First of all, figure out (or double-check) your immigration status before starting to search for jobs. There are many issues related to: whether you are allowed to work legally in the United States; how many hours you can work during summer (it’s different for non-TA/RAs, and for 9-month and 12-month TA/RAs); what kinds of jobs you can take (on-campus or off-campus positions); as well as how your payrolls will be processed (trust me, this is a super complicated process). The only place to clear all the confusions is – our International Student Services (ISS). Advisors there are experts in immigration laws and they’ve been helping international students to figure out their individual situation day in and day out. While every student has his or her unique visa and immigration status, only the ISS can give a clear and correct answer.
Second, identify potential employers as soon as you come across them. People usually apply for summer jobs for two reasons: to get more major-related experience, or just to make some extra money to pay for study and living expenses. Or both. If you are open to both major-related and non-major-related jobs, my recommendation is that you keep close connections with everyone on campus and in the community. You never know who will help you and refer you to your next summer job. Most of the summer employers start recruiting in spring (from February to May), and some even start earlier in the school year. This means that last minute panic won’t help, and to make life much easier, creating your own resource list would be much useful. Throughout the school year, write down any information or any contact that you think might lead you to your next summer job. If you miss a particular summer job posting this year, it won’t hurt to keep it on the list and consider applying for it next spring.
Then the big question is – where to go? While there are typically three kinds of jobs that international students often encounter.
- On-campus positions (on TAMU Payroll)
Jobs For Aggies is the website for Student Employment Office, and it’s the most handy search engine for on-campus jobs. While their Job Search list won’t specifically separate on-campus and off-campus postings, you can always figure it out by reading the job descriptions. There you can find both hourly-paid student worker positions (although often not closely related to your major), and fixed-pay temporary researcher or assistant positions. Examples include working for the Libraries, Admissions, Residence Life, Campus Tour, Transportation, Rec Sports, as well as offices in different academic departments and colleges. If you keep checking this website, there is a big chance that you can find your ideal summer job as soon as they appear here. Keep in mind that on-campus employment (jobs on TAMU Payroll) will save you from the complicated process of CPT (Curricular Practical Training) approval, therefore it’s a good starting point for international students.
- Off-campus positions (but employed by TAMU departments, therefore also on TAMU Payroll)
Many departments on-campus have local partnerships with institutions, companies or organizations in B/CS area. Working for these partnership programs will allow you to build local connections, while at the same time, stay on TAMU Payroll, which is still less complicated regarding the HR approval process. Jobs For Aggies website, TAMU emails, and contact referrals are common ways of locating this kind of employment. Indicating your interests for summer job while talking with your advisor and committee members is also a good idea. If you are not sure whether a position is on TAMU Payroll or not, contact your potential employer and ask this specific question. This is a common concern from international students, so it won’t hurt to ask them to clarify this before you decide to take any further step.
- Off-campus positions with non-TAMU payroll
There are many times we go to job fairs while still in school, and instead of looking around and talking casually with people at the booth, you should consider to present yourself seriously as a summer intern or temporary position seeker. Especially when you are looking for a summer experience that can be directly applied to your academic program and your future career trajectory. This is crucially true for the Master’s students, since the summer months between the first and second school year might be the only time for you to get real-world experience, before joining the job hunting grad student crowd.
This is also when the complicated CPT approval process kicks in. Because it may take our ISS and your employer several months to process your paperwork, you need to plan sufficient time before the start of summer for your off-campus job application (non-TAMU Payroll positions). Depending on your visa and immigration status, ISS may need signatures from your department, your academic advisor, your future employer and the HR person over there. It is your responsibility to cross-check your own situation with all the parties involved, to ensure that this approval process won’t prevent you from having a successful summer.
Finally, you have summer job offers in hand. Now what? The most important thing to keep in mind is that nobody can maintain a perfect job/study/life balance. We are all working on that, and it’s ok to feel frustrated sometimes. Talk to your friends and family, and maybe talk about your summer schedule with your advisor. Make plans together, seek help from mentors and peers, and don’t let summer jobs drain your energy for the fall. Whether you’re experiencing new and excited stuff during summer, or just making extra money so that you can travel and play more for the rest of the year, I wish you – my fellow grad students – a safe and productive time!
Mingqian Liu | Architecture
Mingqian Liu is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Architecture.