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What is Field Work Term (FWT)?

Field Work Term is a seven-week off-campus term which will take place January 5, 2015 - February 20, 2015 where students pursue jobs and internships in areas that complement their studies. It is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a working environment and apply and reflect upon their classroom experience in the real world.

By the end of their time at Bennington, students will have completed four FWTs and have acquired a body of work experiences, a set of references, a network of professional contacts, and most important, the confidence that they can make their way in the world.

What are my options for my first Field Work Term?

The Department of Homeland Security regulations affect FWT options for international students during their first year. International students on F1 visas who have been in the country for less than nine months are generally* not eligible to work off-campus in the United States for any type of compensation—including pay, room and board, academic credit, graduation requirements, etc. As such, FWT options for first-year international students include:

a) Work in a paid position on campus - Jobs on campus over FWT are limited, and some may not qualify as an FWT site if they do not have a substantial connection to a student’s educational or career inquiry. Campus jobs that do meet FWT criteria can be registered as an FWT site. First-year international students who secure a paid on-campus job that doesn’t meet FWT requirements can still work on campus over January and February, but must defer their official FWT to the summer.

b) Defer their first FWT to the summer - This option allows first-year international students to wait until they have been in the US for nine months before doing their first FWT so that they are eligible to secure an internship in accordance with Curricular Practical Training (CPT) criteria (see below). First-year international students are guaranteed the summer deferral option but still need to submit a completed summer deferral application form by the October 31, 2014 due date. Applications forms are available here. International students who choose to defer their FWT to the summer and who are planning to work in the US must meet with the FWT Director to discuss securing a summer FWT that is directly connected to their academic work in order for it to be in compliance with CPT requirements. Similarly, students will need to meet with Bennington’s designated school official (DSO) Kate Child in the spring to secure necessary paperwork in time for the start of the FWT Summer Make-up period which runs June 15-July 31, 2015.

c) Apply for an FWT position in one’s home country - Students who select this option should speak with DSO Kate Child during the fall term regarding any potential concerns related to re-entry into the US at the completion of FWT.

d) Arrange an FWT position abroad - Students should research a country’s relevant visa requirements and remain in compliance with such requirements. Students selecting this option should also speak with DSO Kate Child during the fall term regarding any potential concerns related to re-entry into the US at the completion of FWT.

e) *Secure work as an intern with a recognized international organization - F1 students who land an internship with a recognized international organization within the meaning of the 59 Stat. 669, International Organization Immunities Act are eligible to work for pay in the US during their first nine months in country and/or at anytime during their stay as an F1 student. Internships at these organizations do not need to be related to a student’s course of study and do not count toward Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) allotments. (Visit the Department of Homeland Security website for more details regarding approved organizations, the application form and fee, and related processes. Applications can take 2-3 months to process.)

Can I volunteer during my first nine-months in the US, including over FWT?

First-year students who want to volunteer at a nonprofit organization are allowed to do so, but not for FWT. Due to F1 visa requirements, first-year international students are not able to receive any form of remuneration (housing, meals, transportation passes, etc) nor apply volunteer work towards an academically-required FWT, as any of the above would be considered a form of compensation and would violate visa regulations. In short, volunteering in the US without any form of compensation is allowed, but it is not an option for students to fulfill their first FWT requirement.

What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows students the opportunity to work at off-campus internships while in the US if such work is a required part of a student’s program of study. After nine months of full-time residency in the United States, international students can take regular FWT jobs (paid or unpaid) as part of their CPT. International students should speak with Bennington’s DSO, Kate Child, regarding timelines and forms related to securing CPT in time for the start of a summer deferred FWT.

As described on the Department of Homeland Security Website, CPT requirements are stated as:

  • CPT must relate to your major and the experience must be part of your program of study.
  • Your DSO will provide you a new Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” that shows that the DSO has approved you for this employment.
  • You can work on CPT either full-time or part-time.
  • CPT requires a signed cooperative agreement or a letter from your employer.
  • If you have 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are ineligible for OPT (optional practical training), but part-time CPT is fine and will not stop you from doing OPT.

International students who secure work as an intern with a recognized international organization as described above can do so without it impacting one’s CPT allotment.

Note: First-year international students who remain in F1 status and who leave the US to complete their first FWT abroad will still be eligible to work for compensation through Curricular Practical Training at the end of their first nine-month academic year.

Can I stay on campus over FWT?

International students who are unable to return home, unable to travel or stay with friends or relatives over FWT, or who have an on-campus job during January and February, do have the option of securing on-campus housing for the winter period. Campus housing over FWT is not part of a student’s regular room and board fee, but is offered at a discounted price and is often less expensive than international travel.  After classes end on December 15, international students may temporarily stay in their fall term housing until their winter housing is ready for them to move in, usually by January 2 (if not earlier). Winter housing technically runs from January 2 through February 21, 2015, although students may be permitted to move into their spring term housing earlier. Students will be notified in a timely manner by Student Life with the pertinent moving dates.

Housing rates are offered at different rates for single and double rooms. 2014 FWT rates were $600 for a single and $450 for a double; rates for 2015 FWT will be confirmed by mid-October. During FWT, many campus services available during fall and spring term are not open, including the dining halls and Health Services. Access to other campus buildings is limited and administrative offices maintain an abbreviated schedule. Since there is no meal plan available over the winter period, students staying on campus prepare their own meals in the kitchenettes of their assigned house and must cover their own food expenses. Shuttles are available through Green Mountain Express to take students to a local grocery store and to downtown Bennington.  

Students wishing to secure campus housing for the winter period need to apply to the Office of Student Life by November 14, 2014. Applications are available at the front desk in the Student Life Office. A deposit of $50.00  is required by December 5 in order to reserve a room. Questions regarding housing on-campus over FWT can be directed to Jenna Hope Goldstein, Assistant Director of Housing, Office of Student Life.

Where can I find more information about Field Work Term?

A complete list of FWT-related resources is available on the College’s website under the Student Resource Section. Here students will find planning guides, important dates, FWT Office resources and much more. (The FWT 2015 Handbook is currently being updated and will be ready by the start of term. All other FWT-related linked resources are updated for the 2014-15 academic year.)

Who are the Field Work Term staff and how do I reach them?

Holly McCormack, Dean of Field Work Term

Erica Walsh, Director of Field Work Term and Career Development

Lauren MacPherson, Field Work Term Coordinator

Students can also direct any questions to the FWT Office at fwt@bennington.edu or call 802-440-4331. The FWT and Career Development Office is located in Barn 113 in a shared office space with Student Life. Once on campus, students are also welcome to drop by to ask questions.

Who do I speak to about F1 visa related issues?

Bennington College’s designated student officer (DSO) is Kate Child, Assistant Director for Academic Advising. She can be reached at kchild@bennington.edu and her office is in Barn 120.