An Unforgettable Experience

The period that I can describe as the absolute best time of my life and which I still benefit from is my college experience. Studying abroad in the United States is something I would always do again if I had the chance. It changed my whole perspective of life and gave me friends that I am still in touch with, although we haven’t seen each other for over four years. Every day I try to convince my childhood friends to experience what I did. I hope that what I am typing right now will encourage other people not to hesitate and get a new life-changing experience.

I studied abroad in the USA two times. It all started in mid-2015. I graduated from University in Amsterdam in Holland, at the age of 21. My English was okay. I could speak but didn’t have the confidence to make it sound natural, which I wanted to change. In combination with seeing the TV show ‘Blue Mountain State,’ I just knew that my next destination would be the United States of America.

As a 21-year-old who had always lived with his parents, I was a bit nervous. That’s normal when you are about to face a completely new experience. I planned to go to Santa Barbara, California, and do a language course on the School Kaplan, a language school attached to Santa Barbara City College. I didn’t know anyone who was attending that course at the time. The only information I had was from a friend who told me about her experience. She had a similar story as what I will explain right now, which took away all my doubts.

I booked a room at an apartment complex that is called La Brezza. La Brezza is a place filled with students from all over the world. A place where your neighbors become your friends and where it is impossible to be bored. 75% of the people who live there do the same as you: arriving alone in an unknown place to study abroad. You will never be alone, and that’s why I would recommend accommodation like that one.

The moment I was probably with the most nervous was the moment I arrived at my apartment. It is common to share your apartment with other students, which was an entirely new experience. I arrived at my place and met my first housemate, a Japanese guy who didn’t speak that much English but was always incredibly kind to me, which made me feel welcomed. Later that day, my other roommate arrived with 5 or 6 of his friends. All different nationalities, ages, and levels of English. They all had one thing in common: they were all studying abroad by themselves.

It made me overstep a significant boundary I had. I met people from all over the world. We visited places and partied together as if we had been friends for years. And after a while, I started realizing the world is way more extensive than the world I was used to. I had been on many holidays, but I had never experienced so many other cultures interacting like this before. 

In general, I think that Dutch people are quite secretive and a bit unopen to new people. Living in the States makes every person more open, which makes it easier to meet people. The whole world is interested in where you are from and is open to telling you the ins and outs of their culture. 

I stayed for three months in total, and my overall experience was terrific. The moment I went home, I felt much smarter and had a completely different way of life. I had got to know a ton of different cultures and learned a lot of things. I knew I wasn’t done with those kinds of experiences and would like to travel more. And since my first time studying abroad was perfect, I decided to go to the same place again: Santa Barbara, California.

After significantly improving my English in my first period in the USA, it would be better to take it to the next level. I wanted to improve my English, but I wanted to choose something that would benefit me even more in the future. I decided to go to Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) to do an International Business major. After completing the application without any problems, I booked my flight. I decided to choose to live in La Brezza again because I knew I would meet people quickly.

This experience was different. It was more serious. I went to a real school with real classes I had to attend. I had homework and even finals that I had to study for. This period of my life is by far the best one. Experiencing the American College Life is something Europeans commonly only see in movies. In my group of friends in Amsterdam, I am the only one lucky enough to say I have lived those movies.

Although I met many people the first time I was there, I met my best friends during this time. My best friends were my neighbors, who surrounded me every day. We partied, traveled, did a lot of fun, and learned a lot about each other’s cultures. As I said, this is still the best period of my life, and that is because of the people I’ve met.

Besides the fun stuff, I learned a lot more at that time. I was surrounded by Americans what made me improve my English a lot. I started my Spanish lessons and got to know Latinx people with who I am still in contact. I never stopped learning Spanish, and now I am fluent. Which I would never be if I wouldn’t have met those people from Latin America. 

Besides that, I took International Business classes, something I benefit from because now I am starting an online company that will operate worldwide. The curriculum showed me the ins and outs of all the processes and situations I can apply to my business. 

