An interview with Jess Sharrock from International Networking in New York City (INet NYC)
This interview is with Jess Sharrock, Social Media Manager at International Networking in New York City (INet NYC), New York, USA, an organisation that aims to provide support for international students and researchers working in STEM in the New York City area.
Q: Firstly, who are INet NYC?
INet NYC was established in 2014 and is currently run by a number of volunteer scientists from many institutions across NYC to provide resources and a, much-needed, support network for international scientists.
Q: Please could you tell us a little bit about what motivated you to become involved with INet NYC?
I think joining a group of like-minded, passionate people was what initially encouraged me to join INet NYC. Particularly when moving to a new country, it felt really beneficial to make connections with people in a similar position to myself. The events and networking opportunities that arise from a community like INet are also really helpful, both now and during future career development.
Q: Could you sum up INet’s mission for us?
We are an organisation that aims to provide support, professional development opportunities, and scientific connections for international Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) students and researchers, affiliated with all institutions in the New York City area. INet NYC organises events that are predominantly focussed on the challenges that international scientists may face while in the USA. By creating a local community, INet can help find solutions to career and social concerns that may arise as an international scientist living and working in the USA.
Q: How have you found the transition to working in New York? Would you recommend it to others?
For me, the transition from London to New York has been really interesting and exciting both scientifically and personally. New York is incredibly diverse and vibrant, it’s a great city to live and work in! Without a doubt, I would recommend the move. But I would also recommend really putting some thought into it and doing all the necessary research, it’s a big decision that is not for everyone.
Q: What are some of the additional challenges faced by international scientists?
Obtaining a visa can often be the first hurdle. Although international scientific collaboration is encouraged and supported, it can still be a difficult process to get a visa for many international scientists. Funding opportunities also continue to be a challenge for both international graduate students and post-docs, particularly in the USA. Eligibility for many of the available grants require USA citizenship or permanent residency, which, of course, isn’t the case for many of us. However, I do believe in more recent years there has been an increase in the numbers of grant opportunities without citizenship requirements, particularly for post-docs. I also think some international scientists face cultural challenges, primarily when moving from Europe to the USA, as work ethic and expectations within laboratory environments are often different.
Q: Do you expect to see these challenges change over the next few years?
I don’t necessarily think the specific challenges will change for international scientists; however, I do think they may become more difficult. The current political climate is continuing to make it increasingly difficult and worrisome, particularly with regards to citizenship status and obtaining a visa, not only for scientists moving to the USA, but also those moving to Europe. The lack of government funding and major cuts in funding to STEM fields over the past few years continues to be a concern for the worldwide scientific community and will continue to make it increasingly difficult for international scientists to get the required funding to relocate overseas.
Q: What can institutions do to help international scientists?
The majority of institutions, particularly those that attract large numbers of international students and researchers, are well equipped to help scientists navigate the transition overseas and it can be extremely helpful.
The ability to help with visa applications is probably one of the most important aspects for any recruiting institution. It is obviously massively important to secure a visa, but the process can be complicated and overwhelming to understand, so having someone to help is a huge benefit. Institutions that provide subsidised housing for all incoming graduate students and post-docs, like many of the institutions in New York, takes a lot of the pressure off trying to find somewhere to live while still in your home country or overseas.
From personal experience, as a post-doctoral scholar at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, there are designated staff who are constantly helping with the many things that come with being an international scientist in the USA, from visa applications and taxes to housing and health care.
Q: How are you hoping to see INet’s work evolve in the future?
We hope to continue to build on the idea of creating a local community for international scientists in New York and are passionate about providing an opportunity to engage in a strong international peer network. We also hope to use the knowledge that we have developed in New York to expand INet into other cities in the USA to be able to help other international scientists get the most out of their time in the USA.
Q: If a scientist is considering a move to New York at the PhD or postdoctoral level, how can INet help?
At INet, we can provide guidance for graduate students and researchers in STEM fields, that are, or will be, affiliated with any institute in the New York area. We run a number of academic, professional, and social events throughout the year, which all provide great opportunities to meet new people in the city and expand professional networks.