students, we were able to overcome many obstacles during school days including homesickness, managing tight finances, adapting to a new culture, and adjusting to a new educational system that we just can’t give up now. With the Lord on our side, He’ll make all things possible, most likely not according to our timetable, but He’ll surely do it as He cares for us. We need to stand firm in the faith, “so do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised!”
¹Vongkiatkajorn, Kanyakrit. (2013). “The U.S. is the Land of Opportunity, But Not So Much For International Students”. Policy Mic.
²Other references include: Genesis 3:19, Ecclesiastes 11:6, Proverbs 31:27, Acts 20:34-35, etc