This summer, I went to San Francisco to join Andy OS as an intern, thanks to the Silicon Valley ICT Internship Programme by Hong Kong Cyberport. There were good times and bad times, and I’d like to share the process. Hopefully it helps when someone considers to apply for similar programs.

The process

1. Applying

I applied the program on 23rd Jan, and sent them my basic information, and a CV in the format they specified. They told me I am shortlisted for matching with employers on 4th Feb.

2. First interview

The first interview was held on 5th Mar, with Two Bit Circus. I thought it went well, but there was no reply for a week, I emailed Cyberport to ask how long does it usually take, but I didn’t get any reply. 3 weeks passed, I email Cyberport again, no reply as well. I then emailed Two Bit Circus directly, and got their reply within 3 hours, I am rejected.

3. Second interview

Few days later, 4th Apr, I got an email telling me to interview with another company, Andy OS. It went well, and Cyberport told me I got an offer. I asked them about my salary, but they asked me to proceed on the documents for visa at the mean time. After asking for 3 times, nearly a month later, they finally told me I am getting $1500 USD per month.

4. Visa process

A sponsor is needed to apply for J1 visa (The visa for intern), and Cyberport chose Cultural Vista. The process took a long time and involving quite a number of documents. I am expected to finish the processes before late June, then start my internship on 1st July, but it was delayed.

  1. Preparing documents
  • Such as passport, DSE result, official copy of transcript.
  • Write a short essay explaining why am I going to internship.
  • Prepare a budget worksheet, basically saying I have enough money to live there.
  1. Wait for Cultural Vistas to verify the host, it took about 3 weeks. The host was verified on 29th Apr.
  2. After the host was verified, I uploaded all the documents to their website.
  3. Wait again, they have to prepare DS2019 and DS7002. It took 1.5 month.
  4. 17th Jun, I received and signed DS2019 and DS7002.
  5. Complete DS160, then book a time to visit the U.S. Consulate for interview. The earliest booking was in July, but because my visa process was already delayed, Cyberport said I can apply for emergency appointment. So I am able to book for 25th Jun.
  6. I got my passport back with J1 visa on 2nd July, then informed Cyberport. They got me a ticket to San Francisco on the 4th.

5. Accommodation

Cyberport suggested me few places to stay on 3rd Jun, but I found another place on AirBnb, hacker home, to stay with a friend. The rent in San Francisco is crazy. There are actually cheaper places in the city, but I was too late. It was less than a month before the expected start date of the internship, and the choices left were expansive. Cyberport provide 350USD accommodation allowance per week, I have to pay first, and claim it back after I finished the internship.

Edit: I received the the cheque on 18th Feb, 6 months after the internship program finishes.

Thoughts

The good

  1. The process is not simple, it is good to have Cultural Vistas and Cyberport guiding me along the way.
  2. Because the visa process is complicated, some companies try to avoid the whole thing by not finding oversea intern at all, Two Bit Circus is one of them. With Cyberport’s help, it is easier to find a position as the complicated process will be handled by them.
  3. Cyberport also provide air ticket and accommodation, so one more reason for companies to consider us.

The bad

  1. Cyberport values companies over students too much. To have good matches between companies and students, it is important to let both sides to choose who they are going to work with. The process token by Cyberport is entirely based on the interest of companies, I didn’t have chance to discuss about my salary, which turns out to be lower than the minimum wage of San Francisco. They seems to assume all students are begging for a chance, and we will accept whatever it is. Why don't give me a chance to approach the companies I want to join?
  2. Slow responses. Their response can be very slow, especially for my first interview, they didn’t response to me for 3 weeks, but I get an immediate answer from Two Bit Circus when I contacted them directly.
  3. Poor schedule management. I was expecting to have an interview in February. (When I was having interview with Facebook in December, they told me I was actually a bit late.) And after all, most students cannot start their intern on time. This also made it difficult to find a cheap place to stay because I had no idea when am I going to depart until the very last moment.

This is only the second year of the program, it is difficult to ask for perfection, I hope they will keep improving and more people can enjoy the rare experience.

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