Every year, thousands of international student workers come to North America in search of summer jobs. Most of these students come from countries in Eastern Europe and Asia as part of a foreign exchange program in order to earn money to take back home, immerse themselves in a different culture, and practice their English language skills. But their presence benefits their host countries too, by filling necessary roles that North American students are unable or unwilling to take on. Though hundreds of North American towns hire foreign workers each summer, we went in search of the 30 best places for international student workers.
To narrow down our list, we began on websites like that of the U.S. Department of State to find out which towns bring in the most foreign workers. We then narrowed down our list further by looking at the types of jobs available, the various organizations such as churches and community centers which help to improve a student’s experience, the potential to make money, and over-all experience.
Every year from May to September, hundreds of international student workers from China, Thailand, Jamaica, Estonia, and a host of other countries descend upon Anchorage, Alaska. They come to work in the many resorts and hotels, doing everything from making sandwiches and serving food, to cleaning hotel rooms and rental RVs. Though experiences vary, many international student workers find housing in dorms or with local families, and a number of private organizations in the area work hard to make the temporary guests feel at home.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
As one of Canada’s most popular destinations for tourists, the Rocky Mountain town of Banff usually proves to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for international student workers who make their way there for summer work. Banff employers hire foreign job seekers to clean hotel rooms, serve in restaurants and cafes, or staff retail shops. Though hours can be long for many workers, time off often means enjoying Banff’s majestic surroundings and myriad outdoor activities.
Bar Harbor, Maine
As summer visitors to beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine check into their hotel rooms, eat in restaurants, or rent a bicycle, they are likely to find that the people assisting them are international student workers. Indeed, Bar Harbor employers collectively hire hundreds of foreign workers each year, many of whom come as part of the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program. Not surprisingly, positions in this beautiful resort town are snapped up quickly by those who want to experience the unparalleled natural beauty of Maine.
Bethany Beach, Delaware
The population of Bethany Beach swells during the summer months, when visitors come from near and far to enjoy the wide beaches, the amusements and boardwalk, and the area’s two state parks: Fenwick Island and Holts Landing, the latter of which attracts quite a lot of unique bird life. To help manage the crowds, the town employs a number of international student workers, most of whom hail from Eastern European countries. The student workers pick up jobs in the stores and restaurants, and in exchange, their summer employers make up welcome baskets with groceries and other necessities to start out, plus host them for pizza nights and other activities throughout the summer.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Few North American summer towns are as famous — or as popular — as those which make up Massachusetts’s beautiful Cape Cod. The Cape, along with its islands Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, rely on upwards of 3,000 international student workers to come each summer and fill the much needed jobs in local restaurants and hotels. While most of these visiting workers are students from Eastern Europe, a large number of them are non-student workers coming from the Caribbean. Although Cape Cod has been hit especially hard by the recent decrease in approved summer visas, this beautiful region remains one of the most sought-after destinations for international summer workers.
Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May is just one of many towns along the New Jersey coast to host a large number of international student workers each summer. These student workers fill roles in hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and summer camps, though other opportunities such as medical positions and even research jobs at local universities are also available.
Like so many Florida towns along the Gulf and Panhandle, Destin sees a massive increase in visitors during the summer months. To meet this massive increase in service needs, the town hosts roughly 500 international student workers each year to fill positions in beach-front restaurants, hotels, and even the local grocery stores. During their time in Florida, the students are able to improve their English skills, take part in American culture, and of course, enjoy the beautiful beaches.
More than 1,000 international student workers are employed each summer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a mountain resort town and a favorite getaway for Americans from all over the South and beyond. A number of foreign exchange agencies place international student workers in jobs in Gatlinburg. Positions range from the usual restaurant and hotel staff, to working at the area’s many unique attractions, such as the 407-foot Space Needle or the amusement park Ober Gatlinburg.
Hamptons, New York
Synonymous with celebrity, wealth, and luxury, the Hamptons are — not surprisingly — a top choice for international student workers who are part of the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program. Though the location offers plenty of perks for summer time help, it does come with its fair share of challenges, including the cost of housing. Still, many international student workers working in the Hamptons come back several years in a row because of the many opportunities one has for immersion into the luxurious side of American culture.
