Bilingual career fair opens doors for international students


Mary Pautsch/Iowa State Daily

A student speaks with Supreme Auto, one of the companies looking for Chinese-speaking employees, at the bilingual career fair Feb. 26th.

Mary Pautsch

The more languages someone speaks, the more opportunities can come their way.

Iowa State’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) hosted the university’s first-ever bilingual career fair Sunday afternoon.

Thirty companies set up shop in the Memorial Union, looking for students who are able to speak Chinese and English. A few of the companies were representatives for other businesses, providing job openings to 75 organizations around the world.

Snow Bai, president of the CSSA, said the career fair was created to give international students more opportunities for employment while they are in the United States. Companies represented at other career fairs on campus do not always accept work from foreign students.

“People can go to a career fair set up by their college or major but have to be turned away by employers because they’re from China, or India or Malaysia […] just other countries,” Bai said. “I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it can be discouraging and a waste of time.”

Companies in attendance ranged from local small businesses in the Ames area to businesses overseas. One engineering company flew in from China for the event. The majority of employers in attendance have international ties to China and need bilingual speakers to work among the two countries.

Iowa State’s CSSA worked with eight other colleges to create the career fair. Students from the University of Nebraska, University of Nebraska Omaha, University of Iowa and University of Indiana attended for the unique experience.

The University of Indiana hosted a similar event last year. It approached the CSSA this year to set up Sunday’s career fair and asked Iowa State to host the event.

“We were planning on having the event in Chicago, but we had just started working in December so it got scaled down to here in the MU,” Riheng Cao, CSSA’s director of operations, said. “A company called Liaoyuan helped initiate the idea and get other companies to come, and they have been helpful with everything.”

Cao said that depending on the success of the fair, they would try to bring it to a larger city, such as Chicago, next year.

“I’m so excited to see Asian and international students getting jobs,” Cao said. “The turnout has been good. We have a lot of people here.”

Cao and Bai said it would be ideal to work with Iowa State Career Services in the future to help create a bilingual career fair for all international students in the upcoming years.

 “It’s not our job to make these things happen, but it is definitely a good initiative to work with later,” Bai said. “Imagine how good it would be for Indian or Malaysian students. Some of them are even with us today because they can speak Chinese.”

Andy Cui, sophomore in computer science, attended the career fair to see what his options were and to get experience in his field of study.

“I want to find an internship-type job,” Cui said. “Something in my major to practice my skills. I am a transfer student from China and changed my major from electrical engineering to computers, so not all of my credits also transferred. Now I want to get out there.”