Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Thriving as an International Student

Your Goals are Our Goals

Our diverse campus community is benefited greatly by the many international students who decide to study here. These young professionals bring a global perspective and the fortitude to become future leaders. Our very own Chancellor Subbaswamy came to the states as an international student pursuing graduate studies. Within CICS, many of our OAA winners and faculty were also international students. More broadly, immigrants fuel our economy as both entrepreneurs and CEOs

Despite their eventual success, international students often face unique challenges during their career development. Nearly all of the advice on our CICS Careers website, from search strategy to interviewing, is useful to all students, but here are some recommendations specifically for those on a student visa.

Finding Employers

Employers do not need to sponsor a candidate for work authorization. During the application process, they will typically ask: 

Are you legally authorized to work in the United States? 

Yes. If you are on an F-1 visa then you have CPT / OPT to work in the U.S.

Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for an employment authorised visa status or work authorisation? 

Yes, the CPT / OPT lasts for a finite amount of time after which you will need a different kind of sponsorship (H1B or Green Card).

Some employers do not sponsor because they are in the defense industry or have government contracts. In other cases, employers choose not to sponsor due to administrative costs and unease about the government's immigration rules, but they might make exceptions for specific roles (e.g., data scientist). Often employers are not aware of how CPT and OPT work. In these cases, it's important for our university and international students to educate employers on the process.

Here are our top ways to find employers who might hire for internships and jobs:

For a variety of reasons, employers are not always transparent about their evolving sponsorship policies. Networking with other international students can be an effective strategy to learn where to look and how to market your skills and experience. Some international students pursue employers with locations in other countries. Nearby Canada, as well as Europe (UK, Germany) and parts of Asia (Singapore) often see potential in our highly-educated students. Also, as a student you do not need to use CPT for campus jobs, which can be an excellent way to build your professional experience. Check out Research Opportunities, Data Science for Common Good, and the Student Jobs Board


Keys to Success

Effective communication is one of the most sought-after professional skills, but it tends to be evermore important for international students, many of whom are multilingual. Both the CICS Writing Center and CICS Careers can help with all types of writing, from cover letters and statement of purpose letters to post interview thank you notes and LinkedIn messages.

UMass offers many other resources including ESL tutoring and IPO programs. UMass and CICS student organizations also offer a fun way to practice. If your name is challenging to read or pronounce, practice helping others learn how to say it. Continuing to improve your communications skills on a daily basis can help you when it counts at career fairs and during interviews. Don't forget that you also bring many valuable skills, including adaptability and cultural awareness, which are increasingly valuable in this global economy.

Becoming accustomed to the campus culture may also be a challenge. International students often find that they need to adjust their study habits since courses are learning-centric, not exam-centric. Many have no concept of office hours with faculty and other supporters, instead relying solely on peers. Participating in class and during events is strongly encouraged. While it's not necessary to change what works for you, having a growth mindset and self-awareness can help you adapt to this new academic and social environment.

From a career development perspective, international students often start by converting from a multi-page CV or Deedy Resume, reprioritizing content. GPAs on a different scale are difficult to convert and/or interpret, which makes it hard to meet minimum GPA requirements during your first semester. International Master's students also should start preparing for interviews as early as possible to be ready for fall recruiting. Employer interactions at career fairs are different than the "placement" model in many other countries, requiring students to confidently introduce themselves with an elevator pitch and not rely solely on their academic success. Negotiating offer extensions to avoid offer reneges also tops the list of common challenges. Our CICS Careers team specializes in helping you navigate these questions and more, so make an appointment with us.

Financials also matter. The good news is our international students have been highly-successful in pursuing rewarding, well-paid careers after graduation, and interns often make $30+/hr in the summer. Having said that, without traditional financial aid and only some scholarships, many international students are rightfully concerned about finances. Managing a budget, especially for those returning to school after working, is essential. The IRS has separate tax rules and rates for foreign students. Sadly, international students have reported patterns of housing discrimination such as unfairly adding fees or not returning security deposits. All of this adds up to needing to be aware and intentional about your particular financial situation.


Getting Help

"I talk to my family everyday but I still feel isolated and lonely." 

Many international students confide that they are stressed by keeping up with friends and family, while also trying to establish new connections. Fortunately, there is a growing support system to help you thrive. The IPO has events and staff who are invested in your success. There are even free, confidential legal services to help with immigration issues. At CICS, staff specializing in international student support include Diversity & Inclusion staff, as well as Undergraduate and Graduate Academic Advising. Classmates also form communities of support by using WhatsApp and other forums. And of course, our CICS Careers team includes both undergraduate and graduate international students ready to help you. 


Thank you for your contributions to our CICS career community! If you have other questions or advice to share, please contact us.