But the thing that benefits me the most in this new chapter is the number of friends I have worldwide. I made friends that I talk to more than some friends I know since my childhood. They are always willing to help me what makes me able to reach a lot more people. It taught me perfect English and made me start speaking Spanish. All the skills that I improved or received while studying abroad give me a much stronger position in the world.

The only negative part about studying abroad is the fact you have to leave at one point. Saying goodbye to my best friends wasn’t easy, and that never will be easy. But what I also learned is that the world is way smaller than it looks. I have met many of the people I met in the States in places all over the world. You will have tons of sites to stay at when you decide to travel to a particular country. The price you pay for studying abroad will eventually be worth it.

The online company that I started at and @myvideobuddy will launch soon, and I know that if I hadn’t studied abroad, it would never be as good as it is now. As I said, I would recommend every single person to do the same as I did. It still benefits me in many ways, and I am thankful for that.

by Kelvin Tan

My Experience as an International Student Athlete

If you go to the U.S. to get a degree, then this might not be for you.
But if you go to the U.S. with an open mind, the attitude to experience something different, and not being afraid of taking a leap of faith, then you just might get a degree along the way.

When I first moved to the U.S. I was 19 years old and had lived comfortably with my parents my whole life. When I left the U.S. I was 25 years old, in the U.S. for five years, in two different states, in three cities with 18 (!) other people from 7 different countries. Too much has happened in those five years, but let me explain how it all started.

I decided to try my luck at Long Island University Post because I got offered a generous athletic scholarship, and the school offered a degree that I thought sounded interesting. It was in the proximity of New York City. I had been promised a room available in one of the so-called “soccer-houses” outside of campus, located within walking distance from the University. Imagine my surprise when land in N.Y. for the first, take the train to campus (because the guy who was supposed to pick me up decided not to show up), meet my future teammates, and start laughing when I asked them which room was mine. It turns out that they all fell for the same “sales pitch,” and we were now six recruits that had two weeks to find a house while we lived on campus during the preseason. We were six international students looking for a place in cities that we never heard of before, in a country we had not been to before. Still, we managed to find a house in a town called Hicksville.

How would I describe Hicksville? It’s a very average city (to be gentle), in the ugly part of Long Island, where the main attraction and gathering point is the mall. It had this colossal cinema with massive inclinable chairs, too many fast food places, and the same stores.

If someone had told me before leaving Sweden that I would live in Hicksville, also known as “Little India,” for three years, I would have slapped that person in the face and ripped my ticket in half. Anyhow, these three years turned out to be the most formative years of my life. It allowed me to mold from scratch and add elements to my persona that I never thought I wanted or needed. It was scary and amazing and everything in between, but you never know what it will lead to if you never take a leap of faith.

I have since been lucky enough to get a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Long Island University Post, received a Master’s degree at Seton Hall University, lived on Manhattan, had a long-distance relationship, was elected All American, and celebrated New Years in New York City. I have attended multiple official meetings at the U.N. Headquarters, had my heart broken, and made friends worldwide. I have had 18 stitches in the face, played soccer throughout the country, named scholar-athlete of the year at Seton Hall University, and tried out for New York Red Bulls. I celebrated the 4th of July in the U.S., got asked if there are polar bears on the streets of Sweden multiple times, and watched Super Bowl with excessive amounts of beer and food. And much, much more.

That’s just the life of a college student in the U.S., some good memories and some bad memories. But memories that will last you a lifetime, nevertheless.

by David Gutierrez Arvidsson

DARE to be rejection proof

Think of a time you felt rejected. How did you feel? Rejection is something we all go through in one form or another – from that special person walking out of your life to being told you are not good enough to being passed up for a promotion. I have had my fair share of rejection experiences – from people clutching their purses tightly when I entered an elevator to people scrambling to lock their car doors in a parking lot to several rejection emails during my career transition journey. Let’s face it. Rejection sucks (pardon my French), and it is painful.

Rejection touches the core of the five basic human needs – Security, Safety, Connection, Esteem, and Growth. It is human to go to a self-preservation mode when you feel rejected. You build walls to protect yourself. The danger about staying behind these walls is that it can become a prison that locks you out from the rest of the world.

