Both Legalpad and Interstride are working to create a world where talent—not birthplace—determines opportunity. We recently spoke to Interstride’s Co-Founder and CEO, Nitin Agrawal. Here we highlight his own journey as an international student and how it led him to create a solution for other international students.
Introduction: Interstride for International Students
Even if you already speak the local language, many aspects of life may be unexpectedly challenging in a new country. Maybe you spent two weeks traveling through a new continent and experienced culture shock. Or perhaps you settled permanently into a new country and were faced with navigating daily life there.
This proves true for the hundreds of thousands of international students who graduate from U.S. universities each year, hoping to land a position at an American company. As international graduates attempt to enter the American workforce, they quickly realize that looking for a job in the U.S. is very different than in their home country.
Enter, Interstride. Founded in 2018 by Nitin Agrawal and Christian Eder, Interstride's mission is to close the opportunity gap for international students. They're accomplishing this with an interactive portal to support students as they search for jobs, navigate immigration, and build community in their new homes.
Interstride currently partners with over 170 universities around the U.S., including institutions such as Harvard University, Stanford University, and Duke University, as well as large public institutions, liberal arts colleges, MBA programs, and graduate schools.
How did Interstride become a respected, innovative force in the international education scene? The company's co-founder and CEO, Nitin, shares the full story here.
An International Founder's Journey
Born in Nepal, Nitin has lived on nearly every continent. He graduated with his Bachelor's in Business Administration from the University of Miami and then worked at Citigroup in New York for several years before attending Berkeley's MBA program.
Nitin worked in banking, finance, technology, and even the oil and gas sector before starting Interstride. Leading up to the company's founding, Nitin was also doing MBA program consulting as a side hustle. As a consultant, he’d guide young professionals in developing successful applications for the top MBA programs. Many of his clients were international students.
During a dinner with some of his former Berkley MBA classmates, Nitin's future co-founder, Christian Eder, proposed the idea of a startup connecting international students to job opportunities. It all made sense—trying to get a job in the U.S. as an international student was a challenge that Nitin, many of his classmates, and many of his clients had personally faced.
Bridging the Employment Gap for International Students
So why is it so challenging for international students to find jobs in the U.S.?
There are several reasons, but three that stand out are a lack of network, cultural differences, and U.S. immigration policy.
"When I came to the US., I didn't know anyone. I was the first in my family to arrive in the U.S. Beyond my lack of network, I didn't understand how things were different culturally in the U.S. compared to Nepal," Nitin shared as he looked back on his experience.
It is estimated that around 85% of all jobs are filled through networking. Students who grew up in the U.S. may already have local connections, but the odds are stacked against international students when finding opportunities through networking. Not to mention other U.S. hiring nuances that may be unfamiliar to international students, such as American resumes, cover letters, and interview standards.
An added obstacle is U.S. immigration policy. Working on an F-1 student visa is possible but can be confusing for students and employers alike. Further, once their work authorization runs out after graduation, international students must find an employer willing to sponsor their visa or green card.
Most universities have no specific office where international students can go for comprehensive assistance related to their future careers. Instead, many international students jump back and forth between international student services and career services.
This becomes a problem when students are given different advice from different university offices, and neither office can support all aspects of an international student’s experience. Typically, the international student services center is not equipped to prepare international students to enter the U.S. workforce, but the career services center lacks an understanding of the unique immigration challenges that foreign students often face.
To solve these pain points, Interstride unifies all of those services—and more—in a single platform. Nitin explains:
"Through technology, we bridge the gap by bringing together multiple stakeholders from the institution to better support international students. For international students, it's a one-stop-shop, as opposed to trying to find information from unreliable public sources or different parts of the campus."
Interstride is a Win-Win for International Students & Universities
Before launching Interstride, Nitin and Christian conducted some initial market research by reaching out to international students at a few universities in the U.S. It quickly became clear that international students indeed needed the service. Unfortunately, most students did not have the budget to pay for a platform fee.
Instead of working directly with students, Nitin and Christian pivoted, marketing their platform to universities. Universities pay to offer Interstride’s platform to all of their international students. Today, Interstride's platform is available to students at over 300 programs in the U.S., at a total of around 170 universities.
A large chunk of tuition revenue at universities comes from international students. "International students add to any institution's bottom line," says Nitin. Nitin explains that Interstride’s role in improving the international student experience at U.S. universities plus attracting more international students makes their platform a "no-brainer" for universities.
Increasing International Enrollment by Addressing Immigration Fears
Nitin wants Interstride to be available to all international students. He also hopes to see an increase in the number of international students coming to study in the U.S. Although the U.S. has historically been a top destination for international students, enrollment has decreased over the past few years. "The U.S. should continue to be the holy grail for immigrants from everywhere," Nitin says.
Nitin believes that an integral part of increasing international admissions is dispelling fears around the difficulty of securing long-term job opportunities in the U.S. as a foreigner. The reality is that there is a stifling talent shortage in the U.S., particularly in STEM fields. Nitin puts it this way:
"It's not that the options are not available. Instead, transparency and clarity need to be provided to prospective students about what they'll need to do to stay in the U.S. after graduating."
To increase international enrollment in the U.S., Interstride is introducing a new platform to support international admissions. This platform will help universities attract prospective international students, and give them the confidence to make decisions about their future with careers and immigration in mind.
Legalpad & Interstride
Nitin describes Leglpad and Interstride's partnership as a "natural fit." Interstride supports international students' career paths from the beginning of their journey, and Legalpad aids immigrants, including international students, in getting legal work authorization in the U.S. Both companies want to see immigrants thrive in the U.S., working for the company of their choosing.
We know that the college students Interstride supports today will soon be entering the U.S. workforce. When those students are ready to obtain their work visas and green cards, we’ll be here to help. In the meantime, Legalpad is committed to providing the international community with free U.S. work visa and immigration information, including virtual workshops covering topics like Permanent Residency.