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What if my internship requires that I get credit instead of compensation?

Columbia College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Columbia School of General Studies, do not provide credit for internships. There is no doubt that internships are valuable experiences for students seeking an introduction to a range of careers and professional cultures.  However, we expect companies to appropriately compensate students for work performed during internships. This policy is one adopted by many of our peer institutions and also is in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act and NY State’s Minimum Wage Act and Wage Orders.

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I would like to get an unpaid internship or volunteer off campus. What do I need to know?

Interning and volunteering offer opportunities to gain experience, build your skills, and strengthen your resume. For unpaid work on or off campus such as volunteering or an unpaid internship, you may start right away and do not need OPT. You must be sure the position is unpaid for anyone (i.e. not just you because you want to take the job as a volunteer). Start by using these tools:

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Regarding my career search, where and when do I start?

Start in your first year by visiting Columbia’s Center for Career Education (CCE) website and the International Students section. Then visit CCE to speak with a career counselor to learn more about the resources to support your internship/ job search as an international student.

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Do international students need to file and pay U.S. taxes?

All international students in F-1 (and J-1) status are required to file at least one tax form if present in the US at any time in the previous calendar year—even if they had no US income. This process happens between January and April each year for the previous year. For example, 2013 taxes will be filed by mid-April of 2014. Students with U.S. income do pay taxes (taken out of their paycheck) and need to file taxes by April 15. Students without income (no tax has been paid) need to file by 15.

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How do I get paid for working on campus?

Once you secure an on-campus job, the hiring manager will provide you with required paperwork to complete and have processed by Columbia University’s Human Resources Department to be added to the University’s payroll. If you do not yet have a Social Security number (SSN), you will have to apply for one. Information is on the ISSO website about the forms you will be given to get on the university’s payroll and to apply for a SSN.

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Does the undergraduate program at Columbia offer CPT (Curricular Practical Training)?

No. CPT is employment authorization for an internship requirement or internship elective which is an integral part of the established curriculum of your school. CC and SEAS do not have an internship requirement for all undergraduate degree candidates and do not have any electives that require an internship for which academic credit is earned toward the degree. Undergraduate students may apply for OPT if they need employment authorization for summer internships. This time is deducted from the 12-month total at graduation.
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Can international students go on a term abroad?

Yes. Study abroad opportunities are available for a semester, full academic year, or summer to all Columbia undergraduates. The staff of the Office of Global Programs helps students learn more about these opportunities. As an internationally-minded office, the staff is well-equipped to discuss cross-cultural issues and the benefits of enhancing students' international experiences.

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I need someone to talk to. What are my options?

Talking to someone is one great way to organize your thoughts. If talking is what you need, consider connecting with a roommate, a suitemate, or hallmate. There is a community of advisers at Columbia to speak with about any feelings, issues, or concerns that may arise at Columbia. During operating hours (typically 9:00am to 5:00pm), administrative offices are open for conversations with students regarding academics, student life, internships and careers, studying abroad, financial aid, health and well-being and many other topics.

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I am sick and not sure how to utilize the American health care system. What do I do?

As a student, you have access to on-campus health care at Columbia Health Services. Columbia Health consists of three primary areas; Medical Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Disability Services. When you enroll, you are automatically assigned a Primary Care Provider (PCP). Your PCP is a physician or nurse with whom you schedule routine appointments (like an annual physical exam). It is important to get to know your PCP – s/he will be an important resource for you during your time at Columbia – even if you are not sick.

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I am choosing a major. What do I need to consider as an international student?

The Liberal Arts nature of Columbia allows students to explore different areas of academic interest before declaring a major. While there is flexibility in what you can study and pursue at Columbia, where you might head afterwards brings the reality of strategic decisions. While you are considering your major choice, think about your academic and personal passions, your career interests, and what you would like to do after graduation and where. Is a graduate degree on your mind? Do you want to work in the U.S., your home country or another country?

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