International Students

If you are an international undergraduate or graduate student in the College of Engineering, congratulations! You have taken a courageous step by leaving the comfort and familiarity of your home country to study at Penn State. International students enhance domestic students' university experience by bringing new and diverse perspectives and experiences.

Take advantage of all available opportunities to set yourself up for success in your engineering career, whether you ultimately settle here in the United States, in your home country, or elsewhere in the world.

U.S. Job Search

Like domestic students, you should use a combination of job search strategies to find internship, co-op, or entry-level positions in the U.S., including:

However, unlike domestic students, you may face special challenges in a U.S. job search, including:

  • Restrictions on where you can work (e.g., U.S. military and government jobs)
  • Restrictions on when you can work, depending on the type of work you are seeking and the type of student visa you have
  • Possible differences in communication style that may impact your comfort level with networking
  • Language barriers (if you are not a native English speaker)

Understanding the areas in which you are most likely to have problems is the first step toward increasing your chances of success in finding a job.

Job Search Documents

The format and style of résumés, curricula vitae (CVs) and cover letters in the United States may be different from the style you would use in your home country. For example, American résumés and CVs should not include personal information such as height, weight, marital status, or health status; they also should not include a photograph of you.

Make sure you understand what U.S. employers expect! Review our information about job search documents to see tips, suggestions, and sample job search documents for a U.S. job search.


Strong communication and interpersonal skills are key to letting employers know about your background and experience and making a good impression.

If English is not your native language, use every possible opportunity to practice! Get involved with student organizations where you can get to know American students, including:


Networking is important for any job-seeker, either domestic or international. Making personal connections with people who may be hiring—or with people who may know someone who is hiring—gives you a competitive advantage over someone who simply completes a job or internship application.

Depending on your country or culture of origin, you may find it uncomfortable to initiate networking contacts. Participating in networking receptions, career fairs, and other events will help you become more comfortable interacting with employers.

Learn more about effective networking strategies for your job search.


Most students find interviewing stressful, whether for an internship, co-op, or entry-level position. However, as an international student, you face the additional stressors of cultural differences and—if English is not your native language—potential difficulty communicating the way you want to.

Review our student interview information, along with these additional tips for international students specifically:

  • Be well prepared going into the interview. Know what the company or organization does and be very familiar with the job requirements. Review our information about interviewing, including details about the different types of interviews, common questions, etc.
  • Don't be late! For an in-person interview, arrive 10–15 minutes before your scheduled interview time; for a virtual interview, log in at least 10 minutes early to make sure your camera and microphone are working properly.
  • Be pleasant and polite to everyone you interact with, without regard to title.
  • Dress professionally.
  • If you are interviewing on-site, be conscious of personal space with the interviewer, which in the U.S. is usually about four feet around a person for a stranger or acquaintance. Depending on your country of origin, this might be a larger personal space than you are accustomed to.
  • Maintain eye contact when you are speaking to the interviewer.
  • Smile and try to project confidence. Selling yourself as a candidate—without being arrogant—is a requirement in a U.S. interview. This is not the time for modesty!
  • Answer all questions concisely and honestly. If you aren't honest (with yourself or with the interviewer), you could be setting yourself up for a job where you aren't a good fit.
  • Do not volunteer information about your age, marital status, health, etc. It is illegal for U.S. employers to ask about these topics.
  • If English is not your native language, speak slowly to make sure the interviewer can understand you.
  • In addition to talking about your engineering skills and background, emphasize your advantages as an international student, including:
    • Bilingualism (or multilingualism), if relevant
    • Adaptability
    • Resourcefulness
    • Initiative
    • Independence

Over the course of the interview, ask questions to help you decide whether or not the job is a good fit for your interests and abilities. Be sure not to ask about basic information that is covered on the employer's website.

Visas and Work Authorization

Many employers are unfamiliar with international student visas and work authorizations. To maximize your chances of finding employment in the U.S., you need to understand and be able to explain your work authorization.

During the course of the hiring process, employers may ask:

  • Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?
  • Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for an employment visa?

Most degree-seeking international students at Penn State have F-1 visa status. A quick review of F-1 visa requirements is provided on the Penn State Global website. There is also detailed information on this page about international student employment.

If you are seeking Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) for an internship, co-op, or entry-level full-time job, be informed about the steps and requirements for your application process. Our office can help with CPT; however, we are not involved with OPT—you'll need to work with your departmental or thesis adviser and with International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA).

You may be wondering when you should tell an employer about your immigration status. There isn't really a "best time" to do so. Some students prefer to let an employer know right away when they meet; others prefer to wait until they are invited to interview. Regardless of your preference, be sure to talk about it before the end of your interview. Employers need this information to make a hiring decision and they won't want to be surprised with it after they have made you an offer, especially if they are not able to provide visa sponsorship.

Cultural Differences

You may have experienced culture shock when you first arrived at Penn State due to differences in communication style and personal values and attitudes, among other things.

If you are contemplating getting an internship or co-op in the United States, or starting your full-time career here, these cultural differences may have an impact on you as well. Here are some general values which are shared by many Americans and which are often reflected in U.S. workplaces:

  • Informality and equality—American workplaces are often informal. Many people dress casually and most people are on a first-name basis. Using titles is uncommon, even between bosses and subordinates.
  • Direct or assertive communication—Many Americans believe that it’s important to express your opinions and communicate your points openly and honestly, even if what you have to say is negative.
  • Individuality—Americans often value individual goals and successes and value self-reliance rather than too much reliance on other people or on the government.
  • Privacy—Americans often seem open and friendly, but sometimes foreigners complain that it’s hard to really get to know them. Americans tend to avoid discussing controversial topics (such as politics or religion) with people they do not know well.
  • Punctuality—Americans value being on time for work and for meetings. They believe that “time is money” and generally do not like wasting time.
  • Achievement—Americans tend to be competitive and this sense of competition motivates them to both improve and achieve.
  • Future orientation—Americans are generally more focused on the present and the future than on the past. They often embrace change and equate it with progress.
  • Action orientation—Many Americans do not believe in fate; they believe in doing things to make other things happen. Specifically in the workplace, they often believe that they can be successful by doing more or doing things differently. Americans may seem to be always busy.

Where Penn State International Students Have Worked

The following employers, among others, have hired past Penn State international engineering students for internship or co-op experiences. Please note that these are not the ONLY employers who will hire international students! To expand your job search, use some of the resources below under Jobs & Visas for additional international-friendly companies.

International Student Resources

General Information

  • Penn State Global
  • Going Global—An excellent site covering many aspects of the international student experience (log in with Penn State ID and password) 

Jobs & Visas

  • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—The U.S. Government source for information about visas and work requirements
  • H-1B Database—A searchable database that international students can use to find companies that have sponsored H-1B visas (information pulled from U.S. Department of Labor information) 
  • H-1B Grader—A searchable database that international students can use to find companies that have sponsored H-1B visas, along with salary information and processing times
  • Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC)—Provides annual reports including information about companies that have sponsored different kinds of foreign workers and the types of positions those workers have held
  •—Provides annual information about which employers have petitioned for H-1B visas and permanent residencies
  • OPT Nation—A resource for international students seeking jobs on OPT; also provides a useful list of companies with a history of hiring international students in general

English Language and Engagement


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032