Though a Hershey candy factory got into a bit of trouble in 2011 for fudging up its foreign worker program, the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania remains a popular destination for international student workers. Many foreign workers obtain jobs at the Hershey amusement park and other local places in the hospitality industry, then spend whatever remaining time their J-1 visa allows traveling the East Coast and visiting such cities as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Businesses large and small rely on international student workers to come to Jasper, Alberta each summer. The foreign help is necessary to help staff the many restaurants, hotels, and shops which are flooded with tourists during the warmer months. While they’re employed there, the student workers can enjoy life in a genuine alpine town, where glacier-fed lakes, lush forests, and winding rivers all provide plenty of opportunity for world-class adventure.
Though there is something to see and do in Kennebunkport at any time of the year, summer is especially popular for both tourists and international student workers. Most visiting workers in Kennebunkport hail from Eastern Europe, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, and they find jobs with the area’s many famed restaurants, hotels, stores, and excursion companies. When they’re not working, the international students can enjoy the town’s main Dock Square, a boating tour, the beaches, or any number of other fun activities in one of North America’s most beautiful settings.
Key Largo, Florida
International students who are craving American beaches, sunshine, and maybe even a few epic thunderstorms will love spending the summer in Key Largo, Florida. As the gateway to the Florida Keys, Key Largo is a haven for tourists during the warm summer months and international student workers fill many of the needed positions in hotels, restaurants, and even with some excursion companies.
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Summer is undoubtedly the busiest time of year for tourism on the Hawaiian island of Maui. To keep up with the demand, hotels, restaurants, and various local attractions take advantage of the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program to fill necessary job postings. Besides the program’s purpose of allowing international student workers to immerse themselves into the English language and American culture, foreign workers have the added perk of spending four months in one of the world’s most beautiful places.
Lake George, New York
The popular vacation destination of Lake George, New York, which is home to two major resorts, relies heavily on its international student workers during the busy summertime. The Chamber of Commerce reports that a ton of job openings become available during the warm summer months, most of which are at the two aforementioned resorts, Sagamore Resort and Great Escape, along with restaurants, other hotels, and retail shops.
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Located in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the small resort town of Lake Louise is a sought-out destination for tourists and international student workers alike. Come summer time, many employers in the area begin recruiting via foreign exchange companies for positions at local resorts, large hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops of all kinds. Lake Louise is well-known and loved for its postcard card-perfect turquoise lake, myriad hiking trails, and canoe trips.
Lake Tahoe, California
With its stunning titular lake, charming small towns, and lots of summer visitors, the region collectively known as Lake Tahoe is always a popular destination for international student workers. On the Nevada side of the lake, most jobs have to do with the many resorts and casinos, while the California side offers positions in quaint restaurants, camp grounds, B&Bs, and shops. Students participating in summer work in Lake Tahoe are sure to experience a season of stunning nature, lots of hiking and cycling opportunities, and hours of pristine beach time.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
When it comes to the experiences international student workers have in America, Mackinac Island offers something completely different than the average summer getaway. With no cars allowed on the island, and bicycle and horse-drawn carriage the only mode of transportation over the charming cobblestone streets, Mackinac Island is a place frozen in time. Seasonal foreign workers will find themselves residing on the island for the whole summer, working in such places as charming B&Bs, the iconic Grand Hotel, or in fudge shops, gift shops, and other specialty stores that line the main drag.
Montauk, New York
Head to getaway favorite Montauk, New York during the summer, and you’ll likely find upwards of 1,000 seasonal foreign workers, many of whom are international student workers from Ireland. Because the population of Montauk jumps from 3,200 in winter to about 20,000 in the warmer months, these international workers are vital for filling jobs in bars, restaurants, hotels, gift shops, and even on the ferry.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, it takes nearly 4,000 international student workers to fill the summer jobs brought about by tourist season. These jobs, which are mainly located along the Grand Strand, are in hotels, restaurants, shops, and amusement parks, but might also include positions as lifeguards and housekeepers. When they’re not working, students located here have the added benefit of living in close proximity to a world-class beach.
