On-Campus Jobs: A boon for International Students

Going off to college is exciting. It is the pathway to the new you. The independent you that no longer depends on your parents and can make your own mark in the world. When in college, one of the best ways to do the same is to work-on-campus. It not only helps you stand on you own feet but also opens you to first hand work experience and an improved resume. The tuition waiver and stipends are the bumper bonus prizes that come with the package (at the department’s discretion of course). Each department has a variety of positions to choose from, under the guidance of seniors you can learn the ropes and excel. Here is some guidance to put work-on-campus in perspective: the things to expect, the benefits, what its like to co-relate and apply your hand on learning into your field of study and so on. Read on!

Foreign Grad Students Can Get On-Campus Jobs in U.S.

As an education doctoral student, Chinese national Ivy Mu has pursued many on-campus jobs at the University of Hawaii—Manoa.

Mu has worked as an office assistant in the Office of International Relations, a student assistant in the Department of Special Education and a research assistant in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Mu says there are many opportunities for international students to gain on-campus work experience.

“The university offers many graduate assistantships to graduate students each year, which covers tuition and a $1,000-$2,000 monthly salary,” Mu says.

Here’s what prospective international students who plan to get on-campus work experience while studying at U.S. graduate schools should know.

Variety of graduate positions:

International graduate students can plan to pursue opportunities – and work up to 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session – in positions such as graduate student instructors or research assistants.

“International graduate students are eligible to apply for teaching assistantship, research assistantships, readers and graders,” says Rebecca Aanerud, interim dean at the University of Washington Graduate School.

Chinese national Ziyan Bai, a doctoral student in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, works as a graduate staff assistant for the UW Graduate School. Her role involves advising duties, such as mentoring students from all academic departments, and administrative duties like project management, reporting, data synthesis, event planning and event logistics.

“Given my research area is on graduate education, and educating being a very applied field, having firsthand experience with what’s happening among graduate students and postdocs can keep my research grounded in practice,” Bai says.

Marina Aferiba Tandoh, a Ghanian student pursuing a doctoral program in foods and nutrition, works as a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia. She assists her professor with everything from setting up for the day’s lecture to recording exam scores in a database for students to view online.

Tandoh is also a graduate research assistant for the university’s Foods and Nutrition Department at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, working in the Maternal, Infant and Child Nutrition Lab.

“Under the direction of my major adviser, I get to assist with research activities in his lab such as data collection, data entry, data analysis, manuscript writing and publications, as well as conference attendance to report research findings,” Tandoh says.

Preparing for positions:

Prospective international graduate students can prepare in advance to secure on-campus opportunities. Experts suggest students start their search on university websites, as assistantships at each school or individual college have varying requirements.

The University of Hawaii—Manoa, for example, has three types of graduate student assistantships, says Krystyna Aune, the university’s dean of graduate education: graduate assistants, graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants.

“International students interested in getting a GAship should contact the graduate chair of the program that they are interested in applying to for information on available support within the program. We also have GA positions posted on the Work At UH website,” Aune says.

Mu, the UH student, says international students should plan to communicate with their adviser as much as possible, since they can connect students with faculty that have funding or scholarship resources.

UW’s Aanerud says English proficiency is necessary for teaching assistantships, so prospective international students should prepare to show evidence of English language skills.

Aanerud recommends that new students network within the academic unit or another hiring department once on campus, such as meeting with faculty during office hours, attending research presentations and talking to other students. She says accepted students who have not arrived yet can reach out via email and LinkedIn.

“While not all graduate students are confident about networking, it is an important skill and really can help. For instance, some students have found teaching opportunities in language departments even if their graduate work is unrelated to language studies,” Aanerud says.


International graduate students who plan to work on campus can potentially receive benefits such as partial or full tuition coverage and a stipend.

“Many international graduate students are offered teaching assistant, graduate research assistant or assistant instructor positions as part of their funding package on admission,” says Tatiana Woldman, assistant director, student services for the International Office at the University of Texas—Austin.

She says these positions generally provide a waiver that allows international students to pay the same tuition as Texas residents, coverage of most or all of the student’s tuition and fee expenses and a monthly stipend – but such benefits can vary by department and the availability of funds. She says students not granted a teaching assistant or graduate research assistant position as part of their financial aid package can still apply for the positions.

In her role at the University of Washington, Bai receives financial benefits like a tuition waiver, health insurance and a monthly subsidy of $2,650, which she says can be used for any expenses. She says being hired in a position that waives tuition is the best option for international students.

“Usually these opportunities are the most desirable; however, they are limited due to funding situations in each department or the university,” Bai says.

Mu says she was paid about $10 per hour for her first two student assistant jobs at the University of Hawaii, and her research assistant position came with a tuition waiver and a monthly salary of around $1,700.

Prospective students should also keep in mind that on-campus jobs can sometimes blossom into other opportunities.

Mu’s research assistant position has since transformed into her current full-time job as an assistant faculty specialist in the Office of Graduate Education. Now on an H-1B visa that allows non-U.S. citizens with certain skills to work temporarily in the U.S., Mu says she has full benefits and enjoys a much higher salary.

This article first appeared in https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2018-03-23/international-grad-students-at-us-universities-can-find-on-campus-jobs and is written by Anayat Durrani

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