My fellow international gauchos, I write today to share with you my experiences as an international student who has had to observe, learn and adapt in order to make the most out of this unique college experience. Born and raised in Paris, France, amongst cheese and croissants, I was only briefly introduced to American college culture through movies like Old School and American Pie. So, once I finally had the opportunity to come to school at UCSB, I was eager to see how accurate these extreme depictions were. Let me tell you that there are places in Isla Vista, if you search long and hard enough, where you will find characters the likes of Steve Stifler, Frank the Tank, and Stewie. Isla Vista can be like a group of Sirens, if you are not careful, it will seduce and lure you and leave you shipwrecked.
My goal is to write about the resources at UCSB that are available for international students and how they have helped me make the most out of my college experience here in the states. When I began my college career, I was only focused on the social and academic aspect of UCSB. I was content in going to class, and then going out into Isla Vista to party during the weekend. It wasn’t until late into my freshman year that I stumbled onto my first internship experience and realized how much more I could learn during my time here.
Fairly quickly I was made aware of my inadequacies as a potential hire. I lacked the communication skills and approach that many of my college peers had, simply because I had never been exposed to how professional life worked in the States. Even though I possessed the same intellect and ability as my peers, I couldn’t demonstrate it when it mattered to interviewers. This was a crucial turning point in my college career, because as an international student, there are certain skills and values that are unique to you. If you are unable to communicate these to an employer you will never be able to make the jump from academia to the professional world here in the U.S.
I found the help I needed at the Career Center where I honed my interview skills and learned how to conduct myself in a professional setting with other professionals that were constantly evaluating you. Not to imply that I had no concept of what was socially normal but little things that were lost in translation. The Career Center has advisors that can point you in the right direction and help you with many issues you may encounter coming from another country and culture. I knew a friend, Dusky, who could not begin to appreciate these resources because he still was having trouble getting past the culture shock. This should not be an obstacle that you have to face alone and there are people to talk to and resources to take advantage of that will speed up your ability to blend in with the culture. I was able to read about the dynamics of the American workplace and build my confidence to adapt to this culture. As far as moving past your obstacles when coming to a new country, you are your own worst enemy. It is crucial to put yourself out there and once again the resources at the Career Center helped me do just that.
Fast forward three years and I am now in my senior year, and this wonderful college experience is coming to a close. I have completed two internships, held an on-campus job and am now in the middle of my third internship at a very exciting start-up called FindTheBest, as an International Business Developer. Thanks to the resources at UCSB I have developed great working habits that have given me the confidence to not call UCSB the end of my experience in the States, but just the beginning. I plan to keep working here post-graduation, and have already began using the resources to gather information about employers that look to hire international graduates. A great one that I use and would like to share the link with you is: “H1-B Visas”, this resource allows international students to easily view and compare large amounts of reliable data about companies that recruit internationals.
I hope to have been able to convey to you that studying here as an international student, is an extremely rewarding experience. This experience is truly yours to take by the horns and shape as you wish. If you are interested in becoming active outside of school professionally, then it is entirely possible, and an extremely rewarding experience. All you have to do is ask.
Nelson Rony is a 4th year International Student from Paris, France. Graduating in June 2014 with an Economics Major, he currently works in International Business Development at FindTheBest, a tech start-up located in Montecito, CA and plans to keep working in the U.S post-graduation.