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  • Writer's pictureIsabelle Bianca Sampaio

I graduated! And why it's not the end of a challenging journey.

If you're an international student, this text is for you. If you're not, it aims to give you a glimpse into the experiences of international students in the United States. Let's dive in.

A brunette white woman, dressed in a black gown and cap, is seen at a graduation ceremony, holding a diploma cover from the University of Central Florida.

Three months ago, I graduated with a Master's in Management - Integrated Business from the University of Central Florida. It was truly a dream come true! I recall my days as a tourist in Orlando, daydreaming about the possibility of living here. In 2014, I decided to step off the beaten tourist path and explore the UCF campus. It marked my first step into an American university. Wandering through the streets accessible from Alafaya Boulevard, I explored Gemini Boulevard, captivated by students bustling around. I witnessed various buildings, the Arena, Memory Mall, and Barnes & Noble, and returned to Alafaya. The feeling of "maybe one day" remains etched in my memory. As a true Sagittarius, dreaming is inherent, and so is turning those dreams into reality!

Fast forward to 2022, almost 8 years after that initial visit, I returned to UCF, this time as an English student. Four months later, I was admitted as a Master's student! Life is surprising! The master's year was incredibly challenging in every aspect. Perhaps, one day, I'll delve into the external impacts that almost made me give up. The fact is, I graduated with a GPA of 3.6/4, surpassing my performance in my Law degree! I donned that black gown, put on the cap, entered the Addition Arena, heard my name being called, and indeed, received a Master's Diploma. Despite being an optimistic dreamer, I occasionally doubt myself and my ability to achieve anything. This is particularly prevalent for women, especially mothers who have to work twice as hard to have their efforts recognized. But I conquered (once again!) the saboteur within me and finally graduated.

Regardless, as an international student in the United States, I must obtain authorization from American immigration to work legally in the country, which comes through the Optional Practice Training, the famous OPT. I'll delve into that in another piece. Anyway, I applied for my OPT in June, and my authorization came in the second half of September. For someone who invested savings in a master's degree in the USA, I confess that this wait is agonizing! Unfortunately, the anxiety doesn't end when you receive the EAD. Another stage comes — finding a job.

In the past two months, I embarked on a rollercoaster of emotions, applying for positions as a Research Analyst in the legal, finance, accounting, and marketing fields. Despite my transferable skills as a lawyer, meeting job requirements has proven to be a tough task. The responses from my numerous applications? A resounding zero. It's a daunting experience, particularly as I transition careers.

As I continue to study and enhance my resume, I persist in the job search, applying for positions and searching for my place in the sun. My advice for my fellow international students is: graduating is amazing but it's not the end of the process. Indeed, it's the beginning of a challenging and hopefully fruitful journey. Just keep going!

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