The fear of rejection has crippled many people and sent many dreams to the grave. Les Brown, a motivational guru, shares some great insight on this, “The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.” 

In the end, you have to decide which is worse – staying in your comfort zone and living below your potential vs. the pain of regret for not trying to be all you can be. There is another option. You can jump back into the ring and let the past guide, but not control you. Below are a few tips to get you going again:

#1 Accept it – It is natural to feel a range of emotions during a rejection experience from disbelief to anger to shock. Acknowledge what happened and accept that it was painful. Take responsibility for your part without condemning yourself or the other person involved. If possible, get a support system to help you go through this phase.

#2 Don’t take rejection personally – The truth is you are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea no matter what you do, and that’s okay. Don’t waste your time trying to fit in or seek people’s approval to be yourself. You are treasure, not trash. Celebrate your originality and accept your individuality. There are people/places out there that will roll the red carpet for you. Your goal should be to find the people and places that appreciate the value you bring to the table.

In life, when you encounter mean and hurtful people, treat them like sandpaper. No matter how rough they may scrub you, you end up polished and smooth” … Nishan Panwar

 #3 Don’t quit – Remember, rejection is someone’s opinion. You don’t have to allow it to become your facts. JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” manuscript was rejected 13 times before a publisher took a chance on her. In fact, she pinned it to her wall as fuel to keep her going. She didn’t allow the opinions of 13 publishers to become her facts. Rowling has since become the UK’s best-selling living author, her books have brought in more than $25 billion and sold more copies than any other book series. Are you scared of facing rejection? How many times have you been rejected? You may change your strategy, but quitting is not an option.

 “Take “No” as a comma, not a period.”

#4 Perspective matters – An experience that helped me overcome my fear of rejection was a sales job I had over summer during my college years. It involved me knocking on doors to book appointments for sales reps to market windows to prospective buyers.At times, people looked through the window and didn’t bother opening the door. Some looked frightened. I read a sales bookthat suggested that I had to knock on ten doors to get one sale. This changed my perspective, and it became a numbers game. I went from focusing on my insecurities to improving my technique on each subsequent knock. I have applied this principle to many areas of life, and it has paid off.

#5 Get some rejection experience –Experience is a good teacher. Jia Jiang, the author of Rejection Proof, realized that his fear of rejection was crippling him from pursuing his dreams. He decided to do something about it. He conditioned himself to better handle rejection by embarking on a 100-days of rejection therapy. Below are some of the requests he made to strangers with the intention of being rejected:

1. Borrow $100 from a stranger 2. Make an announcement on a Southwest flight 3. Trim My Hair at PetSmart  4. Buy Fresh Fruit at Jamba Juice 5. Ask strangers to rate my look

To Jia’s surprise, many people said yes to his requests. It is amazing what you can achieve when you do not let your doubts get in the way of your dreams. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.” Like Jia, what experiences are you going to pursue to help you overcome your fear of rejection?

#6 A blessing in disguise – Remember the saying, “Every disappointment is a blessing in disguise?” I applied for a role and believed I was going to get it because the interview process went really well. It was painful that I didn’t get it. Well, I heard 3-months later that the group was disbanded. It is easier connecting the dots when you look backward. If you have done your part, and it still doesn’t work out, then trust it wasn’t meant to be for a good reason.

#7 Just do it – Your desire and passion for achieving your dreams must be greater than your fear of rejection or failure. You have got only one life and you are going to make it count. This is the rejection proof mindset. Put yourself out there knowing that sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn. Yes, people may laugh at you, ignore you, and even attack you. Take this as proof that you are on to something. Escape the gravitational pull of yesterday that wants to pull you back into your past and lock you up in your comfort zone.

“In the cemetery, there is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential. There is a treasure within you that must come out. Do not go to the grave with your treasure still within you”…Myles Munroe

We all face rejection in some form or another. Rejection itself is not the issue, but how we respond to it. What are you afraid to do? Get up and get back in. I dare you to do it afraid; dare to be rejection proof!

