Perspective of an International student

Disclaimer: Below is simply my personal opinion. I apologize if I offend anyone.

I’ve had a lot of life talks this summer. Where are you going to be after graduation? What are you going to do? All the questions that make us college students cringe. Most of my classmates from high school have graduated this year (I took a gap year). Some have secured a job, some are going into grad school, and many of frantically trying to find a job in the midst of the chaotic job market.

Although what I want to tell you about doesn’t exactly relate, it did spark a conversation between my father and I this past weekend. He commented on how as  I start my final year at Emerson, I should begin looking for jobs, the earlier I start- the bigger advantage I have and if my Ushering job with Arts Emerson isn’t all that important, I don’t need to do it so I can focus on job hunting.

Despite not knowing what job I want to apply for, I agree I should start thinking about it early but I also found myself very reluctant in the idea of not working the Ushering job. As an international student fortunate enough to study in America without having to worry too much about financial issues, I think (correct me if I’m wrong) more often than now, others look at us differently. Understandably, we are looked upon as spoiled, spending extra money on things that we might not need but simply want. In a way, I’d agree we are.

Growing up in HK, especially in an international school, its unusual to work any sort of part time jobs while studying. Honestly, that idea has never really crossed my mind- until I started university in Boston and began to learn about a different culture and lifestyle. “I really need to find a job. I worked here and there during high school. I’ve got work today, etc” were conversations I would hear almost on a daily basis. My international friends and I had more free time than other classmates because we didn’t have any other obligations besides going to class.

Gradually, the idea sifted into my head. Sitting in our dorms on Facebook and Youtube during all this free time while other friends were earning money at work was a bit unsatisfying. Is it about fitting in? Perhaps, subconsciously. Though I never received any criticisms about being spoiled or being an international student, I think I felt if I were able to contribute to the “I’ve got work tonight, I can’t go to dinner” conversations, I’d feel more in place and be able to not be associated so much to the “spoiled international students” circle.

The process of applying for the on-campus job, the anticipation of an email from the employer, going for interviews, and getting the acceptance email was exciting. It felt good, almost as if I’ve become more responsible- I’ve moved up in the world.

Did getting a part time job really help me fit in with the college life? Did it help me make more friends? Maybe not. Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe with or without the job, I’d still have fit into the culture just right. I know I don’t need the job, but its now become a part of my life in Boston. It helps me feel more secure in the midst of the uncertainty of what will happen after I graduate next year.

And plus, I get paid to watch professional and student run theater productions.

It’s a win-win situation.
Have you had a similar experience or thought? Please feel free to comment.

4 thoughts on “Perspective of an International student

  1. Patrick says:

    Only look at you differently if you ALSO roll up in a Lexus IS 350 😛 . Jk – but not really, I really want that car. I had a similar experience with the whole campus job thing. Never worked during school because I always did a summer job for my cash supply. Always got a job through a connection of some sort so when I applied on campus, did the interview, and got selected (there were only two spots), it was an amazing feeling 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    I’m a native to America, and I can say I’ve never had the thought of, “oh wow, these students are spoiled”. Honestly, it’s more of “you guys are really lucky”.

    Working part time is rewarding and allows me to have some freedom in terms of things I want to buy, but I’ll never get those hours back that I could be studying, pursuing interests related to my studies, or just general hanging out with friends before and after classes.

    Back a few decades in this country, many kids simply didn’t work during college and I think that helps the “college experience”. Nowadays, you sort of have to or really want to work to 1) gain experience 2) maybe not have to worry about the amount you have to pay on a loan as much (for those of not from wealthy parents).

    Everyone has different desires of course. I am glad to hear you’re happy with your job. Working on campus is more rewarding than working off unless you’re interning for something in your field (and getting paid of course 😉 )

    1. Jo Lam says:

      Hi Dave, thanks for the comment!

      It’s good to hear from people who don’t think of us as spoiled but more of as lucky. We are lucky. Some international students don’t know how to treasure it but I definitely realize and it’s eye opening going to study in the States where almost everyone starts working part time in HS.

      Interestingly enough, I’m from HK and most internships here in HK are paid! So the concept of an unpaid internship for me is quite new 😉

      I think in a way working part time is also part of the college experience, and also needed for college students to semi-experience real life before getting thrown out into the real world unemployed.

      Cheers,
      Jo

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