Definition: to choose not to participate in or carry on with something.
But when foreign students in the US talk about opt (out), they mean something else.
According to USCISC (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services):
OPT (Optional Practical Training) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.
[Translation: banking or waitressing is off limits if, say, you major in journalism.]
- Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).
[Translation: 12 months, 365 days, is all you have.]
- All periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.
[Translation: What to do next? a) go back to where you come from; b) get someone to sponsor your work visa; c) become a genius/master/guru in whatever you do in 12 months.]
- If you have earned a degree in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, you may apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorization.
[Translation: non-STEM art folks, you are not needed in the U.S. Switch major before it’s too late.]
- If you transfer to another school or begin studies at another educational level (for example, you completed a bachelor’s degree and are starting a master’s program), your authorization to engage in OPT employment will automatically terminate. SEVP will inform USCIS of the termination date, and USCIS will terminate your EAD accordingly.
[Translation: there is no such species as a foreign student who works full-time at the same time to pay off her tuition. Work or study, pick one. Save sufficient dinero, or be born Crazy Rich/Smart.]
With that in mind, let’s eavesdrop into a conversation:
“I just realized I can’t get another OPT just by doing UCLA Extension.” My friend from Egypt texted me. “Thought you should know too.”
“I just booked my one-way ticket back to China yesterday.”
“I think I may need to do the same thing!”
My friend and I will meet this Thursday for our opt-out gathering.
“The POTUS may stay for four more years because the people who would vote for him vote for the Party. It’s where their interest lies.” A friend quoted her political science professor when we dined at my writer friend’s for her farewell dinner yesterday. I sure don’t need that to be the last straw to break my back.
I may have to opt out this time
but I won’t check out
I’ll close the door on my way out.
But I’ll be back, in my own way, on my own terms.