Ocean City, Maryland
Thousands flock to Ocean City, Maryland each summer to enjoy the beach and boardwalk, including hundreds of foreign workers from around the globe. Many of the student workers work with a local summer exchange program, and fill vacancies in hotels, restaurants, and the local amusement parks.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
More than 1,500 international student workers from more than 25 countries descend upon the Outer Banks every summer to help the popular vacation towns deal with the steady stream of tourists. Students from Eastern European countries, the Philippines, Thailand, and other places pick up work in retail shops, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and just about anywhere else that sees an influx of tourists. In exchange, some employers offer their international student workers such benefits as free home cooked meals once a week and organized trips to fun sites around the region.
Park City, Utah
A world-class resort town all year round, Park City, Utah is the perfect summer destination for international student workers. Besides the usual jobs to fill in local hotels and restaurants, many positions filled each season by foreign workers have to do with hiking, camping, and other adventure sports that draw so many tourists to Park City in the first place.
With only 128 permanent residents, tiny Put-in-Bay is one summer town that wouldn’t be without the hundreds of international student workers who come each season. Located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, Put-in-Bay is a favorite summer getaway for many Midwesterners, all of whom love all that the three-mile long resort town has to offer. Jobs for student workers can usually be found at the hotels, restaurants, and at the marina.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware — along with nearby destinations Dewey Beach and Lewes — is an extremely popular summer vacation destination for families. To help manage the massive increase in population, Rehoboth Beach and its surrounding area hire up to 1,200 international student workers for jobs in the amusement parks, restaurants, and hotels. In order to welcome their foreign workers and set them up for success, Rehoboth Beach has a website specifically for summer workers, which includes information on the organized orientation, housing, free dinner services, and more.
Santa Cruz, California
Between its beaches and its world-class boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California is one of the go-to summer destinations for residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Thousands of people descend upon the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk each day to enjoy the amusements, carnival rides, restaurants, and more. The town employs nearly 100 international student workers each summer, and their days can include anything from selling ride tickets to serving hamburgers on the beach. Santa Cruz gives international workers an especially unique opportunity to mingle with Americans, as nearly 700 other summer jobs go to local Bay Area college kids.
Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
As the capital of British Columbia, the city of Victoria sees more than its fair share of summer tourists. As such, the city’s many hotels and resorts, restaurants, and local attractions join other Canadian summer destinations in the employment of hundreds of international student workers. As they are earning money to take back home, practicing their English language skills, and immersing themselves into Canadian culture, foreign workers in Victoria are able to enjoy all that this outdoors-loving city has to offer.
Waianae, Oahu, Hawaii
According to the United States Department of State, which issues the necessary J-1 visa that an international student worker must have, Waianae on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is one of the American towns in need of the most workers come summertime. As tourists come from far and wide to enjoy the tropical weather and picture-perfect beaches, international workers are needed to fill jobs in hotels and restaurants. During their time in Hawaii, student workers can spend their free time enjoying the many beaches and state parks, and taking part in such pastimes as world-class snorkeling, hiking, and surfing, to name but a few things.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Most people may associate Whistler with winter activities, but this small resort town in British Columbia comes alive during the summer as well. Though its full-time population is only around 9,800, Whistler welcomes about two million visitors annually. This massive increase makes Whistler one of North America’s go-to places for summer foreign workers, who find jobs in area restaurants, stores, and hotels. In return, the town offers support for its foreign staff in the form of affordable housing programs and various community services.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Located in southern Wisconsin, the town of Wisconsin Dells is home to three popular water parks and a state park beloved for its lake, nature trails, camping, and unique sandstone formations (pictured). Nearly 10,000 seasonal workers come to Wisconsin Dells each summer, 4,000 to 5,000 of whom are international student workers. Local sponsors assist the visiting workers with things like housing and transportation, while local employers, churches, and other organizations work together to make sure the temporary citizens feel welcome and any work-related issues are being addressed.