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Meet 4 University of the Pacific Students Who Benefited from CPT Internships

University of the Pacific
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By Matt Killorin
Last updated on June 1, 2021

Four international students at University of the Pacific share their Curricular Practical Training experiences — and why the CPT process and paperwork are worth the effort.

University of the Pacific

Four photos of international students at the University of the Pacific are framed in white against a beige background

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is one of the only ways international students can get experience working or interning while studying in the United States. With CPT, students have the opportunity to boost their resumes with career-building work in their chosen field of study. But, like many worthwhile activities, CPT can take awhile to get going: There is a lot of required paperwork and rules to know before you can start working. 

We spoke to four students from University of the Pacific to better understand Curricular Practical Training. Read on to hear about their experiences applying, qualifying, and working CPT positions and see whether the application process is worth the trouble. (Spoiler alert: It is!)

Motivated to Grow: Pacific Students Embrace CPT

Curricular Practical Training allows international students to work or intern in a position that is aligned with their major, as long as they meet specific requirements. The following qualifications make you eligible for CPT: 

  • You are a full-time student

  • You are in the United States on a F-1 student visa

  • You are enrolled at a SEVP-certified university and have been studying there for at least one year

  • You are not studying English as a second language

  • You have already secured the job or internship

Many students, however, do not have a CPT requirement built into their undergraduate- or graduate-level curriculum. Some choose not to pursue an internship or qualified job because they are discouraged by the process, including working with a Designated School Official (DSO) to update their I-20 form. Others do not know where to look for help, as departmental advisors and professors have little experience with visa-related paperwork. For most courses of study at University of the Pacific, work experience is not a graduation requirement. 

“My role was through an independent study; it wasn’t really part of the program,” said Zahab, a business administration major from Pakistan whose CPT position was with JB Hunt. “I decided to get a credit unit for it, but most [of the] students that I know don’t even apply because they’ve already earned enough credits to graduate.”

Iris, a Chinese international student, is earning her master’s degree in Pacific’s accelerated computer science program. She said that some students choose not to apply for CPT because they think it is a waste of money to pay university tuition for only an internship, which is usually off campus. However, Iris, whose training was in the software development department at Nvidia, says she highly recommends CPT internships to her friends. 

“It’s totally worth it. I feel like a lot of people don’t want to devote one whole semester to interning, especially if they can graduate earlier,” she said. “But it’s just such a great opportunity, even if you’re working while gaining school credit units and have to pay part of the tuition.” 

Iris and Zahab agree that students who choose to graduate without gaining any professional work experience miss out on a great opportunity that could even lead to a job after graduation. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), industry internships are among the most critical factors employers consider when hiring new graduates. More than two-thirds of companies report offering full-time positions to interns after they complete their training.

Learn more about the Curricular Practical Training process for F-1 student visa holders. 

How Do International Students Find CPT Internships and Jobs?

There are many resources on campus to help international students find, apply for, and secure CPT positions. Many students find work through their professors and departmental advisors who have industry contacts. In addition to helping students polish their resumes and prepare for their interviews, the career services department also posts work opportunity listings and hosts employment events on campus. 

“Before I started applying for CPT, I went to the [Pacific] career center to brush up on my interview skills and to get any resume changes reviewed. If I need to update my resume, I always get my changes approved by the career services center,” said Zahab. “Then I went to the career services-sponsored career fair and there I met my employer, and after a couple of rounds of interviews, they gave me a job offer.”

Yashi, a second-year master’s student in Pacific’s electrical engineering program, said her career services advisor was essential to landing a position with Sensel, Inc.

“I am taking CPT as an independent study course called ‘Engineering Internship.’ It is not compulsory, but I always wanted the industrial experience,” Yashi said. “My advisor always prepared one step ahead for all the situations. She advised me throughout [on] the best way to find opportunities and how to grab them on time. She made me aware of several sites, and ways to approach job opportunities, and what is the best way to make connections.”

Many students, including Yashi and Zahab, found their roles through career fairs, both in-person on the Pacific campus and virtually, hosted by the Pacific career services center. 

“[Pacific] provides really great career opportunities, including several job fairs where you get the chance to meet different people and get to know about different opportunities,” said Yashi. “That is the best place to make connections, learn more about your interests, and start making your path accordingly.”

