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F-1 Summer Plans

Fátima talks about planning her summer break as an international student.

Fátima talks about planning her summer break as an international student.

Although we are only in the midst of winter term, you can already hear people excitingly discussing their summer break plans! With my roommate applying to summer internships, my senior friends looking for jobs and postgraduate programs, and my mom demanding to know the dates she should book my plane ticket for, I finally decided to start thinking about my own summer plans.

But… where do I start?

Cosmo (the dog) and I
Cosmo and I do love watching cartoons together.

Originally, I had not even contemplated the possibility of spending my summer doing anything other than binge-watching cartoons on the couch with my dog, Cosmo. While I still think this is more than a respectable way to spend those precious weeks of break (after all, what is it for, if not to disconnect from school and give yourself a well-deserved recess), the more I heard from my peers, the more excited I got about the prospect of making an adventure out of those months.

There is an almost endless list of activities Carls devote their time to over summer. From fellowships to off-campus studies, anyone who wants to find some way to spend their time most certainly can. However, there is a catch. As an international student, there are certain restrictions, conditions, and hurdles that I have to pay special attention to when researching and applying to various programs. While this has made my search a little more challenging, it surely hasn’t made it impossible. After weeks of diving deep into the bureaucracy of F-1 visas, and seeking help from the Career Center and the Office of International Student Life, I think I am finally getting the hang of it.

Why don’t I go back home, you ask?

Don’t get me wrong. I miss my home more with each passing day, and I can’t wait to hug my dad and annoy my brother again. And so, I do plan to spend at least part of my summer break walking my dog and avoiding speaking English at all costs. Yet, I still want to gain some experience outside the classroom, and unfortunately, that is hard for me to do back home.

While many international students go back to their home countries over break and have a blast there, Guatemala does not offer a lot of options for mid-year activities. Because our academic years align with calendar years (unlike how it works in the US), no one is searching to hire college-aged employees or interns over the months of June, July, or August. Hence, it is a lot easier for me to find opportunities in this country.

A student giving a presentation on their externship project.
There are all sort of internships and research options to choose from. Every year, the college hosts an Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium to feature the cool opportunities students pursued over summer break by taking advantage of Carleton funding.

What kind of bureaucratic hurdles am I talking about?

As F-1 visa holders, there are a lot of regulations we have to familiarize ourselves with. In a nutshell, what our visa means is that we are not allowed to work off-campus until after we have successfully completed our first academic year, and any employment (whether paid or not) we seek must be related to our course of study. During our freshman and sophomore years, we can play around with this technicality, as we have not declared a major yet.

Thus, the most common path towards off-campus employment is through Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT allows us to participate in externships, research, and practically any other experiential learning project we can think of!

I did my own research!

After acquiring some basic understanding of what it meant to hold an F-1 visa in the employment world, I launched myself into the monumental task of finding opportunities that I am eligible for. Handshake became an invaluable tool for this. There, I have been filtering job postings through “accepts OPT/CPT” to find the ones that line up with Carleton’s trimester schedule and fit my own interests.

Similarly, I have used the resources that the Career Center and the Center for Community and Civic Engagement offer to find other opportunities both on-campus and in Northfield, which would make the logistics of the whole thing a lot less stressful! For example, I have learned that I can become a teacher assistant for the Summer Liberal Arts Institute (SLAI), or that the CCCE can help me finance transportation and housing if I were to work outside of town!

SLAI Employment – Summer Liberal Arts Institute – Carleton College
I would love to become a TA over the summer!

The Verdict

As of the day I am writing this, I have submitted two applications for internships, one application for an on-campus job, and I am working towards sending out two more! This has been, at times, a stressful process, but I have learned a lot about myself and the workplace.

Regardless of where and how I end up spending my summer break, I am proud of myself for the work I have done. I hope you found some useful information here.

Fátima strives to learn everything about everything, but is especially interested in Sociology/AnthropologyPsychology, and Disney! As a freshman, she can’t wait to introduce her peers to her native Guatemalan culture, put in practice her newly acquired ASL skills, and play in the snow for the first time. In her free time, Fátima can be found watching cartoons, poorly playing the ukulele, or desperately missing her dog, Cosmo. Meet the other bloggers!