Working through a Crisis: The experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic while on OPT

Working through a Crisis: The experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic while on OPT

“My advice for other international students is don’t give up with whatever the situation is, stay positive, and make a plan for your career.”

-Khrisna

The COVID-19 pandemic came in the middle of the spring semester, causing students throughout the United States to transition from preparing for their midterms to adjusting into a whole new lifestyle.  While colleges still have yet to make large decisions about the next academic year, there are international students not worried about the decisions of universities anymore, but rather worried about the nature of the job market.

Khrisna, now on OPT, graduated with his MBA from The University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Reflecting on his time, it was “making new friends from a different country, background, and culture” that Khrisna enjoyed the most about being an international student in the United States. Studying marketing and finance not only placed him into the American lifestyle, but in a high-stakes and fast-paced industry in this country.  Despite his hard work, Khrisna said finding a job while in school was his toughest challenge.

Like so many other international students, Khrisna applied for OPT, extending his time in the United States to gain experience and work within his field.  Eventually, he received a job offer that made him encounter yet another challenge.  In his own words, Khrisna explains how “this job was located in a different state, so with careful consideration, I decided to challenge myself to take the job and move to another state.”

Just a few weeks into this new position, that the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country and caused companies to let go of employees in order to maintain financial stability.  Khrisna, after accepting and making the exciting move for this new opportunity, unexpectedly lost the position.  His employer plans to re-hire him once business returns to normal operations, however the uncertainty of this time is still felt across the country by many international students working on OPT visas.

“I felt down at that time, but then I realized that I shouldn’t give up, this situation is not happening only for me, I wasn’t able to work not because I’m not good at it nor my performance… I encourage myself to keep looking for other opportunities…”

– Khrisna

 

ISO found that about 30-40% of members on OPT have been let go, like Khrisna, from their position due to the pandemic.  For those returning to the workforce when things begin to go back to normal, their workplaces will likely look very different than how it did prior to the pandemic.  Employers will have to make changes in procedures and everyday routines to protect their employees and ensure their comfort and safety as they return to work.  Khrisna notes how his workplace will maintain social-distancing practices, which may extend to all of society, as well. 

Those who have been unable to return home and are still in the United States may be in various circumstances.  Some have been moved to a particular residential hall on their campus, others have had to move out and find housing elsewhere, and others have been able to stay in their living situation, such as in an off-campus house.  Regardless of your situation, the transition to online learning, adapting to a new lifestyle on your own, and experiencing home sickness can be extremely challenging. 

Khrisna’s plan was to work in the United States until his OPT visa expired, but with the pandemic changing his future plans, Khrisna looks on for new opportunities – whether here in the United States or back in his home country of Indonesia.  The pandemic has unfortunately taken away many opportunities for students, but people like Khrisna remind us to not dwell on those lost opportunities.  He believes there are greater things waiting for him ahead and urges all those who may be in similar positions as him, to “Stay positive and be safe!!

Stay tuned for more stories like Khrisna’s, as ISO continues to feature students like you in our International Student Spotlight Series.  If you want to share your experience with us and have your story be featured, email monica@isoa.org today!

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