How do you handle rejection? Share your tip. It may help someone out there.

#Leadership #Courage #Rejectionproof #Business #Growth #Mindset

By Dr. Richard Osibanjo

Developing Leadership Skills as An International Student

After 3 years of hard work, out of which 1 year was spent just to convince my family to let me do this, I could come to the US for my undergraduate studies.

I grew up in a city called Nashik in India. Growing up, I had no idea about the concept of study abroad. I did not know that a student like myself can pursue undergraduate education in the United States. When I started high school, I researched a little bit about colleges and came across this opportunity – study abroad in the United States. As I read more and more about it, I became more interested, and then one night, I took the decision – I want to complete my higher education abroad, in this magical place, called the United States of America.

After convincing my family to let me do this, I persevered, completed my entrance tests, applied, and received admission offers from various universities. One university, in particular, caught my attention – Kansas State University. As I read about the university, its culture, and the welcoming atmosphere for international students at K-State, I became more and more interested. After a brief meeting with the recruiter from K-State in Mumbai, I chose to attend Kansas State University.

One of the most important reasons I chose to study in the US was the liberty that students have on campuses in the US to get involved. I knew that US universities have numerous clubs and organizations that students can get involved with during their time on-campus. Getting involved on campus helps build crucial skills such as leadership skills, management skills, organizational skills, and communication skills. Being involved in clubs on campus allows students to meet different students on campus, thus building intercultural communication skills and improving cultural competency.

When I finalized my plan to attend college in the United States, I made a decision. I decided that I will get involved in numerous organizations on campus no matter what and make a long-lasting impact at my university. When I arrived at K-State, I did just that. In my three years at K-State, I got involved in around half a dozen different organizations and held over a dozen different executive positions in these organizations.

K-State Alumni Center

One of my most significant achievements has been coming to K-State and getting involved with the student government. Being able to represent international students’ voices firmly in front of the university administration and experiencing the life of serving the public was like a dream come true moment for me. That one experience in student government taught me more about servant leadership than anything else in my life. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I received from getting involved in the student government.

Currently, along with my classes, I am involved on campus as the International Affairs Director in student government, President of SPICMACAY KSU, Director of PR and Outreach for K-State Blue Key Honors Society, Student Member of the K-State Student Alumni Board and the Union Governing Board, and I am also a columnist for my university’s newspaper – the Kansas State Collegian.

My involvement on campus introduced me to numerous aspects of leadership and made me a better person. My communication skills improved drastically, and I became more and more aware of the people around me. I learned extensively about diversity, equity, and inclusion, which made me an outspoken activist for promoting unity in diversity on my university’s campus. My cultural competency and intercultural communication skills are improving, and I hope to be better at them throughout my lifetime. I learned how to think altruistically for everyone around me and serve people selflessly.

All my involvement on my university campus also helped me find an internship, and the skills I learned benefited me greatly at work. Being able to communicate with people from different backgrounds effectively was a plus at my workplace. The organizational and management skills I learned from my various involvements helped me work as an analyst. Being able to listen more, speak less in meetings, and taking all viewpoints into consideration truly helped me in my professional working environment, especially during my team meetings.

I was able to present myself and my projects better and make some great connections at my workplace.

Overall, getting heavily involved at my university was the most beneficial and satisfying experience. The amount of real-life skills I learned outside the classroom has made me more knowledgeable. My campus involvement opened my mind to new possibilities and made me a more inclusive individual.

My tip for all international students would be – seize every opportunity that you get! Get involved, give public speeches, participate in different events. The more you get involved, the more people you will meet, and the more you will learn. We have the opportunity to demonstrate our leadership skills and build upon them and become the leaders of the future. So seize this opportunity as you go! Get involved in everything you have dreamed of doing! Take that first step and work your way up. It is truly a once in a lifetime amazing experience.

To quote Barbara Bush, “Believe in something bigger than yourself… get involved in the big ideas of your time.”

