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Greenhandshake is a trusted community marketplace for new US arrivals to connect, find local help of the same ethnic group, offering us to live smarter.

Ways to Socialize as a New International Student

As an international student, your first day in school is always kaleidoscope of feelings. There is the excitement of experiencing new things and more to come. There is too, the feeling of nervousness in meeting new people from another culture. Most of all, you are determination to start classes on the right foot. The new semester in a new place means a novel opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and the challenge to try new things. You know these are important things to do when you are traveling in another country. You want o to develop a social life that can be challenging when you travel alone. Thanks new technology, you are just a click away from your loved ones.

Students today are equipped with many tools to join new organizations or learn new skills. There is no excuse for staying away. It is true that in a foreign country, you will have difficulty in finding the right niche to fit in but then this is part of your task and it can be fun!

Student Union on Campus

In the United States, most colleges or universities maintained a building they called   “the union.” This centralized venue is the place where most social events in the campus are held. It is usually a high traffic area for students conglomerate in this place. If you are interested to join a group or do things for the weekend, you drop by your on-campus student union and you will find what you are looking for. Some student unions maintain bowling alleys; operate small movie theaters and manage restaurants for your pleasure. Even without your own vehicle, the student facilitates finding something for you to do and to socialize!

An App for anything you need

In your search for something interest to do, technology becomes your ally and best friend. Use your app to get connected to events nearby or groups in the proximity, etc. Equip your mobile phone with Meetup, a great app where you can start creating an interest group and be joined by people around your town. If you need a ride, another great app is Uber that is replacing public transport in certain places. They arrive on call and their fees are easy on the budget. Uber drivers operate their own cars and will give bring you to your destination for a fare that is a fraction of the cost of a taxi.

Like it in FB, Tweet what you do and Snap it

Social Media has greatly transformed the meaning of communication. As your career is taking an upward direction, it is important to relax after stressful days and enjoy. Facebook lists the events happening in your area and will remind you of its sked. Twitter account has list of clubs near the campus or groups around campus to follow and join activities. With Snapchat, you can preview the event before you go that way.

Ask your housemates

In a live on-campus, you come across hundreds of people every day. Some people are like social butterflies for they join all activities while others prefer to hang around a couple of pals. However, it is in the halls of your resident building that you hear all news of going-on or learn about the fun and nightlife happening during the weekend. It is also the ideal place to start as people around are also looking for something to do! You are all in the same wagon, trying to look for, explore and try new things.

Now that the place for you to start is settled, you know the direction. Get up from your bed and watching Netflix; learn a new dance move and enjoy happy memories of your exciting time as an international student. Make sure you are ready to go out there with confidence attending an event or joining a group. You have everything to gain, your only lose is the boredom of staying home.

Mike Lee – Social Media Assistant

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Potential Loss of School Accreditation – Impact on F-1 Students, Even After Graduation

Taking effect on May 10, 2016, the STEM OPT extension regulation included a new provision requires school F-1 student attending the accredited school. The regulation specifically stated that the following requirement:

  1. The degree serving as bases for the 24-month OPT extension is from an educational institution in the United States and accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.
  2. The accrediting agency must be recognized by the Department of Education at the time of application.

Very recently, one of the accrediting agencies recognized has been given notice that its Department of Education recognition might be lost. On September 22, 2016, both the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) were told that their approval may not be renewed.

The loss of this agency recognition would mean that for F-1 international students, who already graduated from ACICS accredited schools, would not be eligible to apply for the STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training). The 24-month extension is no longer applicable unless the school attended is able to obtain accreditation from an agency duly recognized.

There might still be good news for affected students as the decision is not yet final. ACICS plans to appeal for positive decision and while on appeal, the agency is recognized by the Department of Education. The issue needs close monitoring.  For more information, students may consider directly contacting their schools to know the school plans to resolve the situation in case of accreditation ultimately loss

They have to clarify if losing the accreditation now will affect those who have earned their degrees from these schools with applications of immigrations who have taken as master capH-1B and the petition in I-140 for the green card process. USCIS has to look back to determine whether the school has been accredited at the issuance of the degree. Those concerned are hoping that the loss of accreditation if it does happen will not be considered as retroactive to degrees already granted.

Students who graduated from schools accredited by ACICS should watched developments closely especially if they are planning to file an H-1B petition next April for a master’s degree.

About STEM OPT

Foreign STEM students are allowed by OPT to prolong their studies in their stay in the US after completing 6-12 months studies under a student visa. Hey used OPT to either look for jobs or apply for further education or simply wait until OPT term expires. Former President Barack Obama planned to extend the same to over three years but with the election, he ran out of time.

New US president Donald Trump’s had no plan for the extension of the STEM OPT. Standing for  to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM grads could benefit immigrant-friendly nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, among others.

However, not extending OPT by Trump does not affect students going to top schools like Stanford or MIT for their graduates are given priority in securing jobs after graduation. The impact hits students going to tier-2 and tier-3 universities in the US.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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How to Live Off-Campus as an International Student

Living in the room of the University residence halls deprives you of your privacy. You feel crammed sharing a bathroom with twenty other students. If you want your privacy, it is time to look for a place outside the dorm. Again, it might not be easy but it could be done!

