FWT For International Students

What are my options for my first Field Work Term?

The Department of Homeland Security regulations affect FWT options for international students during their first year. International students on F1 visas who have been in the country for less than nine months are generally* not eligible to work off-campus in the United States for any type of compensation—including pay, room and board, academic credit, graduation requirements, etc. As such, FWT options for first-year international students include:

  • Working in a paid position at the Quantum Leap Program. Students with demonstrated financial need can apply to work for the College at the Quantum Leap Program over FWT. Jobs at Quantum Leap over FWT are limited and available for first-year international students with high financial need. (First-year international students with demonstrated financial need who secure other paid on-campus jobs which don't meet FWT requirements can still work on campus over January and February, but must defer their official FWT to the summer.)
  • Deferring their first FWT to the summer. This option allows first-year international students to wait until they have been in the US for nine months before doing their first FWT so that they are eligible to secure an internship in accordance with Curricular Practical Training (CPT) criteria (see below). First-year international students are guaranteed the summer deferral option but still need to submit a completed summer deferral application form by the October 27, 2017, due date. International students who choose to defer their FWT to the summer and who are planning to work in the US must meet with the FWT Director to discuss securing a summer FWT that is directly connected to their academic work in order for it to be in compliance with CPT requirements. Similarly, students will need to meet with Bennington’s designated school official (DSO) Kate Child in the spring to secure necessary paperwork in time for the start of the FWT Summer Make-up period, which runs June 11–July 27, 2018.
  • Applying for an FWT position in one’s home country. Students who select this option should speak with DSO Kate Child during the fall term regarding any potential concerns related to re-entry into the US at the completion of FWT.
  • Arranging an FWT position abroad. Students should research a country’s relevant visa requirements and remain in compliance with such requirements. Students selecting this option should also speak with DSO Kate Child during the fall term regarding any potential concerns related to re-entry into the US at the completion of FWT.

Can I volunteer during my first nine-months in the U.S., including over FWT?

First-year students who want to volunteer at a nonprofit organization are allowed to do so, but not for FWT. Due to F1 visa requirements, first-year international students are not able to receive any form of remuneration (housing, meals, transportation passes, etc.) nor apply volunteer work towards an academically-required FWT, as any of the above would be considered a form of compensation and would violate visa regulations. In short, volunteering in the US without any form of compensation is allowed, but it is not an option for students to fulfill their first FWT requirement.

What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows students the opportunity to work at off-campus internships while in the US if such work is a required part of a student’s program of study. After nine months of full-time residency in the United States, international students can take regular FWT jobs (paid or unpaid) as part of their CPT. International students should speak with Bennington’s DSO, Kate Child, regarding timelines and forms related to securing CPT in time for the start of a summer deferred FWT.

As described on the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement website, CPT requirements are stated as:

  • CPT must relate to your major and the experience must be part of your program of study.
  • Your DSO will provide you a new Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” that shows that the DSO has approved you for this employment.
  • You can work on CPT either full-time or part-time.
  • CPT requires a signed cooperative agreement or a letter from your employer.
  • If you have 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are ineligible for OPT (optional practical training), but part-time CPT is fine and will not stop you from doing OPT.

International students who secure work as an intern with a recognized international organization as described above can do so without it impacting one’s CPT allotment.

Note: First-year international students who remain in F1 status and who leave the US to complete their first FWT abroad will still be eligible to work for compensation through Curricular Practical Training at the end of their first nine-month academic year.

Can I stay on campus over FWT?

International students with demonstrated financial need who are unable to return home, unable to travel or stay with friends or relatives over FWT, or who have an on-campus job during January and February, do have the option of securing on-campus housing for the winter period. Campus housing over FWT is not part of a student’s regular room and board fee, but is offered at a discounted price and is often less expensive than international travel. After fall classes end, international students may temporarily stay in their fall term housing until their winter housing is ready for them to move in, usually by the beginning of January (if not earlier). Winter housing for the upcoming year runs from January 2 through February 16, 2018, although students may be permitted to move into their spring term housing earlier. Students will be notified in a timely manner by Student Life with the pertinent moving dates.

For the FWT 2018 housing rate, contact the Office of Student Life. During FWT, many campus services available during fall and spring term are not open, including the dining halls and Health Services. Access to other campus buildings is limited and administrative offices maintain an abbreviated schedule. Since there is no meal plan available over the winter period, students staying on campus prepare their own meals in the kitchenettes of their assigned house and must cover their own food expenses. Shuttles are available through Green Mountain Express to take students to a local grocery store and to downtown Bennington.  

Students wishing to secure campus housing for the winter period need to apply to the Office of Student Life by 5:00pm on November 17, 2017. Applications will be available online, on the Residential Life page. Questions regarding housing on campus over the winter break and/or FWT can be directed to housing@bennington.edu.

Where can I find more information about Field Work Term?

Start here to discover the services available to students in arranging their Field Work Terms, including planning tips, important dates, office resources and much more. (The FWT Handbook and linked resources are updated annually by the first day of fall classes.)

Who are the Field Work Term staff and how do I reach them?

Learn more about the FWT & Career Development Office staff.

Who do I speak to about F1 visa-related issues?

Bennington College’s primary designated student officer (PDSO) is Kate Child, Director for First-Year Experience and International Student Services. She can be reached at kchild@bennington.edu or at 802-753-2491 or stop by her office in Barn 120.