What It’s Like to Find a Job as an International Student on OPT

Hi, my name is Nick (Krittawat Pattaramekanon). I earned my Associate of Arts degree at Shoreline Community College. During my time at Shoreline, I was working as International Marketing Assistant and Photographer. It was a very good experience to meet new people from many places and cultures. I started my first quarter in Shoreline in Fall 2015 studying ESL and Music.

Nick stands at the far left with the staff at a Thai restaurant

I applied for Optional Practical Training (also known as OPT, which is a program that allows international students to work in the U.S. after they complete their studies at a U.S. college or university) around June of 2018 and it took around 4 months before the card actually arrived. So if you plan to get one, apply early! The academic and immigration advisors at Shoreline can help you going through the process and documents for applying. Also finding a job is not usually easy. It takes time and mostly you need to go to interview at the company. Other than my current job, I also applied for Photographer jobs in studios, and as a car enthusiast, I applied for a position as a “Car Photographer.” Other than regular job-finding sites, it’s also a good idea to check your local Facebook or social media groups.

Point of Sale system

Before graduating in Spring 2018, I found a job as Installer for a Thai company based in Lynnwood, Washington called SmilePOS. We do Point of Sale (POS) systems for (mostly Thai) restaurants. The job was posted in Thai Community of Washington State’s Facebook Group. I started working in November of 2018. This job requires travel a lot. What I am doing is traveling to the customer’s restaurants, discuss with them where/how they want the POS to be, Install the system, giving them training, take photos for the interior/food and the rest is free time to go out and explore!

So far I have been to almost 30 states, multiple cities and countless miles across the country. This is the best part of the job. More than half of these states are the ones I have not been to before. One of the most memorable trip was one to Moab, Utah. I had spent a night in Denver, CO because my flight was canceled. The next day, I got on a plane and the weather was so bad that we needed to land at Grand Junction, CO. One of the customer’s friends was there so they picked us up and took us to Moab in the middle of the night. That trip I get to explore Arches National Park in Utah and it is very beautiful. The states I went to the most are California, Florida, Oregon and Illinois. I was amazed how many Thai restaurants are there in this country, especially in Washington State.

Arches National Park in Utah

During the time that I am not travelling, I stay at the company designing gift cards, doing graphic design, editing photos, making video ads and some promotional materials. It is a good improvement for the company to have quality photos for use on our website and also the customers’ ones. On some occasions, the company has participated in volunteer and promotional work. Every year there are Thai Festivals at Buddhist Temples where restaurants bring out food for sale and there are cultural performances to watch. I usually attend and volunteer to take photos there.

I would like to thank Shoreline Community College, which gave me so many opportunities and has very helpful advisors. For current and future students, OPT is a good chance for you to experience the working culture in America to prepare you to work or continue your higher education. Apply for a work permit, find a job early, and good luck!

Words and photos by Krittawat Pattaramekanon

Editor’s note: By starting at a community college and earning an associate’s degree, students get an extra opportunity to work on OPT that they wouldn’t have if they completed an entire bachelor’s degree program at a 4-year university! Contact us at international@shoreline.edu to learn more!