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International Student,  Success

3 Ways I’ve Made My Summer More Productive as an International Student

COVID-19 outbreak. Economic downfall. Deportation scare.

What a summer it has been.

Going into 2020, many of my friends and I felt that 2020 was going to be “the year,” where we would get that promotion, get into graduate school, or simply get a sense of stability in our lives. It has been the opposite.

Fast forward to today, after 4.6 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and an economic contraction four times worse than any quarter during the 2008 Great Recession, many young adults have been forced to navigate rough waters.

For international students, this summer has pushed us to create innovative approaches to advance our careers. While the current administration has backed out of the July ICE policy that would have deported thousands of us students in the country, many of us have relied on resilience and support from our schools. Here are three ways I made my summer more productive and how you can also push your career forward.


1. Gaining academic research skills.

With COVID-19 limiting work opportunities for foreign students, my interest in pursuing a PhD program was quickly turbocharged. This meant that I had to enhance my CV with research experience. I quickly reached out to professors in my graduate program and asked if I could assist them with research. With enough luck, I was able to work on two separate projects that required me to review literature, write memos, and analyze grant proposals. It has given me more confidence going into my graduate program, having fostered relationships with faculty and having gained valuable research skills.

If you are still pondering a PhD or graduate program, don’t be afraid to reach out to professors from your current university or alma mater. It can open up doors that would otherwise be hard to open.


2. Giving time to volunteer in the community.

With a bit of extra time during the summer, I was able to volunteer for a local non-profit organization. This gave me a chance to stay connected with my community while doing meaningful work, even if it meant helping through through the screen of my computer and a cup of coffee at home. Many others have done tremendous work across the country, with some international students volunteering as translators for immigrants struggling through the pandemic, and others creating “how to” videos for elders dealing with dementia.

While volunteer opportunities are limited, technology has allowed us to innovate within the safety of our homes. You can still make a difference!


3. Publishing an Op-Ed in a leading media outlet.

Having written for a local newspaper and for my university before, it was always a dream of mine to have an Op-Ed published in one of California’s leading newspapers. Ironically, it was the ICE deportation scare that gave me an opportunity to do so. A few days after I learned about the policy that potentially would have forced me out of the country, I shared my story to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The timing was perfect. After a few tweaks, it was published a few hours after the administration rescinded the policy. Thousands of us across the country rejoiced with the small sense of stability it brought, and how our voices were proudly shared in mainstream media.

If you are pursuing a passion, don’t be afraid to showcase your work to professionals. Because I had failed in pitching previous stories, I was prepared and ready when the time came.

It’s worth noting that many students continue to face incredibly difficult situations, with some lacking financial resources and flight routes to return home. But with the help of universities, civic organizations, and corporations, international students in the U.S. still have an opportunity to be pursue their dreams while bringing diversity and economic value to the country.

These are just three ways that have allowed me to provide value and gain skills over the summer. With the resilience that students and young adults have shown across the country, I am confident that we will continue to innovate our way through this pandemic and recession.

Even with a few bumps and scares here and there.

Originally posted on Medium.com

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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.