International Student,  Success

3 Things International Students Can do to Build Their Portfolio Anywhere in the World this Summer

The internet has been a saving grace for schools and businesses who continue to push through operations in our current crisis.

It can also save this summer season for international students around the world.

With Covid-19 limiting travel and visa processing, recent reports have shown that U.S. universities will likely suffer from lower international student enrollment in the fall of 2020. Why is this important? Because colleges across the country rely on over $2.5 billion in tuition payments from approximately 1 million foreign students. Such cuts affect domestic students too, since many depend on need-based financial aid to afford the rising costs of higher education.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Despite the bleak outlook for post-graduate jobs and college enrollment, many international students are still looking to pursue their dreams of working and contributing to the United States economy.

While Covid-19 has postponed or cancelled many internship/job opportunities, there are still numerous ways for students to develop talent and skills this summer.

Here are three things you can do:

1. Create your own projects and build your personal brand

Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

“Fortune favors the brave.”

My English teacher used to say it each time he would get our class to participate in discussions. It has stuck with me ever since. There are so many projects that you can initiate, but it takes courage to publish it for the world to see.

If you are a coder, you can create your own app or website in order to build your portfolio.

For business students, you can create a Shopify account to sell and ship t-shirts worldwide without worrying about inventory.

If you are a journalism student, you can buy a domain, create a website with WordPress, and start publishing opinions on current trends in the workforce.

All you need is WiFi and a computer.

While the cancellation of paid opportunities is devastating to many students trying to make ends meet, building your personal brand serves as a long-term investment. The more projects, articles, or websites you create, the more you can differentiate yourself from others and market your brand on social media channels, including LinkedIn.

You’ll find that luck favors those who are brave enough to roll the dice.

2. Reach out to professors and ask if you can help them with their projects

Photo by Allie on Unsplash

Instead of asking for an opportunity to be given, ask your professors how you can help them.

Though many lab research opportunities have been canceled, there are still many professors out there who need students to assist them with their summer projects.

Last May, I emailed my major advisor and asked if I could write articles for our program (Comparative International Studies) website. She happily accepted and soon enough, she featured my testimonial on the main page.

I used to think that the only opportunities out there were the ones posted on job sites.

That rarely is the case.

3. Get involved in your network and ask if you can become a volunteer

Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Always remember to think of value.

As young people, we shy away from contacting seasoned professionals in our network because we feel that it is one-sided. They give us advice, we take it in.

But what if you gave them value too?

Is your mentor involved in a foundation that can use a graphic designer? Does your former colleague have a non-profit that needs fresh leadership?

Take a Saturday morning to list down your skills and think of the mentors and colleagues who have supported you in your career. Afterwards, send them them an email and ask if they have projects that you can assist them with.

Soon, you’ll be providing them value with your skills and expertise – and they’ll appreciate you for your proactive approach.

Think of it as taking care of a garden. The more you water your plants, the bigger they will grow. The more you give to your network, the more they will give back to you.

Photo by Doran Erickson on Unsplash
Photo by Doran Erickson on Unsplash

I hope this helps any student out there who is worried about the summer ahead. It truly is a challenging time, both financially and emotionally, but I’m hopeful that we can get through this together.

If you have any questions, feel free to follow and message me on Instagram, Twitter, or Linkedin.

I’m with you every step of the way.


Marjon is the Creator of Third-Culture Thoughts. A political nerd and basketball enthusiast at heart, he writes about everything related to culture and the international experience.