You need to prepare and make certain decisions. Remember you have to fulfill some responsibilities: like doing your own laundry, learning how to prepare your meals and setting up your cable or internet. Here are some tips on starting to search for your own place:

Find roommates

If you cannot afford to pay your own place, a roommate can take off 50% of your load. You can recruit some of your friends to live off campus with you. Living off campus gives you the opportunity to learn to handle responsibilities and assume the role of an adult. Using your Math, you will realize that the more roommates you have, the lower the cost for a bigger house will be. Plus enjoying the the benefit of having your own room and bathroom.

Start an early search

Do you know that the 20 people sharing your bathroom in the dorm might also be thinking of finding their own place with friends? So you have competition, start an early search! Landlords know which units are available by February or March every year and give leases as early as May. The internet is the best place to start searching. Companies like CORT helps students to find apartments near campuses. Your school might also recommend certain landlords or apartment complexes nearby as upperclassmen move out.

Which is better – house or apartment?

A home has bigger space but it demands great responsibility. Living in a school dorm frees you from various payments in running a household. Under “Room and Board,” your payment covers everything. Your meals, utilities, furniture, and others are all included. Renting a house or apartment is a big decision. Ask yourself these questions before you make a decision.

Can you assume all these responsibilities?

Houses are more expensive to operate as they require more energy to cool during summer and warm up during winter. In a house, your obligation in utilities include: electricity, gas, sewage and water, electricity, gas, and sewage.

An apartment is cheaper since most apartments already include water and sewage in the rental. You pay for electricity. In either case, you have also to set up your internet.

Are there enough friends to fill in a house?

A house is rented out with only a single lease. If one of your recruits decided to backs out, you will have to fill in that spot or divide the cost with the others. Unless you can recruit another friend, all your share of the rental will be increased.

Is the place near the campus?

Houses near the campus are more expensive and most are apartments. Decide how far you want your place to be? Biking to the campus is convenient. However, are you willing to bike or to drive your way to the campus? Remember the changing weather patterns especially in the place where you live. Biking in bad weather is never fun.

Do you want plenty of space?

Houses are spacious and give you the luxury of having your own yard. In an apartment, only a wall separates you from the neighbors. But a house needs more work and expense to maintain. You have to mow the lawn and clean the gutters. In an apartment, it is often the landlord or leasing office that takes exterior care of the building.

If you live off-campus, will it be a house or apartment?

Nghi Tran – CFO/ Marketing Manager in Vietnam

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How Will Trump Presidency Impact High-Skilled Immigration?

When Donald Trump became 45th President of the United States, people were concerned about many issues. One of the issues that propelled his victory during the Republican nomination and ultimate victory as President was immigration. There were many sides discussed on immigration debate and Trump’s standpoint immigration has changed over time. In President Trump’s 10 Point Plan, 9 were focused on the reducing and preventing entry of illegal immigration. So the question is about his stand on legal immigration, especially high-skilled workers.

Trump’s 10th and final point on immigration plan emphasized that he only the best interests of America and its workers is on top of his priorities while preserving levels of immigration within historic norms. This statement is a clear indication that there will be no forthcoming increase in the H-1B visa numbers or any more expectations of employment-based green card availability.

Trump indicated clearly that former President Obama’s executive actions on immigration issues are no longer applicable. Many people questioned whether H-4 EAD is included and how far is its impact on the forth-coming compelling circumstances EAD rule. They do not expect elimination either of these programs by President Trump as the programs were regulatory actions from Department of Homeland Security implementation. They were not created as through an Executive Order. It is expected that termination of DACA is the main focus.

DACA means Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that is an American immigration policy started by the Obama administration in June 2012. It allows a number of undocumented immigrants who were still minors while entering the U.S. They were given renewable period of two-years as action deferred for working permit eligibility and action deferred from deportation.

This question needs an answer. Will there be more restrictions on legal immigration without any increase in immigration levels, particularly referring to the H-1B visa category? Some reforms are needed in this area considering the many stories that big American companies are replacing their US workers with H-1B holders from several outsourcing firms. However, this may not end the H-1B based on the light of business background of Trump. Being a businessman, he has been using workers holding H-1B and H-2B visas in his companies. Previously, he talked against the J-1 visa program. This study-based exchange visitor programs allows visitors to work while studying for a degree. President Trump suggested that it be replaced with resume bank for inner-city youth.

With the House and Senate controlled by Republicans, it is possible to see smaller reforms that are targeted in formalizing an immigration system that is legal and more feasible for employers and its purpose is advantageous to the American economy.  Previously, the President Trump has invited graduating international students especially in STEM fields to stay. There will be no increase in the levels of immigration by exempting STEM graduates of U.S. schools from the green card quota.

Trump is facing lots of issues to resolve during his first 100 days in office. He will have to return to the drawing board involving reforms on health care, trade agreements and financial reform. Immigration is tops on the list but the issue on legal immigration is still top priority to be addressed.

Mike Lee – Social Media Assistant

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