However, many other students hear about positions from job boards that aren’t affiliated with Pacific, through industry contacts and meetups, and even via word-of-mouth from friends. Ana, a junior from Brazil majoring in business with a double concentration in entrepreneurship and marketing, found her internship with Athletes to Careers through a friend at a different school. 

“My friend [who] goes to Cal got a job through Athletes to Careers, and he saw that they were looking for an ambassador from [Pacific] and so he let me know,” said Ana. “That’s how I got the contact. Then, when I got the internship and had to apply for CPT, I thought it would be super hard to do just from looking at all the documents I needed, but the process was completely fine, honestly.” 

Advisors Can Help You Apply for CPT 

Before you apply for Curricular Practical Training, you must have a job offer. But many students find themselves unsure of their next steps once they receive an offer. That’s where the UOP International team steps in. Advisors in the UOP International program have years of experience helping international students with the entire CPT process, including applying for and receiving CPT qualification on their F-1 visas. They are available to help students chart a course that leads to CPT certification — and career development. 

“After I got my offer, I asked UOP International for help because … they always talk about CPT,” said Ana. “I had to apply for a Social Security number and they already had the letter for me to show to the Social Security office. They helped me a lot. The process wasn’t bad — it took less than a month.”

For many students last year, the most challenging part of securing CPT certification was working around coronavirus pandemic restrictions. “I [had] to go to my DSO, and I will say that it started out really easy, but in the end it was a bit tedious,” said Zahab. “The paperwork was easy, but, since I applied during the peak of COVID, getting all the signatures on the form was the hard part.”

Iris encountered similar issues when applying for her authorization, but she, too, thinks the protocol changes due to COVID-19 were responsible for her delays. Both Iris and Zahab encourage students to start the CPT authorization process as soon as they have an offer if things are still not back to normal. They also recommend that students be persistent, and not worry if things take longer than usual due to outside circumstances. 

“It was mostly straightforward, but because we were working remotely by the time I got the offer, I had to explain everything to my DSO via email,” Iris said. “Things took longer than normal and I was worried … but they were able to schedule things and then everything went really smoothly.”

What Kind of Work Can I Do with CPT?

Students on CPT at University of the Pacific can pursue internships and employment opportunities in any field they desire, as long as it is related to their major. Let’s take a look at some of our interviewees’ exciting roles while interning on CPT at University of the Pacific. 

Ana

Country of Origin

Brazil

Major & Year

Business administration, junior

Internship Organization

Athletes to Careers, an organization that helps student-athletes prepare for professional life after college — and participation in college sports — ends

Role

Marketing intern

Responsibilities

“I had a sponsor [who] was a marketing professor and I had deliverables like a marketing plan. It was good because it was real life [work] and the professor helped me with understanding some of the [work requirements].”

Iris

Country of Origin

China

Major & Year

Master of Engineering, first year

Internship Organization

NVidia

Role

IT development intern

Responsibilities

“I helped update a current script with a new library that my team was building. I did a lot of debugging of the scripts and then testing, which was really fun. I got a lot of hands-on experience with different applications and learned about imaging, rendering, and benchmarking.”

Yashi

Country of Origin

India

Major & Year

Master of Electrical Engineering, second year

Internship Organization

Sensel Inc.

Role

Electrical engineering intern

Responsibilities

“I am learning about various types of touch sensors and how they work. I am even helping design a PCB (printed circuit board). I also perform testing on the product while learning to use various new tools. I really like designing and simulating the circuits. But testing the products is also a really interesting part of my job.”

Zahab

Country of Origin

Pakistan

Major & Year

Business administration, junior

Internship Organization

JB Hunt

Role

Operations intern

Responsibilities

“Every day is a bit different — I am learning new skills every day. Basically, I speak with the drivers to make sure everything runs smoothly. I make sure drivers know what they are delivering, and what time they should be there. I dispatch the drivers and make sure that all their paperwork lines up and they get paid on time.”

As an International Student, Should I Consider CPT? 

An internship or job through Curricular Practical Training is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate or graduate students to build their resumes with career-related work experience. While the paperwork might feel daunting at first, rest assured your international department advisors have lots of experience getting students certified and are here to help you through the process. University of the Pacific can help you find the perfect CPT position for you. With work experience and excellent education, you will be well on your way to an exciting career. 

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