Q. I am from Asia and am studying public relations at a major U.S. university where you spoke recently. You emphasized the need for students to build resumes that differentiate themselves by gaining relevant experience and internships. I’ve been trying to find an internship for the past year, but am having difficulty doing so—I assume because I don’t have a green card. Please suggest ways I can get the necessary experience that will lead to a future job in my home country or in the U.S.
A. I checked out your question with colleagues at DePaul and I found additional background at InternationalStudent.com. Here’s what I learned: You actually are eligible to gain internship experience while in the U.S. on a F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant visa status. You can participate in paid or unpaid internships as long as you first obtain authorization. The international student employment program is called Optional Practical Training (OPC) and can be arranged after you complete the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Most colleges provide counsel on such matters through offices with titles such as International Student Services or International Student Office.
You also may want to check out volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits. I am a fan of organizations such as the American Red Cross which have excellent training programs for volunteers. Such training becomes a solid credential on your resume. Some agencies create “extern” positions where students work for shorter lengths of time—often one- or two-week internship-like experiences. Externships provide students with insights into agency life, although the work product is often minimal.