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Glow in the dark stars twinkling inside his childhood bedroom and science fiction books in his lap, Shayan Shirshekar grew up like most kids fascinated by space. When he was old enough to say what he wanted to be when he was older, his answer was always immediate: An astronaut.
Like many with such aspirations, Shirshekar dreamed of a future working at NASA or a private U.S. space company. It was the gold standard, he thought, something to strive for.
Snag - Shirshekar - Side - Lake - Ontario
There was one snag, though: Shirshekar grew up at what for him was the unlucky side of Lake Ontario, in Toronto, an hour drive from the U.S. border. That's about the same distance as downtown Orlando from Kennedy Space Center.
But that distance is important when it comes to the stringent U.S. regulations that govern the space industry. It's the roadblock in front of Shirshekar and other international students who come to the country to study space, only to find that they'll be hard-pressed to secure jobs when they graduate.
Year - Half - Graduation - Grades - Job
A year and a half from graduation, despite good grades and a job at the Aldrin Space Institute, run by second-man-on-the-moon Buzz Aldrin's son Andy Aldrin, Shirshekar has no job prospects.
"I was trying to follow my passion and look where that's led me," said Shirshekar, 30. "My parents ask me time and time again, 'When are you going to get a job?' It's that unfortunate pressure where you have dedicated all this time and I've traveled around the states in hopes of building something and no opportunity has arisen."
International - Traffic - Arms - Regulation - ITAR
Since the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) was enacted in 1976, classifying spacecraft and rockets as military technology, international students have been hamstrung from getting jobs in the field. Only "U.S. persons," or in other words, citizens or permanent residents, can work for NASA or...
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