Maidina (right) with her friends working on campus this past summer.

My Summer Job Experience as an International Student

My last summer in my college life as an international student, I decided to stay on campus and earn some money for my next school year. So far it’s been two months and looking back I realized that there were so much more I acquired than learning how to deep-cleaning school buildings.

International students (F-1 status) studying in the United States are only permitted to work on campus 20 hours each week during the school year.

However, there are opportunities for students to work full-time (40 hours each week) during summer and winter breaks if they are registered for classes the next semester.

Maidina Tuohuti, an international student from China, decided to work full-time on campus this summer to earn extra money.

That means doubling her work amount from 20 hours each week to 40 hours.

Maidina shares her experience working a full-time job as a custodial worker cleaning bathrooms and buildings on campus at George Fox University: 

I have been working a few other part time jobs on campus since I came to the States during school years: served food in the campus cafeteria, worked as a teaching assistant for Intro to Biblical Knowledge and worked for the campus newspaper as a reporter. But this time it is slightly different because I am working full-time the whole summer. Eight hours a day, five days a week sounded exciting for me when I applied for the custodial job at Plant Services on campus. However, after the first week I had to admit to the fact that I underestimated the amount of energy and effort the job required.

Every morning when my alarm goes on I can’t believe it’s already 5 am; it always feels like I only slept for ten minutes. After convincing myself a hundred time to get up I then start the day with my exhausted body. We always start with cleaning office buildings from 6 to 8 am and then deep-cleaning campus housing for rest of the day. The first few days of working was an adjustment process. Learning how to safely use all kinds of chemicals and cleaning tools was our first step. I didn’t even know what a sponge was, but my supervisor never got tired of explaining things to me.

We have a magic tool to deep cleaning bathrooms—a small razer blade. I did not expect the small thing can do such a big favor for cleaning off the yellow water stain and some other nasty dirt from the sinks, showers, and even the toilets. I noticed the first few weeks, everyone kind of avoided cleaning the bathrooms, same as me. But after doing it a few times, I found that cleaning the bathrooms is such a satisfying job because you can actually see the fruits of your labor; after cleaning, everything looks brand new. Then I got addicted to it! When I go back to my apartment, I felt my own bathroom was dirty and I spent a day razering the whole thing.

The best part of this work is I spend so much time with my American friends and friends from different part of the world. We are talking, laughing, singing and sharing stories while we are working. Working with with them I am always so surprised how fast the time passes. I felt my English skills are making so much progress during this summer because I never spoke this much English during school year.

I realized one thing from myself one day after work. One of my teammates and I argued over how we should finish the task in a very limited time. I showed my opinion to him and he did not agree with me. I felt the tension between us but we finally found a way to work things out. That night I thought about the whole thing and suddenly I learned I am not that timid Medina anymore. It’s been two years since started studying in the U.S., and there were very few times that I could remember I showed my opinions or feelings to others, not to mention arguing. I am glad I can stand up for myself and show my own opinions and not just only obey others because I am afraid to talk and they won’t like me anymore.

Some of my friends asked me why don’t I go back home during summer. When I told them I am working for custodial on campus and earning some money, they showed sympathy to me. They might feel cleaning is not a decent job, but the most important thing I learned from the working experience is there is no discrimination in any jobs. What I am doing is not only a labor, I am also using my knowledge, team work skills, and practicing and learning many other skills. I am glad I applied for this job not only because it helps me pay for school, but it also gives me so much usefulness. That’s worth more than the money I earned.

If you would like to learn more about employment opportunities for international students on your campus visit your university/college Career Services office.

Medina Tohti international student voice magazineMaidina Tuohuti is an international student from China studying journalism at George Fox University, a private Christian university in Oregon. Maidina is a journalism intern with ISV Magazine, writing about her own experiences as a Muslim student in the U.S. as well as writing feature articles on topics important to all international students. 

Maidina can be reached at

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