By Vedant D Kulkarni

Why Studying Abroad is Always Worth It

Why bother? It’s a question I am often asked by friends and acquaintances about studying abroad. It is true that it can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive to embark on an academic journey far away from home, but every single person I have met who has taken the leap into the unknown abyss of studying abroad has found it to be one of the single best decisions he or she has ever made. There are three main reasons why I personally think it is worth going through the often rigorous application process and spending a significant amount of money for a study abroad stay.

The first reason is that Studying abroad will fundamentally change your outlook on the world. Although it sounds like a cliché, being exposed to a different culture in a host country together with people from all over the world will undoubtedly influence how you interact with people who from the offset appear different. Coming from a very homogenous country, studying abroad enlightened me that I could bond with people very different from me. The experiences also made me appreciate positive sides of the Danish welfare model I had not previously consciously thought of and it made me aware of cultural aspects of the Danish society I had also taken for granted. In essence, my study abroad trips have both enlightened me on foreign cultures and at the same time they have made more aware and appreciative of my own culture.

UC Berkeley campus

The second reason is that you will make friends for life. When studying abroad you will meet people who are all in the same boat as you, which makes it easy to bond. Back home it can be quite difficult to make new friends, but when you go abroad you most likely do not know anyone, which forces you to engage with other people. I have met some of my very best friends abroad and some of my best memories come from these trips.

Friends I made in college
Me among some friends I made in college

The third and final reason is that your appeal to employers will increase. Going abroad is an instant boost to your career! Apart from obtaining knowledge through courses, you also demonstrate independence and curiosity. Choosing to stray from the well-trodden path will automatically make you stand out to future employers. Furthermore, you will learn a lot about working in different cultural settings, which is valuable in international corporations, where cultural clashes are inevitable.

In summary I cannot recommend going abroad enough! It does not matter if it is for summer school, an exchange semester or a whole degree – just do it! Reach out to people who have done it previously, as they are often eager to help you out.

by Andreas Elkjaer

My Experience as an International Student in the US

For the fourth consecutive year, the number of international students enrolled in US colleges has declined.

While the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies have withheld, and continue to withhold many student visas, economic factors—including the rising cost of tuition, housing, and travel—have made studies in the US increasingly unaffordable for international students. Moreover, academic and/or professional endeavors remain difficult for international students post-graduation, as many face challenges in securing an internship or job, often due to their “legal” status. 

Roy Ricaldi, University of Kansas

My name is Roy Ricaldi and I am an international student from Lima, Peru. This year, I will be a senior at the University of Kansas, majoring in Data Analytics and Management. As a University Honors student, I very much value my presence and involvement on KU’s campus, as well as my academic progress and achievement. So far, my experience has been quite a ride, complete with ups, downs, and infinite personal growth and intellectual development. When I am not in class or at the library, I devote most of my time to my research or my independent projects. I am very fortunate to have a job on campus related to my major, where I continue to gain valuable experience and skills. However, despite my academic and professional efforts, commitments, and achievements, I have yet to be seriously considered a candidate by recruiters.

Unfortunately, I find networking at career fairs to be especially anxiety-provoking, for a great, stimulating, and constructive conversation with a recruiter can quickly deteriorate the moment I disclose that I am not a US citizen. Too often, companies refuse to sponsor international students, fearing their sponsorship will cost them more money, or that the international student will return home. Sometimes, a company will deny an international student recruitment simply because they do not entirely understand how the sponsorship process works. In my experience, only one out of every thirty recruiters would continue the conversation after they knew I was an international student, and none would encourage me to apply. In fact, most would tell me not to, at all. Of course, this negatively affected my confidence and motivation, and for a long time, I was frustrated. That is until I realized it was not my fault. I am skilled, enthusiastic, and qualified—it was my “legal” status that kept recruiters from giving me a chance.

Here is why companies should think twice before ruling out international students:

We, as international students, have an enhanced ability to work on a team: 

We are excellent in respecting and working effectively in organizations with habits and values different from our own, and we can thrive in different cultural settings. In college, we build relationships with our classmates while being the outsiders; we learn to use the apps and technology domestic students use to communicate; we follow the different work ethic they have to complete projects; we lead associations.

