International Students Discover Uncertain Future After Baylor

International students and Center for Global Engagement ambassadors posed together at an event. Photo courtesy of Rachel Caldwell.

By Savannah Cooper | Reporter

Three times a year, Baylor students proudly walk across the Ferrell Center stage as they shake hands with President Livingstone and receive a college diploma that sets up a road map for their newest stage of life — adulthood. This new stage of life can bring new relationships, postal codes and career(s). However, for international students, it is said to be a little more difficult.

According to Baylor Institutional Research and Testing, the fall 2018 semester student enrollment included all 50 states and 91 foreign countries. International students roughly make up four percent of this campus and their journeys to Baylor often times don’t resemble domestic students.

In order for an international student to even pursue higher education in the United States they have to get a F1 Student Visa. F1’s are issued for either four or five years to non-immigrant students who are solely interested in maintaining a full-time student status at an accredited academic institution. Applicants must be proficient in English and have enough funds to self-support themselves, while also maintaining a residence abroad.

Having a F1 visa plus an acceptance letter grants full admission to a United States college or university.

In order for an international student to have a job off campus, they have to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). There are two types of CPT (required and optional). The required CPT asks that students have practical work experience in order to graduate, while the optional is only for those who are interested.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates senior Mohit Parmar is a marketing information systems and entrepreneurship double major graduating in May. An admission representative visited his high school year after year and shared the high ranking entrepreneurship department which sparked his interest in applying to Baylor.

In retrospect, as an upperclassman, Parmar said he learned that Baylor is great on the front end helping with paperwork and immigration, but it lacks in preparing students for the job market.

“They’re great when it comes to immigration, being in here lawfully, needing someone to take you around anything like that. But when it comes to finding a job, hands down Baylor’s the worst,” Parmar said. “You go to the career center they’ll tell you, ‘sorry we don’t know much about this. We just know the legality, there’s not much we can do.’ The problem is if I’d had known this earlier I most likely wouldn’t have come here because if you go to a school in California or if you go to a school in New York or if you go to a school even in Florida for that matter — these are states where there are more international students, so there is more support. The school itself knows what to do.”

Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation has an annual career fair where 60 to 80 companies are present seeking Baylor’s best. Parmar has attended the fair all four years, and year after year the companies that are willing to offer positions to international students top no more than three, according to Parmar, and if they do offer a position it’s limited.

Director of undergraduate career management for the Hankamer School of Business Jeffrey Stubbs said he has noticed a recent decline in opportunities for international students due to the current political and economic environment. To combat this decline, starting in the Fall 2016 semester, all Baylor business students have requirements for their major.

“There are multiple, extensive career support resources and opportunities for all Baylor business students, including international students,” Stubbs said. “Students can drop-in or set up one-on-one career coaching appointments to discuss and receive advice on all career-related topics. Beginning in the Fall of 2016 semester, all new Baylor Business students have been offered and are able to enroll in two dedicated career courses: BUS 2101 and BUS 3101. These classes cover several career topics including: Career discovering and exploration; resume development; personal brand management; interviewing skills; and job offer negotiation techniques.

Outside of the required classes for business majors, according to Stubbs, the Undergraduate Career Management has tools for specific to international students.

“We have career tools and resources that are specific to international students,” Stubbs said. “These include ‘free of charge’ access to books such as ‘The International Advantage: Get Noticed. Get Hired!‘ by Marcelo Barros and ‘Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States‘ by Dan Beaudry as well as websites such as myvisajobs.com and goingglobal.com.”

To build a stronger case for themselves, international students do a myriad of things to help their chances for employment. Many specialize in the STEM field, learn additional languages and/or gain certifications from Google analytics, Adobe Suite or any other software that many others aren’t familiar with. All of that in addition to maintaining a 3.8 GPA or higher to show that they are well above the nation’s average. Parmar stressed how this is a mindset that international students have to developed whether or not they knew that prior.

“It’s hard because there aren’t that many options,” Parmar said. “Companies are choosing not to hire (international students) because there’s pressure from the government; there’s more documentation required, there’s more work required for the company to do all of that.”

Growing up with a father who works for Sandals Resorts, Cape Town, South Africa senior Michael Haynes is a true global citizen who’s called Tanzania, Jamaica and Stony Brook, N.Y. home. Haynes learned about Baylor in a Kenyan hospital near his school where a lot of alumni worked.

Haynes landed a marketing job after his May graduation, thanks to a family friend who owns their own company in Florida.

Prior to this connection, Haynes said he has found that many companies aren’t willing to support international students even if they’re a good candidate that will fulfill the role.

“I know the struggle,” Haynes said. “Almost every single company wasn’t willing to do it. They have to pay for the Visa, and it’s their job to try to get the Visa for you. In order to get that they have to prove why me as an international student is better than an American worker who can take that job as well — and that’s not very easy to do.”

During or after an international student’s time at Baylor, they have the option to apply for Optional Practical Training. There are two types of OPT: Pre-completion and post-completion. Post-completion is the most popular at Baylor since undergraduate studies are behind them.

After yet another trying process filled with in-depth questions, providing extensive documentation and an ounce of luck while being in the right place at the right time, it is still difficult for a Baylor alum to be stable in today’s job market says a Baylor alum who’s navigating through young adulthood in the United States as an international student.

Baylor alum Nicole Wang graduated in May of 2017 with a marketing degree. Wang is from Guangzhou, China and unlike, Parmar or Haynes, Wang came to Baylor with previous collegiate experience from her time at a community college in Washington state with a host family that was Christian who encouraged her to apply to Baylor for the shared value system.

While at Baylor, Wang worked as a social media intern for the Center for Career and Professional Development. As graduation loomed, she said her manager expressed that she wanted to keep Wang on staff, but once the date got closer the narrative changed and the job post-graduation that was verbally granted to her was relinquished due to her visa.

“It’s very interesting how navigating young adult life as an international student has been,” Wang said. “It’s way harder than it could be if you were a domestic student. It’s already hard being a young adult, and being that it’s a foreign country it’s even more challenging to navigate.”

Today, Wang works as a marketing content coordinator at Trade Technologies, Inc. in Austin. She along with one other person make up the marketing department.

Before landing this job, and being allowed to accept it, Wang received her Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card mid-July. EAD is a work permit issued by the immigration that offers temporary employment authorization to non-citizens.

Recently, Wang said she was asked by her manager randomly to attend a meeting with the company’s vice president and in that meeting she said she was told that they’re going to let her go. As a transition, she said they suggested she take her two weeks of paid vacation putting her back where she began, Wang shared.

While matriculating through Baylor, Wang said she found it evident that international student employability wasn’t a priority for the university.

“I think they can have more emphasis on international students, not just on recruiting, but also serving these students,” Wang said. “You don’t see much programs helping international students to develop leadership. You see a lot of mission trips programs that are well funded and it’s just interesting why Baylor going global is ignoring its own international students. Why is Baylor not preparing these kids (international students) for worldwide leadership.”

Wang says that creating a international student alumni network to help one another find employment will fix this problem, but knows that no action will take place until there’s monetary support.

Parmer said while he thinks that current upperclassmen and alumni can’t drastically changed their trajectory, he hopes that for perspective international students, Baylor will tell them upfront what is and was isn’t in store for them.

“You can’t change where I’m going, but for a student that comes in tomorrow there needs to be more support if you want these students to stay here,” Parmar said. “If you don’t want them to stay here, tell them that before they apply and pay you $45,000 a year. Because people come in with false hope thinking that their education would lead them to a job here and that’s really not the truth.”