4 Summer Options for International Students

Spend summer break working on your U.S. college campus or taking a course.

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Use your summer break to travel, or build your resume and work experience by doing an internship.
Use your summer break to travel, or build your resume and work experience by doing an internship.

Ah, summer! Who doesn't look forward to three months of beautiful weather and time off from college classes?

As an international student, you will probably want to make summer plans a little earlier than your peers – at least a month in advance. Here are some ideas of what to do during this fantastic time.

1. Go home: This is the obvious option. Your friends and family probably miss you very much, and it's time to go back and hang out with everyone.

International airfares can be expensive, so I would advise booking tickets at least two months in advance. Before you leave, don't forget to stop by the international student services office to make sure all of your paperwork is up-to-date.

It also might be a good idea to call close friends and family back home and ask what they want you to bring back from the U.S. – their answers might surprise you.

My relatives have an unusual obsession with vitamin pills and always ask me to bring back giant-size bottles of fish oil and vitamin A. So as of now, I can tell you everyone in my family has a really strong heart and good eyesight!

[Learn which colleges attract the most international students.]

2. Travel within the U.S.: The U.S. is a wonderful country to explore. If you are into nature, you can go to beaches across the country, or national parks, mountains and landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. If you love cities, the possibilities are endless, from New York City to San Francisco.

But you should not risk stepping out of the country if you have not made the proper arrangements. For example, when visiting Niagara Falls, you might be tempted to drive across the border into Canada. While this might not be a problem for your travel buddies, it could cause you a lot of trouble if you had not previously applied for a Canadian visa.

Unplanned travel might also cause issues when returning to the U.S., depending on what passport you hold and various travel restrictions. Always do your research before a trip and avoid making impromptu decisions that might result in a bureaucratic nightmare.

[Get more tips on U.S. travel as an international student.]

3. Find a job or internship: Many schools offer on-campus jobs that you can do over the summer. You could save a great deal of money by spending the summer in this way, and there are usually people who stick around campus with whom you can hang out.

Near the end of the school year, keep your eye out for ads for on-campus jobs, or get a list of them from the career center. Many professors also look for research assistants over the summer, so you can ask if they need help - research jobs often pay quite well.

Another option, particularly if you are between your junior and senior year, is an internship. By this point, you probably have an idea of what field you would like to go into after graduation. Having had an internship will make you a more desirable candidate once you graduate and start looking for a job.

Talk to the college career center staff about your interests, and start searching for an internship a few months before the end of the school year. Also make sure to ask the international student services office about paperwork you will need to work at an off-campus job.

[Learn ways students can land summer jobs.]

4. Take a summer course: Most colleges offer summer classes, and this is a great way for you to earn extra credits while staying on campus.

Summer courses usually include special topics, some of which even offer you a chance to travel with your class. For example, Colorado College, my alma mater, offered art history courses that took place in Europe and Asian Studies classes that took place in Japan or China.

If money is a problem, see if your school offers each full-time student one free summer class, or check with the department offering the courses about scholarship availability.

Taking a summer class is also a great way to bond with your fellow students, as the summer is usually a little less busy and you have more time to hang out with one another.

Tra Ho, from Vietnam, received full financial aid to attend Colorado College in 2004. She graduated magna cum laude in 2008 with a degree in mathematics and is currently working as an actuary for a consulting company Washington, D.C.