Career Exploration for International Students

We are encouraged to improve our career exploration all the time. We find ourselves needing to look for internships, interview well, create strong resumes, etc. What if you’re trying to do all this when you’re from a different country? What does that look like?

Yonov headshot

Hope College senior Sasha Yonov is an international student, hailing from Nicosia, Cyprus. We asked him to write about his career exploration experience here in the States. Here’s what he had to say:

“International students in general have to jump across many obstacles to experience the same opportunities as all the other students do from the United States. Such obstacles include learning the English language to an advanced degree in order to keep up with the material being taught on a collegiate level. I was fortunate enough to have gone to an English school growing up, therefore, English was not the issue for me. A lot of international students do indeed learn the language to an advanced level however, the hardest thing that any of us has to do, is to leave our own families and learn how to survive on our own. Upon arriving to the United States, many of us, including myself, go through a cultural shock. A cultural shock is a phase, experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, and a set of attitudes where the feeling of disorientation is immense and at times hard to endure, but absolutely doable!

Another obstacle was applying for a Student Visa. It wasn’t as difficult to tackle as the cultural shock. The Visa process was straight forward because being accepted to attend a college, the US embassies receive all the necessary documents for them not to deny your visa application. In some special occasions, they do deny applications, but rarely! What I had to do is gather all of my personal and Hope College documentations, make an appointment with a US representative and “voila”, that obstacle is no more. I received my European passport with my visa, ready to book my flight to Grand Rapids, MI a week later.

As far as the CPT process is concerned, applying for it was not a difficult process either. The difficult part was finding the right internship and the right employer willing to hire an international student. A lot of employers do not hire international students because their internships are designed to see how well that particular intern will perform in order to be given a full time opportunity in the future. The problem is that international students need to be sponsored by the company/employer, which will cost them money to apply for the sponsorship.

I was lucky enough to have found two internships (one of them is a current internship) thus far, that have allowed me to gain experience and develop my skills. Part of that, I believe, had to do with that fact that I have been involved in many different events/activities around Hope over the years, including being part of the basketball team. Being part of the basketball team, even though only for two seasons, has allowed me to meet many extraordinary people that are still a part of my life. These connections have helped me learn more about life and guide me through the process of searching for employment opportunities.

There will always be people to help you, but at the end of the day, it is you as an individual that will have to ask, search, and pursue anything you want to. This does not only apply to international students, but to all students!

My first internship was with Zoro Tools, a subsidiary of Grainger in Chicago. It was a great experience to be challenged outside of the classroom. It made it even better when I was surrounded by amazing people in a great atmosphere. Currently, I am interning at Royal Securities and Investments in Grand Rapids. With Royal, I am responsible for the accurate and detailed documentation of information of clients’ personal information. Royal too has allowed me to mature more as an individual, [and] I am truly gaining more experience in a different industry than my previous internship.

I am not sure what my next chapter of my life will look like, but if I were to give advice to other younger international students, it would be to be involved in the community [as well as] Hope events and activities because at the end of the day, no matter where and what one may be doing, one will always be in an occupation to make the lives of others better. Regardless of the type of employment a person is part of, people and our relationships between each other are what make life so precious. With that being said, I hope one day the work that I will be doing is not only important, but truly makes the lives of others better.”

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