Just for Our International Students – Student Perspective

by Wendy Qian, Class of 2022

I quickly adjusted my new suit, it didn’t fit me but it was the only size in stock. It was my first suit, I bought it only because I had my first business presentation the week before.

I stood in front of a crowded hall filled with students who seemed to have endless energy. I finally plucked up the courage to approach an employer with a smile and said, “Hello, I’m a freshman here to experience the career fair. What does your company do?”

Let me back up a little bit. First of all, that question is not good in career fairs. If you decide to attend, you should have done due diligence on companies you wish to connect with. However, it was my fourth week of college, and I had no business-related experience ever.

I panicked a lot when I first got to Kelley. Everyone seems so smart, talkative, friendly, and competitive. I did not wish to be left behind but as an international student with no business background, I didn’t know where to start.

As an extrovert, I did what I do the best – find occasions to talk with people. I attended numerous events like firm presentations, career fairs, student organization call-outs, and workshops. Looking back, I understood nothing about professionalism, but no one rejected me when I wish to borrow a couple of minutes to talk with them.

A major step in my search for a career that fits my passion started with Undergraduate Career Services. I went to my first coaching appointment and asked almost a million questions: “Should I get a CPA or a CFA?”, “Does my major matter for my future career?”, “What are CPT and OPT?”, “Can I work on Campus?”, “Do international students have opportunities in the US?”, etc. I felt bad for my coach to handle such an erupting volcano, but I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!! My coach calmed me with a smile, “Don’t worry, it is very common to have those questions, let’s approach them one by one.”

Luckily I was able to figure out the best answers for myself through a couple more professional coaching and peer coaching appointments. Using the information I had, I joined Finance Diversity Program, where I met mentors and best friends who attracted me to Investment Banking Workshop. These experiences led me to a full-time job in finance.

I suddenly realize where my passion for business came from. I love building relationships with people and let these relationships gravitate me to a field that I fit. Of course, there were doubts and concerns on the road – language barrier, cultural difference, H1B sponsorship, and difficult networking calls, but my peers and my coach were always there for me. After I accumulated professional experiences and insights, I gave back to this community by becoming a UCS peer coach.

I knew it’s especially hard for international students to make their first step into the unknown professional world. Don’t worry, we are here to guide you. If you worry, that’s OK. We will create a space for you to scream. If you fall, it’s OK. We will catch you.

By Irena Otten
Irena Otten Associate Director of International Student Services & Career Coach