Being an international student

International students have unique difficulties in addition to the usual graduate school challenges. International students are constantly expected to perform as well as other graduate students while simultaneously navigating cultural and/or language barriers. Graduate students from the United States may also have additional advantages, such as a pre-existing local network of friends and family, not available to an international student. In addition, international students can face discrimination or harassment because of their religion, ethnicity, country of origin, or language abilities.

Concerns About Union Involvement

Precarious immigrant status often holds international students back from confronting unjust treatments, much less taking action to improve working conditions. Student visas are solely dependent on maintaining student status at JHU, which means that international students often cannot risk jeopardizing this status, even when their basic rights are abused. Many international students have to make a difficult decision whether to remain silent to injustices which can include discrimination, exploitation, or harassment. Other hurdles to involvement in a union for international students can include overcoming language or cultural barriers which on their own require extra time and work compared to students from the United States.

How can TRU work with international students?

A graduate workers’ union is a way to address these issues and make changes as a group.  A union provides a collective platform to gather, discuss, and support common concerns of international students and to bargain with the school. Instead of each graduate student having to ask for something from their adviser or department chair, it can be easier to ask for things as a group, especially when many international students can face similar difficulties. While 37% of PhD students in JHU are international students (as of 2018), the voice of international students has been underrepresented. Supporting and joining TRU empowers us to stand up against unjust treatments and improve working conditions.

Can international students join a union?

We recognize that international students feel anxious about joining a union. However, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an agency of the Federal government of the United States, approves that immigrant employees “have the same rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).” It is illegal for the school to threaten you by using your immigration status if you try to join a union. However, we acknowledge that international students must obey immigration laws and can feel vulnerable regardless of the legality of joining a union. Although we seek to make membership in a union seem normal on campus, we also recognize that not everyone will want to be a public supporter of TRU. TRU does not release the identities of our supporters without their consent to being a public supporter.

How can I support TRU?

You can choose to participate in or support TRU to whatever extent you feel comfortable. While some international students might give a speech at a rally or sign a petition, other international students might like to work behind the scenes by designing a poster or editing a webpage. TRU respects and seeks to represent the issues and concerns of international students regardless of their desire or ability to participate in the union.

Is there an issue you would like TRU to know about? You can email us at or fill in the contact box below anonymously.