I am an exchange student and I receive a scholarship from my home country government. This scholarship requires me to work in an American company over the summer. In order to find an internship I used all the resources available, such as internet, Miami Career Link, Career Fair and Spring Ice. I felt sad when my resume was not accepted because I am an international student. In other words, it meant that I could not even apply for internship offers that matched my knowledge because of my nationality. This same barrier was imposed on other international students that I talked to.
Since this topic was not only important for me, but also for all the international students’ community I decided to write my argumentative essay about discrimination in companies that declare diversity and equality in their policies. The first part of the writing process consisted basically in drafting my arguments, counterarguments and refutation. In order to make the topic sentences of each paragraph stronger I started my research looking for all kind of statistics and numerical data to prove my ideas. However, I did not find any measure related to internship and international students. So, I decided to come up with my own data through an online survey. The survey confirmed my previous thoughts, and then the essay was ready to be more developed and revised.
The revising process was the most difficult to accomplish, because of my limited English skills. However, after many hours working by myself and scheduling some appointments at the Howe Writing Center I finished my essay. The feedback that I received from Howe Writing Center, my classmates and professor were essential to make me see the weaknesses in my essay. These feedbacks were important because I was not able to figure out which ideas were not making sense or were weakly elaborated. These people also gave opinions about how to improve these ideas.
When I read the final version of the assignment I felt that my goal was accomplished. I confirmed that I proved all my thoughts, refuted the counterarguments with strong evidence, and all the parts of the essay were well connected. Thus, I am glad about the essay, especially because this essay is meaningful for me and for other international students in the US that faced the same problems when looking for an internship.
Along with thousands of international students in its universities, the US faces another invasion: summer internship seekers. When I started looking for an internship for the summer, I chose to start from famous companies that also have facilities in my home country, Brazil. During my searching I had to deal with a lot of negative answers because I am an international student. These answers came from global companies that affirm themselves as non-discriminative. Global companies with policies against discrimination have double standard, that is, they affirm they are non-discriminative but they do not accept application for summer internship by international students. Despite these companies’ statements, I believe that they are discriminating against international students. These companies should accept applications from international students for internships, so that the talented students will be useful and the companies will not be discriminating.
The number of international students in the US for the academic year of 2011/2012 was more than 750,000 that represents an increment of 6% comparing to the previous academic year (“Open Doors Briefing Presentation” 5). Based on this information, it would be expected that the number of applications for summer internships will increase too. Besides getting a good education in the US, many exchange students also look for opportunities to improve their resumes, and make their future entrance in the job market easier after having worked abroad. The International Institute of Education shows in a report that 78% of all the international students in the US consider this period important to improve their careers (Obst and Forster 1). To reach my own conclusions I did an online survey about internship which was answered by 260 international students enrolled in various universities within the US. The results of the survey matched the information I already had stating that 69% of the students wanted to gain more experience in their fields of study during the summer.
Although there is a high demand for internships by international students, the opportunities are limited. Nowadays global companies spread the idea that they do not support any kind of discrimination. They affirm in their websites, commercials and internal newsletter, that they treat everyone in the company equally, regardless of gender, religion, country of origin, special needs, and so on. However when it comes to put these policies in practice and consider applications of international students for summer internships, it seems that these companies totally forget about their diversity statements. One of the questions in the survey that I did for this essay was about the difficulties that candidates faced when applying for summer internships. The result showed that 82% of the students confirm that the main difficulty to get an internship is due to the fact that they are international students. The company Honda Motors affirms in its website that the company does not support any kind of discrimination for any job position. It also cites that all recruitments and hiring processes are regardless of national origin (“Honda of America Mfg.”). Despite their support for equality, the internships Honda offers for the next summer are for American students only (“Miami CAREERlink”). The same happens when analyzing the company Allstate. It declares in its website that “Allstate has made inclusive diversity a central part of our business strategy” (“Diversity”). But the summer internship opportunities are just feasible for American students.
I do believe that these companies hire non-American people in the US, however the most likely positions for these workers are in labor intensive jobs. This is most likely due to their low-level education and problems with communication. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 15.9% of the total labor in the US is formed by non-American workers. These international workers are most likely to be employed in occupations related to production, transportation, construction and maintenance compared to American workers. The Bureau also shows that Americans are 10.7% more likely to have management related occupations. The differences are even greater when if the earnings of these groups are compared: Americans have a salary 28% greater than non-American workers (“Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-Born Workers Summary.”). A study conducted and promoted by the International Labor Organization affirms that the behavior of people who are responsible for employment decisions follows the societies’ moral attitudes. The author also cites that employers who start anti-discrimination policies within their companies just consider these policies because “it [anti-discrimination policies] is the right thing to do”. This study shows that companies do consider the country of origin as criterion for paying employees. The researcher also argues that policies against discrimination are just a marketing ploy, which explains why they have double standard when dealing with the process of hiring interns (Bendick, Jr., Egan, and Lofhjelm 12).
