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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘You’re crushing all of our dreams’: International student speaks on challenging post-graduation job search

Wren Johnson

Emma Siddarth, an international student from India, said coming to Wichita with the opportunity to work in engineering was “always a dream to me.” 

Siddarth, who graduated from Wichita State with a master’s in industrial engineering in the fall, has been attempting to stay in America post-graduation, but due to federal laws that regulate international students, she risks deportation if she is unable to secure employment in the engineering field within the next month.

“I’ve been looking for this for so long,” Siddarth said. “And right now, if I don’t submit anything in the next 30 days, it’s like everything’s over for me.”

Five hundred applications, still no job

International students can apply for optional practical training (OPT) after graduation, which allows them to seek employment in the United States for an extra year or three years after graduation if in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field. 

While in an OPT period, students are allowed a cumulative 90 days without a 20-hour-a-week job in their field. After those 90 days, students have a 60-day period to enroll at another university or leave the United States.

Siddarth said she has applied for around 400-500 positions since November but has already been rejected from more than 300 of them. She said many of the companies gave standard rejection messages, with some saying they can’t take on international students.

“I went through three rounds of interviews,” Siddarth said. “They said they’re going to take me in, and finally they said, ‘Sorry, we can’t.’ So I don’t understand.”

Anil Mahapatro, the associate dean of undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Engineering, said bigger companies in all fields generally give hiring preference to domestic students over international students if they are equally qualified; however, he said all students have opportunities if they have strong academic and practical experience.

“As long as you have value to offer to an organization, there are enough companies that hire international students,” Mahapatro said.

‘Sorry, we can’t take you in’

Of all universities in America, Wichita State had the 91st-most students on STEM OPT authorizations in 2022. Nationwide, nearly 200,000 students are in the OPT program.

Mahapatro said it’s easier to land a job on OPT today than when he received his doctoral degree in 2002. He said in the post-9/11 landscape, people were “anti-immigrant, anti-international student,” but he still landed a job through networking.

“I really took a lot of time to meet people at conferences and other things,” Mahapatro said. “So in my case, I had a job offer lined up before I actually graduated.”

Siddarth said she was the secretary for an industrial and systems engineers organization at Wichita State and participated in resume seminars, but employers still consistently turn her away.

“Whenever there was a career fair for the engineers or specific branches … everyone ended up saying that, ‘Sorry, we can’t take you in because we only are looking for residents of (the) United States,’” Siddarth said.

Wichita State’s College of Engineering placed 47th nationally in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2023-24 rankings. Mahapatro said the quality education Wichita State provides, alongside practical engineering programs and support systems for international students, puts Wichita State international student alumni in a good position to find jobs.

“I haven’t seen a whole lot of international students packing their bags and going back because they couldn’t meet that deadline and find something,” Mahapatro said. “I came here and had a dream and saw that the U.S. provided that opportunity … that dream is still alive, and they still have all the opportunity that the U.S. has to offer to them.”

Siddarth doesn’t blame Wichita State for her lack of employment and appreciates the educational opportunity provided by the university. Still, she said she wished there was more support in the application process.

“The professors, they have connections to most of the companies over here,” Siddarth said. “And they mostly work in some of the companies, so I don’t see a reason why not if they can come out and help us.”

‘You’re crushing all of our dreams’

Mahapatro advised international students to have patience and hope in the application process, which can often be lengthy.

“I applied to probably about some 80 positions before I got my first position,” Mahapatro said. “And I have spoken to students who apply to 20 and got rejected, so I would say, have a positive outlook, use every interviewing opportunity or every application has a way to improve themselves. Because as you go through the interview process, you are getting better and better.”

Siddarth worries that if she is deported back to India, she will be unable to pay off the financial debt of attending Wichita State.

“The only thing we can do is restart,” Siddarth said. “If you can keep a survey to all the international students, they’ll literally tell you that if they do go back to India, or any other place that they came from, they’ll literally be in debt.”

With two credit cards maxed out and time running out to find employment, Siddarth said that if she is deported, she’ll regret the time she spent in America.

“We all have a dream to come over here,” Siddarth said. “Learn new things, interact with this culture and maybe focus on something and get our dreams true. So if you don’t do that in just 90 days, you’re getting deported back, and it’s just like you’re crushing all of our dreams.”

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About the Contributors
Jacob Unruh
Jacob Unruh, Assistant Sports Editor
Jacob Unruh is the assistant sports editor for The Sunflower. He is a junior at Wichita State, majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. This is Unruh's first year on staff. He goes by he/him pronouns.
Wren Johnson
Wren Johnson, Illustrator/Designer
Wren Johnson is an illustrator for The Sunflower. Johnson is a third-year communications major that loves chickens. In her free time she likes to read, draw, and hang out with friends. Johnson uses she/her pronouns.

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