Last week, New Delhi-based Shruthi Lal left for Washington to pursue a two-year course in public policy at the George Washington University. The 26-year-old, who was an intern with a state minister until she left, plans to continue with her internships even abroad.
Lal's plans may not necessarily pay off monetarily, but it may otherwise. "I want to do internships as they will help me get a good job once the course is done," says Lal. In fact, her internship in New Delhi helped her get enrolled abroad. "And if I get paid, it will be like a bonus," she adds.
While work experience in a foreign country would definitely add to your resume, it may also help reduce your financial burden a bit. "But the money that you will get will not be enough to pay for your education.
It will be a small amount, which can be used for certain living expenses; almost like pocket money of sorts," said Richa Bhasin, adviser, EducationUSA Advising Services, US-India Educational Foundation, speaking at a seminar organised for students preparing to study abroad.
Nevertheless, this is an option that students must explore.
As an international student, you are generally allowed to work for 20 hours a week while the course is in session and 40 hours a week during vacations. You have the option of working full-time as well as part-time.
On-campus jobs: One of the best places to start working as a student is your own university. Most universities have a career office to facilitate part-time jobs. Some universities would require you to obtain permission from the international student office before accepting any on-campus employment and may not permit such employment in a student's first semester or year.
Some countries such as the US allow full-time work on campus during vacations.
Teachers' assistantship jobs comprising teaching and research activities are also on-campus options. Often, students need to prove their teaching and research abilities before they can get this job.
Off-campus jobs: As an international student, one should find out if you need a work permit to work off-campus. For instance, in Canada, international students are only allowed to work off-campus if they hold a work permit.
You should also do some research as to what are the kind of off-campus jobs you can do. For instance, in the UK, if you are on a student visa, you cannot be self-employed, take up a permanent job or work as professional entertainer or a sportsperson.
According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs, if you are studying music or dance at a degree level, you are allowed to undertake a work placement that involves professional performance.
In the US, you can opt for optional practical training (OPT) and curricular practical training (CPT). These are jobs that should be relevant to your field of study.
This could in the form of internships, apprenticeships and so on. You will need approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service and your university.
International students are permitted to work off-campus in OPT both during and after completion of their degree. You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least nine months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your employment authorisation document from USCIS.
CPT is an option where practical training is an integral part of your curriculum, this could be in the form of paid internships. The CPT that you do should be a part of your course, for which you will receive academic credit or points. "You can even work in sectors such as retail, customer service, food and hospitality, telemarketing, tutoring and so on," said Naveen Chopra, promoter, The Chopras, an education consultancy firm based in New Delhi.
Chopra says that a majority of students work for "minimum wages" as they only work on a part-time basis. Minimum wages will differ from country to country.
For instance, in the US, the minimum wage in the state of New York is $7.25 an hour, according to the US Department of Labour's website. In California, it is $8 an hour.
In the UK, the minimum wage depends on your age. For those between the age of 18 and 20, it is £4.98 per hour. For those above 21, it is £6.19. These rates are applicable till October 2013.
Taxation: Since you will have an income, you will be subject to taxation in the country you are in. "The tax that you will have to pay in the country that you are studying will depend on the taxation rules of the particular country," said Homi Mistry, partner, Deloitte Haskin and Sells, a tax consulting company.
Things to remember
Before you start looking for a job, especially on-campus, ensure that you have all the approvals in place; you may land yourself in a legal wrangle, which could have implications on your stay as well as admission.
The first step is to check with the international student office in your university about the kind of jobs you can do while you are studying.
It would be best to look for work that will add value to your career. "Trying to find work that relates to your field of study is highly recommended. It will boost your resume and will give you the required work experience," said Chopra.