Her Dream to Stay
Yenting “Tina” Feng wants to stay in the United States. But as an international student, the odds are stacked against her, no matter how much she wants it.
Feng comes from Shunde, in the Guangdong Province, China. She is just finishing her four-year college career at The Pennsylvania State University. This May she will graduate with Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Art History. On that same day, her student visa expires.
After graduation, she has sixty days to be approved and receive Optional Practical Training, OPT, from the United States Department of Homeland Security. This allows her to stay for 90 days to get a job.
But not just any job. The job must be full-time and be in her major area of study. If not, she will have to leave.
However, that is not the most difficult part. Even with a related job, Feng does not have a guarantee that she can stay. The company she works for has to agree to sponsor an international worker, which involves its completion of huge amount of legal procedure for a work visa. Then she has to enter the visa lottery of work visa H1B. There is a quota of the number of visas available, and the lottery system usually favors those in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and business fields.
This challenge alone discourages corporations from hiring international students.
But despite these challenges, she is doing what she can to stay.
Photo courtesy of Tina Feng
She has found a new home in the United States, a home she now feels happier to be in compared to China. Feng says that she has found herself here.
She hopes to go to New York City to work after graduation, hopefully with her OPT in hand.
The opportunities are here, Feng says. Better job opportunities as well as a better lifestyle. The United States is a melting pot of cultures, a pioneer in her field, something she says she has not found in China.
Feng remains optimistic her job search and OPT process by not calling it unfair and by remembering that she has done everything to stay. Now she will wait.
Video: Traditional Familial Expectation Vs. Opportunity
Feng wants to stay in the United States, and her father agrees. It will make her degrees more valuable. But her mother is of a different mindset.
However, in the end, they want her to succeed, no matter where she ends up.