The discrimination can be explained by the cost of training employees. Training people costs money and it can be seen in the research conducted by Bersin & Associates. The study shows that companies invest about 1,200 dollars in training for each employee, which is a considerable amount of money, especially if it does not generate any return. The costs of training may vary depending on each company, for example, the lowest training cost is 594 dollars that is found in the retail sector (Bares). Because of the high cost of training employees it is natural that these companies want a return on their investment. Even over a short period of time such as a summer internship, companies will want to see their investment appreciate value. Because the international students will leave after graduation the companies will not want to invest time and money in training them. However, only 13% of CEOs said that training cost is the main consideration in an interview conducted by Skillsoft (O’Connell). The article also mentions that other point to be considered is that training is responsible only for 5 to 10% in terms of learning a job function in a company (Cross 6). Even though these students go back to their countries not giving any future return for the company, these students will generate profit over the time they are working in the summer.
Another way to make the internship more profitable for a company is to look for international students that come from countries in which the company has facilities. For example, China is responsible for 194,029 students in the US, that is, 28% of all international students in the US are Chinese (“Open Doors Briefing Presentation”). China is also known because of its cheap production cost. Due to this fact many American companies such as Apple, Ford, Nike, Starbucks and Coca-Cola have facilities in China, (Epstein and Meredith). If these companies that have factories overseas consider international students for the internship hiring process, they will not lose money when investing in training. In fact, they could develop international leadership programs for future management positions all over the world. Another solution for these companies is to reserve the functions that require more investment for American students or for international students that are from countries where the company also has facilities. A company can also hire these exchange students for functions that need the least cost in training. This way the student can learn and the company can benefit from the skills and the potential of the student.
Even for internship positions, the American society, including government, companies and the community could argue that international students are harming the US economy and being employed for positions in which Americans students could be working. However, the society should think about all the money that comes from international students in the US. International students spent almost 23 billion dollars in 2011 (“Open Doors Briefing Presentation.”), which makes international education the “5th largest service sector export” according to the US Department of Commerce (Obst and Forster 3). Another point that disqualifies this argument is the fact that these students are not trying to take anything for free. They are just trying to apply for internships in companies that were supposed to be non-discriminative. The money that they may receive in a paid internship will be mostly spent in clothing, housing, transportation, and college tuition. Therefore, the money paid for their work, will mostly remain in the US.
The major part of money spent by students is in college tuition and fees. So, what is the role of the universities in the internship process? According to my survey 68% of the universities offer the same services to help international and American students to find an internship. The point is: internationals students are not used to the American way of writing resume, cover letters, and so on. If there is not any kind of help offered by universities, international students will face even more difficulties to find an internship. However, Miami university is one of the universities that understand the needs of exchange students, so it offers good support for all students, and for international students there are even more workshops, speeches and tools that can be really helpful when looking for an internship. Despite universities’ efforts to help international students, it is meaningless if the companies are not yet opened to accept international students.
Not just the effort from universities, but also the effort of the students will be meaningless for companies that present double standard about nationality diversity. These companies are losing great opportunities of employing hard working students, since 78.8% of the students that answered my survey affirmed that their GPAs are higher than 3.1 and 61.2% said they have previous experience in their field of study. The main requirement for most internships is a minimum GPA of 3.0, since the course is somehow related to the internship program. The previous experience factor almost always counts as a differentiation from other candidates. Analyzing these numbers everyone can see that something does not match since 55.1% of the students interviewed had not found a summer internship about two months from the end of the Spring semester. Companies and students are both suffering from the double standard. Students lose great opportunities of becoming even better prepared for their professional life and companies are losing well qualified employees.
At Miami University it is common to see international students working on campus. The main reason is probably the need of helping on tuition payments. Even though this employment fulfills the need of money, the student will need more experience related to the field of study. After being comfortable with the language, a summer internship can be a good way of having both: money and experience. The experience that these students have on campus may help them communicating in English. However, some companies do not even consider international students because they assume these students are not able to communicate in English. Indeed, even after two semesters or more studying abroad, international students can have problems with understanding and expressing themselves. The problem is bigger than just grammar and spelling. For example, a student that is shy or that is always together with students from the same language may not develop English skills enough to work in a competitive company.
But the assumption made by companies about communication skills does not support the fact of not accepting international students’ applications for internships. The GPA is an index of understanding spoken English in classes and reading English on the text books needed for the classes. If the qualifications match the requirements for the function the candidate will be interviewed, then the speaking skills can be tested. However, some skills are not so important depending on the desired function. For an internship on computer programming, for instance, the listening and speaking skills are not as crucial as the comprehension of the programming process.
The companies can at least open their minds to make their policies about non discrimination true. If blue-collar workers can be contracted regardless of country of origin, why students cannot? The challenges in hiring international students for summer internships do exist, but with some effort from students in getting proficiency in the language and from the companies by opening their facilities to receive these students, the experience can be highly productive for both.
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