Samir Adrissi is part of the founding team at Full Circle and having him in St. Louis has been an honor. While it's bittersweet that he'll be leaving this city, his experience as an international student and difficulties finding H1-B work visa opportunities in St. Louis has energized us more than ever to fulfill our mission.
I came to St. Louis with a negative mindset and no intentions of staying past my institutional requirements. I was blessed enough to be offered a graduate assistantship at Saint Louis University (SLU) to complete my masters in business communication, an offer too good to turn down and one that meant I would be in St. Louis for at least two years. Although St. Louis wasn’t my first choice of cities to live, if I was going to be here for two years I promised myself I’d do three things:
- Meet as many people and get involved in as many organizations as possible.
- Discover how I could help and become a part of the community.
- Expose myself to as many opportunities - socially, culturally and professionally - as I could.
Following those three promises and looking back over the past two years (almost to the day) since I moved to St. Louis, I have a very positive outlook and am a huge advocate for this city and the individuals that choose to stay here. St. Louis is in the midst of a renaissance. There is great economic and cultural development, and it is undergoing a lot of positive social change. It is an exciting time to be a young person in St. Louis. Not only can you witness the change, you can be apart of it. You can influence it.
I hope those who know me would agree that I was committed and lived up to my three promises, which is why it is very sad for me to be leaving St. Louis. I tried to make things work and extend my stay as a St. Louis resident but, unfortunately, being a foreign national and an international student in the United States has a lot of complexities and ambiguities, even for a Brit. Thus, it is far too common for international transplants in St. Louis to move back home or relocate to a different city.
The process of transitioning from a F1 student visa to an H1-B work visa can be very daunting, not just because of the reliance of a computer algorithm but also because of the hesitancy of employers to sponsor, either because they do not understand the process or do not want the hassle of going through it. This is a problem. This is causing a “brain drain” of individuals that can add great value to the city professionally, culturally, and civically. St. Louis is losing out to other cities who realize the value of diversity within their workforce, as, ultimately, recent graduates are attracted to professional opportunities. If they don’t have them here, they will seek them out elsewhere.
However, with every problem comes the opportunity for a solution. The solution for St. Louis could be in individuals, corporations and organizations educating themselves on immigration policies, laws and procedures. Once this is more widely understood, we will be able to see the benefits that an increase in our international population will bring. Benefits such as minimizing the skills gap in the St. Louis workforce, increases in energy and innovation, and enriched cultural diversity are all real possibilities.
I have cherished my time here in St. Louis and, unfortunately, it is coming to an end later this month. However, the relationships I have built and the work I have done will keep me engaged from afar. For those who care enough, I challenge you to educate yourself on the issues surrounding international student employment and see what you can do to help. By learning and sharing, we can make St. Louis the most attractive city to come to as a young person, especially if you are a foreign national. By learning and sharing, we can make the transplant story one of success and longevity. By learning and sharing, we can create a positive narrative of St. Louis around the world.