Not All That Foreign

Design by Sara Offer

“You should wear my lucky button down,” my friend offered. I accepted, letting superstition override my nerves. I sat down at her desk and set up my station: plugged in my computer, and organized the piles of sticky notes that were my interview safety-blanket. I was told I would hear back soon. By the end of May, I was preparing to spend my summer in New York—just like everyone else.

Regardless of major or career interest, by sophomore year all international and domestic students alike are scouring the LinkedIn job tab for a summer internship. For internationals, though, options tend to be slimmer. Location filters are set to New York and Boston because, well, your average international will tell you that they would tolerate living nowhere else. More importantly, the firm must be willing to sponsor your application for a work visa, or at least be willing to provide documentation for  Curricular Practical Training (CPT) approval. International students are allowed to activate CPT during their four years as undergraduate students. Once you activate your  CPT, you are required to enroll in PRAC  471. The course does not meet, and its only requirement is a 5-7 page paper in which you outline how your work experience related to and influenced your academic ambitions. It’s all some bureaucratic bullshit, but it’ll earn you 0.5 credits. 

My friend Laila, an international student from Morocco, recently attended one Deloitte info session and two coffee chats before someone kindly informed her that Deloitte does not accept international students for their summer internship programs. So don’t make Laila’s mistake—filter, filter, filter.

Just like the summer abroad, the summer internship is an integral part of Yalies’ experience. Despite the additional hurdles that international students face, many have done it successfully. I spoke to some friends who interned in the United States and abroad over the summer so that they could dispense some wisdom to those of you starting your LinkedIn search. 

Vanika Mahesh, PC ’24, interned as an investment banking analyst at Citibank in New York over the summer and provided some insight into the challenges internationals face when entering the domestic job market. “Whether one will have to be sponsored for a visa in the future is a question on every job application in the U.S., and there are a lot of companies that are not able or willing to sponsor international students,” she explained. “Even companies that are willing to sponsor often take fewer international applicants, so the bar to get the job is even higher.” 

She also mentioned that international students are often at a disadvantage when it comes to networking, connections, and general knowledge about the U.S. job market: “Given that your friends and family likely don’t work in the U.S., you have fewer people to reach out to for help during the recruitment process and less of an idea of what working in the U.S. looks like.” 

Mahesh also spoke to the challenges she encountered during her work experience. “I found it rather isolating to be away from my friends and community in a new city,” she said. “This was also my first time interacting with American culture outside of the Yale bubble, which can be culturally and socially challenging. I almost felt like I was experiencing culture shock for the second time.” 

Mahesh’s advice to those of you thinking about summer internships is to talk to older internationals, who will be your best resource on how to navigate the recruitment process, and to look to your home country or other countries outside of the United States for opportunities. 

This is exactly what Elisabetta Formenton, TC ’25, did by spending her summer at an economic consulting firm in Rome. She noted that the firm’s summer internships were much less formal and structured than in the United States. “My company tends to hire interns from masters programs but two principals of my firm did their PhD in the U.S. and were very accommodating even though I’m still an undergraduate,” she said.

Although she learned a lot and cherished her lunches in the office terrace overlooking Rome’s Altare della Patria, Formenton’s experience reinforced her aspirations to kick-start her career in the US. “Though there is nothing like the European work-life balance, I think the responsibilities and opportunities you are given as a recruit in the U.S. are unparalleled.” 

A summer internship, whether it be in the United States, back home, or anywhere else in the world will give you a new perspective. You’ll figure out what you value, how you work best in non-academic settings, and the experience will spark both bright and grim realizations about what life after Yale can look like. Some of you will realize that the industry you thought you wanted to work in is actually at the antipode of what you really enjoy doing. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start looking into PhD programs to avoid working for just a tad longer. 

For international students, it can be harder. There are so many variables to consider other than the job: location, work-life balance, finances, CPTs and OPTs, and the elusive prospect of an H1-B visa. Although paths are constantly being carved out for us here at Yale, as international students we sometimes have to take some detours, voluntary or not, and that can bring about uncertainty, anxiety, and bewilderment—but also give rise to opportunities we never knew existed. The path will not be straight. Your summer internship can be a starting point, but if I’ve learned anything at all, it’s certainly not where it ends.

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