International Students Struggle to Find Jobs
In the depths of a recession it is always difficult for students to find work. For international students, there is enough red tape to discourage even the stoutest of unemployed hearts. Maria Bossman, a Lang culture and media student from Ghana who worked in retail, restaurants, catering, and even a human rights commission back home, had to adapt and scramble once she got to The New School. It was no longer as simple as walking in to an establishment and handing the manager a résumé.During her freshman year, Bossman watched all her friends get various jobs around the city and was excited to work. To her disappointment, she encountered a system for international students that was tedious and specifically geared toward career building, not getting by. “The standard of living in New York is so high,” Bossman said. “Getting a job is more of an issue here than at more campus-based colleges. To work off-campus at The New School it has to be related to your major, but what if I just want to work at a store?”
Federal law creates many hurdles for international students to jump before they can apply for jobs, and even afterwards, the pool of possibilities is quite shallow. According to government regulations on visiting foreign students, a student’s family must be able to prove financial stability to pay for all expenses for the duration of studies. Ideally, this would guarantee a student the ability to spend their years in the states focusing on their studies and working toward their eventual careers. However, like most policies, there is a disparity between regulations and real life.
Arianna Sharma, a BA/BFA sophomore, has struggled to find employment since moving to New York from the United Kingdom in 2009.
“As a college student, there are always expenses. Books, art supplies, food,” Sharma said. “Plus, I want to enjoy the fun that New York has to offer, and that requires some extra money. It’s near impossible for me to find a job because I don’t have a Social Security number,” Sharma added. Being granted a Social Security number is possible for international students, but the application is arduous.
Monique Ngozi Nri, director of international student services, said that the office has advocated for an increase of on campus student employment funds in the past as well as facilitated the system that is in place for employers. “We’ve tried to make the process for employing internationals more transparent,” Nri explained. “So for anyone who wants to hire internationals, both inside and outside the school, it doesn’t seem like another 25 steps.”
She also said that ISS runs workshops twice a semester on topics like how to get a Social Security card and what to do for employment after graduation. “Being employed in a university environment can also be part of the educational experience and cultural adjustment,” Nri said. “The fact that they are unable to work is a significant demerit of the experience overall.”
Unlike Sharma and many other international students, Bossman was ultimately successful in navigating around the regulations. She secured a job as an RA in the William Street dormitory and, in doing so, gained a Social Security card that allows her to work at other jobs in the United States. Unfortunately, obtaining an RA position, like other on-campus jobs, is one that involves competition between American and international students alike. Because of this fact, Bossman added, “I feel like they should have slots specifically for international students every semester.”
However, Nri said that such a policy would be unfair to all students. “I think that would contradict labor laws in terms of how we employ and in terms of equal opportunity acts,” Nri said. “But what we could do is see if there are any possibilities of increasing OCSE budgets and increasing advertisements for those jobs.”
Nri said that The New School will continue to try to serve ISS students and navigate current regulations as best as they can, but ultimately the difficulty lies with federal law. Their student visas prohibit them from obtaining any off campus jobs unless it is directly related to their major, which would most likely be unpaid internships. “The government is concerned with advancing an educational objective,” Nri said. “They are in fact not concerned with people making money.”