Group of students at University of Kansas

The interpersonal skills we develop from meeting new people:

From the moment we arrive, we have an open personality and tact. We are forced to, given that we do not know anyone going into college, and are often far from our family and friends. The ability to remain comfortable while meeting new people in a new country and under any circumstance, remains. Additionally, many of us coexist with roommates with very different customs, norms, and ideas of what it means to be polite and respectful.

Our flexibility and adaptability are unmatched:

We face change by applying familiar concepts to new situations, as we have done it at least a hundred times while studying in the US. We have evaluated and incorporated traditions and customs from our host country to our own lives, and we will continue to do so at work. We have achieved high academic standards in subjects and content taught in another language, through a different system, becoming more tolerant and resilient along the way.

Not having a support system reinforces our organizational and strategic planning skills:

We are often assigned mandatory classes to improve our English skills, which inevitably contributes to a heavier and more intensive course load than the average student. Personally, I have never once taken fewer than 18 credit hours a semester. The extra work teaches us to manage our time, for time is money. We learned to prioritize expenses and plan our weeks around tight budgets. Money is not acquired as easily in a lot of countries outside the US, and wiring it is not always available. Yet, we somehow manage to make it work.

Cooperation in education

We are risk-takers and have a strong initiative:

We flew thousands of miles away from home to a foreign country and stayed. In a different culture, everything is new and the new is often scary. Every international student has had the willingness of daring to do things for the first time, ponder those decisions, measure their consequences, and carry them out. And that is the difference between a leader and a follower.

Last but not least, we have developed outstanding creativity and conflict resolution skills:

Living far from home does not always bring positive experiences. Ultimately, it is not about who faced the greatest amount of hardships, but who solved them when they arrived. Since we have no option but to deal with the variety of problems that come up, we use it as a learning experience.

All international students have experienced discrimination of some sort, because of our culture, race, or national heritage. It is disappointing that we continue to be discriminated against in the hiring and talent acquisition process. I urge companies and their recruiters to reflect on the way they treat international students. A conclusion that can be drawn is that, it is outdated organizations and policies, systemically rooted in racism and xenophobia, that largely contributed to the decline of international student enrollment in the US.

By Roy Ricaldi

Hard Work Pays Off

Growing up in Australia the only connection I ever had to the U.S college life was through movies and stories of people who were fortunate to travel there and get a great education. I never in a million years thought as an 18-year old I would be fortunate enough to live my dream and move to America so that I could pursue my education and live out what I considered my “American Dream.”

I had been fortunate enough to receive an opportunity to go to Cypress College in Orange County and pursue my education at the local community college level, and without any hesitation, I took that opportunity and left for the states. I was 19 years old and had no friends in Orange County but I believed that if I worked hard I would get into my dream school. After two years of studying and working hard at the community college level, I applied for UCLA, Berkeley, UCSB, and many other top universities. To my surprise I got into every university I applied to, my hard work paid off and this motivated me more than anything. 

I decided to attend UCLA as I wanted to enter the entertainment industry. Within my first year, I was accepted into the UCLA Law Fellows program where I was taught by the best law professors in the country. Shortly after Law Fellows, I did the UCLA Bruin Development Academy for Media and Entertainment where I was mentored by the entertainment industry’s most respected individuals. Throughout my time at UCLA I was able to build a network of friends who would help me adjust to the American way of life. I know that I worked hard to get into community college and even harder to get into UCLA but it all paid-off at the end and now I am ready to graduate in December 2020 with a double bachelor’s degree in Sociology and African American Studies and minor in Music Industry. 

As an international student I could have never imagined the life I live now but with hard work and determination, I was able to put myself in a position to receive the best opportunities that this country has to offer. Now my sister attends The University of Berkeley California and I am helping my friends in Australia apply to some of the top universities in the states. This is the land of opportunity and although I had to work hard, I was rewarded for the commitment.      

By Hawe Yonas

Hawe Yonas, UCLA