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International students should opt for OPT

Photo by Austin St. John
Photo by Austin St. John

Time flies, and December graduation will be here in just eight weeks.

Many graduating students are uncertain about the future, but international students truly need to plan ahead if they wish to stay in the U.S. There are several stipulations to consider in order to legally stay in the country.

Many international students apply for Optional Practical Training [OPT]. OPT allows for international students to gain a year of real-world experience working in their field of study after graduating.

Lisa Edwards the international student manager makes sure to call international senior students to discuss their plans after graduation. If the student decides to apply for OPT, it must be done a semester in advance or 60 days after graduation.

“We have to pick a date for when they want to start [OPT],” said Edwards. “As they start looking for jobs and if they find an employer that wants to start right away, they wouldn’t be able to do that if we picked their OPT to start in July 1, and your employer wants you to start June 1.”

Students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are able to request an OPT extension for 17 months. Some students pursue a master’s degree, allowing them to have an additional student visa. Others return home to find employment.

OPT does not come without sacrifice. If a student’s visa expires during OPT they can no longer travel outside the U.S.

Assistant Professor Rafael Barreiro made America his home more than 20 years ago. Barreiro came from Uruguay and through OPT was able to get a student-teaching position after graduating with a degree in theater, television and education.

“The most important thing when [an international student] studies here, is to have a clear vision,” said Barreiro. “What is the vision God gave me? God will give you a vision that is not normal. Besides, by being international, you have another culture, and you have a different perspective of the world. Our time here is limited, four years and goodbye. Our senior year, instead of partying and celebrating, is about contacting people and thinking about what are you doing after senior year.”

Curricular Practical Training [CPT] is another way to get experience in the field. CPT permits international students to have a paid job while attending school. Unlike OPT, CPT requires a corporation willing to hire an international student before issuing job permission. Student Success and Retention Analyst Victor Bustinza studied at ORU and started working on CPT in the ORU Admissions Office.

Bustinza remembers his years before graduation and suggests that in the midst of uncertainty concerning future plans, students should remain faithful.

“Searching for the Lord will give you the steps to follow,” said Bustinza. “A big mountain of what’s, if’s and how’s can be formed, but our trust is in the Lord.”

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