Former UI international student Celine Kusnadi balances positions while status remains uncertain

Celine Kusnadi, Class of 2020 graduate, is currently working three different positions to pursue her career goals in the U.S. and native country.


Photo of Celine Kusnadi, UI Class of 2020 graduate. Contributed.

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

Celine Kusnadi was frantically seeking a job and conducting informational interviews in May. The University of Iowa graduate from Jarkarta, Indonesia, needed to find work that related to her major in order to stay in the country.

More than four months later, Kusnadi is working three different jobs virtually from an apartment in North Hollywood. Her status, however, is still not secure.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, graduating international students in the country on F-1 visas can be permitted up to 12 months of temporary work employment as long as it is in their major’s sector, under the Optional Practical Training program.

Although regulations concerning international students in the U.S. have been tumultuous, in an email to The Daily Iowan, UI Associate Director of International Student and Scholar Services Michael Bortscheller said this rule has not changed.

“…The rule that students on Optional Practical Training must have at least 20 hours per week of work in one or more jobs to be considered employed has not changed,” Bortscheller said.

After graduation, Kusnadi said she moved to Washington, D.C., and began networking and meeting people.

Now, Kusnadi said she is currently interning part-time for the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, which is in Washington, D.C. She also holds a contract position with a Washington-based think tank, and a full-time Indonesia-based internship for the United Nations Development Program, which she works at night.

Because all of her positions are virtual, she added that she was able to move in with a friend in California and operate from there.

RELATED: University of Iowa International students navigate post graduation realities amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Networking, determination, and persistence with applying and writing cover letters, Kusnadi said, are what she credits in securing all these positions.

President of the UI United Nations Association chapter Carolina Herrera said Kusnadi was a key figure in the organization as it took off in the spring 2020 semester.

While it was sad to see Kusnadi go, Herrera said she is not surprised the recent graduate found work with UN initiatives.

“I think it shows our members that with having those relationships you build here in college, and within the UN organization, you get a lot of different networking and connection opportunities,” Herrera said. “So, you can see a future working for the United Nations after you graduate, by keeping in contact with those connections with the networking. All of the volunteering and events we did for the United Nations also just gives you a good background, and it gives you a good way to just get prepared for the types of jobs you would be doing.”

Because all of the positions are temporary, she said, there’s still a chance Kusnadi will return to Indonesia.

“It’s a lot to juggle all this responsibility, but then again, I feel like maybe that’s part of being an international student and being in the pandemic — utilizing what’s best right now,” Kusnadi said. “Cause if I had to be in the office right now, I wouldn’t be able to work all these positions in Indonesia and in D.C.”

While the work she is doing right now is great for building her career path, Kusnadi said she is still seeking a full-time position, and nothing is guaranteed or secured yet. She is balancing all her different positions because she wants to be prepared to either stay in the U.S. or return to Indonesia, Kusnadi added.

As of right now, all of her positions finish at the end of the year, Kusnadi said, so she will have three months after that to find a full-time position or return home.

Right now, Kusnadi said it is important for international students to network.

“Talk to people — don’t be afraid to kind of reach out of the blue, email them, connect on LinkedIn, because that’s what I did,” Kusnadi said. “That’s what I did when I didn’t have anything when I graduated.”