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While some students may be worrying about jobs after graduation, some international students already have their path set out for them.

International students from countries such as Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and Trinidad are in scholarship programs provided by corporations and institutions in their home countries to study abroad in places like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. While the finer details of the scholarship vary from country to country, the basic structure of it is the same — students are committed to a binding contract that requires them to return home and work for a stipulated number of years.

Students in these programs go through a rigorous application process to qualify for the scholarship, which provides funding for them to come to Penn.

“In return for funding to underwrite the cost of a Penn education, a student forfeits his or her freedom to select any job of interest after graduation,” Director of Career Services Patricia Rose said. “This certainly limits the student’s freedom, but sometimes the funding makes it possible for the student to come here in the first place.”

Among choices scholars forfeit is the opportunity to study whatever they want. Scholars from Malaysia are funded to study a particular field and are thus required to do so.

College junior Daniel Khaw, who is from Malaysia and is funded to study Economics, said, “It’s always a challenge if you are put into something you don’t really like or are not good at.”

Khaw is a scholar funded by the Central Bank of Malaysia. After graduation, he will be required to work for 10 years at the bank in a department of the bank’s choice.

“When choosing a major at 17 years old, you might not know what you like essentially,” Khaw added. “The job scope is kind of limited, because you’re focused on doing what you’re specified to rather than exploring areas where you’re good at or passionate about.”

However, Khaw said that the benefits far outweigh the challenges. “This scholarship affords job security, because we don’t need to worry about not having a job — we already have a stable, pretty good job through the scholarship.”

In 2007, there were about 1,800 scholarships given by the Malaysian government for students to study abroad. Between 2000 and 2007, there were over 10,000 scholarships given.

College and Wharton junior Jason Leong, who is a scholar with Malaysian government-linked company Sime Darby, agreed. “Personally, it’s good to have sense of security with a scholarship and know there’s a job waiting for you after graduation,” Leong said. His scholarship requires him to work for the company for six years after graduation.

However, some scholars find ways to get around the restrictions. If a scholar finds other opportunities while abroad and does not return home after graduation, he or she must pay back the scholarship in full.

“Because these scholarships are common in Malaysia, a lot of people view them as a loan when they take it,” Leong said. “It’s not set in stone that they will go back after graduation — it becomes more like a safety net.”

This means that some scholars will only go back if no other opportunities are available overseas, Leong added.

Scholars from Trinidad have more flexibility in deciding when to return after graduation.

“We have to go back only if [the government has] a job in the field you’re studying,” said College sophomore Nicolette Sookar, who is a Trinidadian Government Scholar. There is no stipulated number of years she is required to work for them after graduation, as the number of years depends on the amount of funding she received.

Sookar added that some Trinidadian scholars can go on to post-graduate study if they want. “Eventually you’ll have to go back but you don’t have to right away,” she said.

She added that she does not view the restrictions or the requirement to go back and work as a hindrance. “I think it’s a good thing — it’s a guaranteed job,” she said. “I think after they’ve done so much for you, the least you can do is go back and work for them.”

Ultimately, these international scholars are grateful, as they wouldn’t have been able to come to Penn otherwise. “It’s something we’re glad for,” Sookar said. “It’s been a good experience.”

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