Job seeking for international students leaves them frustrated

Itzel Leon International Reporter

After working two jobs at a time at her previous university, graduate nursing student Xin Cao is having a hard time finding a job on campus for her living expenses.  

“I really want to support myself. And I think it’s important.” Xin Cao said. “I’m already 23, I want to be independent, and I’ve been here for so long that just the idea of being independent is already part of me.” 

International students are some of the many students that look for jobs on campus said Ami Hollis, Associate Director of Career Services.

“Students are not guaranteed jobs and prior to coming to campus, international students must show that they have the financial means to pay for school and living expenses,” Hollis said, “So, in essence, these students should have the money to live and go to school without needing a job.”

According to Hollis, there are 6,000 students working 8,000 jobs on campus. Of the 6,000 students, almost 11 percent are international students. There are about 3,000 international students enrolled at Kent State.

“Since May of 2015, we (Kent State) have employed nearly 650 (international students) in over 800 jobs,” Hollis said. “That’s approximately 21 percent of (the total of) international students that have jobs on all eight campuses.”

Hollis said international students apply for all jobs posted not being careful about the descriptions and restrictions. But that doesn’t seem like the case for some students.

When Cao attended the University of Oklahoma, she worked as a server and also a lab technician. She believes her struggle of not finding a job on campus is because of her name.

“I think I have the ability to do it, but when people look at my name they just decide, ‘No, I’m not going to even give her a chance.’ And that frustrates me.”

Cao says the main reason she thinks she’s not getting hired is because of her name.

“Have you ever read the articles about how people look at their (applicants’) resumes and just look at their names to decide if they want to give them an opportunity or not? I feel like that’s me. Because people just look at my name and they think ‘Oh, she must not speak English’ Heck yes I speak English! That’s why I’m here studying,” Cao said.

Cao isn’t the only international student that thinks her name has a part of why she’s not even getting an interview.

“It has happened before, hearing some students say that they kept submitting applications and submitting their resumes and cover letters online through the career services website but they were not getting any phone calls or interviews. I don’t know if it’s technically due to their names, or the fact that they don’t have an “American” name,” international student advisor Miao Liu said.

“It could be also the fact that (employers) had more qualified candidates…but I’ve definitely heard international students expressing the frustration that they were not even getting any kind of interviews, let alone positions,” Liu said.

Liu has also experienced this when she was a student at Kent State.

“When I was a student here, I was in the accounting graduate program. One time, our professor told us about this internship opportunity with Ernst & Young. He encouraged all of us from the class to apply so I did and I did not get it,” she said.

“Other people got interviews and he was talking about this in class and he pointed at me and said ‘Oh, by the way, you didn’t get an interview because you don’t have an American name.’  I asked, okay, isn’t that discrimination?

“He said that that’s what Ernst & Young were looking for, someone with a name that their clients are able to pronounce so that’s why they did not even call me for an interview. I remember that clearly.”

Some students think it’s the language barrier that is getting in the way of them being hired.

“I feel like they will hire American students rather than international students because we have disadvantages in terms of the language and cultural differences,” Aierken said. “So I really hope there is a place that can hire many international students, not only the domestic students.”

“Language is always a concern and I try to tell students that it’s better that they try to apply and also gain some experience from interviewing and also communicating with people. It’s better to do that and not be hired than not trying at all,” Liu said.

Although some international students have applied as many as 20 times in a semester, Hollis said the students might not be receiving job offers because they tend to overlook the “qualification section” on applications.

“If I worked that job, I think I would be able to enjoy it and I would be able to perform better. Just because I’m international, they do not consider me and that makes me frustrated,” Cao said.

International students are concerned about their parents having to pay for their expenses as well.

Sanjeeva Sai Sandeep Ananthabhotla Venkata Subrahmanya said it took him a semester to find a job and applied 15-20 times for a job but he didn’t give up because he needed it for living expenses.

“I didn’t want to become a burden for my parents,” he said.

“I see a variety of complaints from all student employees. We have had an influx of international students over the last couple of years and I think more and more do need to work and they experience frustration because there are some that don’t find a job on campus,” Hollis said.

“My parents are paying for my tuition, like most international students. Our tuition is about $12,000 each semester. And that’s only tuition. Not including our living expenses, or textbooks,” Aierken said.

“I feel so bad (my parents are paying for me). I feel like I’m under pressure because imagine you’re here and you’re enjoying your international experiences here but I can imagine my parents are working really hard for my family, for me, for my sister and then they have their own stuff to worry about.” 

“I wish there were more opportunities for us. Not only working in dining services, but to really get into an environment that can really practice our English skills and practical skills,” Aierken said.