The U.S. has strict laws that prohibit international students from working off campus other than in an academic-related internship.
However, part-time work on campus is not prohibited at all, and it is a great opportunity to earn some pocket money while working with campus staff.
I had two campus jobs in college: As a Chinese tutor and a campus center assistant. It wasn’t difficult to get and work as a language tutor job that uses your mother tongue.
My college (St. Mary’s College in Maryland) had a well-established Chinese-language program. But unlike many Western language programs such as French and Spanish, we had no Fulbright teacher from China to serve as a tutor.
Thus, the program hired Chinese students as speaking tutors and assistants to grade homework. I approached the Chinese-language program chair, and was immediately hired, as many other Chinese students had graduated that year.
Working as a campus center assistant was somewhat more challenging, especially with what I thought were good communication skill in English. My duties were to greet people, respond and direct phone calls at the front desk, and arrange the package room.
I applied for the job at the end of my freshman year, after participating in two student clubs and one debating team. The 30-minute interview with two campus center staff went very well. I was quite confident with my speaking English at that time.
The first day of work was a mess! I picked up the phone twice but couldn’t understand what people were saying through their very heavy accents. I was very nervous and directed them to the wrong lines. I couldn’t respond quickly to people who asked for directions or information.
After a week, my supervisor moved me away from the front desk and toward the package room. That was much easier. All I had to do was to arrange the packages, print out a list with the package information, and send out emails to notify students to come pick up their packages. Usually there were two people on duty so there wasn’t much pressure to talk to people.
After a semester, I became more comfortable greeting people, speaking over the phone and greeting people. Eventually, I started to enjoy the job as it gave me the opportunity to meet people and make friends. Now that I am at graduate school, I still enjoy working as a student worker on campus for my program with Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Although I originally looked at an on-campus job as an opportunity to get a Social Security Number and to earn some pocket money, I learned, in the end, that it was a great opportunity to be engaged in campus life, to get some work experience, and to make more friends.