You’re here, you’ve made it.
A cyclone of events (standardized tests, endless form-filling, a scary visit to the US consulate, packing your suitcases, and saying good-bye to your friends & family) lifted you and dropped you off at the gates of Pomona College.
The good news is that you’re not the first one to go through this journey! Looking back at my time at and after Pomona, I hope these two short stories will help you shape your own experience.
Story #1: Role models
In my first semester, I became friends with another international Pomona alum, a few years older than me. We shared interests and a common background. I looked up to him: he was successful, energetic, fun to be around, and just a good person. I don’t think I was fully aware of this, but I was projecting myself onto him, turned him into a role model. As a result, I relied on him heavily in my professional development: from resume edits, to class recommendations, to interview prep. He was a great influence in my life.
What’s scary in this story is that, as far as I can tell, everything happened by accident – I certainly wasn’t consciously looking for a role model. What if I weren’t so lucky?
Be mindful of the role models your brain picks. As an international student, you might be more likely to gravitate towards people that you share something with (eg, language, interests, etc). It’s easier to model individuals that you can project yourself onto, but it is not necessarily the right fit for you if you look deeper. Take stock of people who you spend a lot of time with, and try to see why you’re attracted to them.
Story #2: International^2
I was interviewing and looking for jobs throughout my senior year. Countless interviews yielded no offers. I was picky about location – it had to be either Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York – and competition was high. In one of my interview processes, a company offered a final round in Philadelphia, and when I asked for alternatives, they suggested that I also look at their offices outside of the US.
This was the first time I even thought about looking for work outside of the US. It went counter to all my assumptions about career goals. But with the offer on the table, I decided to give it a chance. I picked their Dubai office, flew in for final rounds, and got the job the same day. It felt amazing!
By the end of my senior year, I had a choice between the Dubai offer and a similar job at a different company based in New York (one of my dream cities!). Somehow, the answer was simple, despite my long-time fixation on building my career in the US. It felt so much more liberating to think that I could go anywhere in the world and be in demand.
Being an international student and then choosing to explore the world even further makes you international^2. Whether it’s a job, an internship, or a study abroad program, you should seriously consider it. You may decide against it, but at least you’ll be making a conscious choice.