When Siyu, a student from China, entered the University of South Carolina (UofSC) in 2016, he was set on majoring in economics. But after signing up for UofSC’s Career Accelerator Program (CAP), a specialized career service for international students enrolled through Shorelight, he took a Focus 2 career interests test and the personal assessment helped him discover that two personal passions—art and filmmaking—might be a better professional track.
Choosing a major meant a change of heart
“I chose media arts as my major just because [it was] the true interest and passion from the deepest place of my heart,” says the Beijing native. “I had a dream of being able to deliver emotion through visual design, including image, music, and video. I finally decided to switch my major, and it really is a huge step for me when I look back.”
Siyu met some of his best friends in the media arts program, his Shorelight cohort, and while studying abroad in Florence and Tokyo.
“I always felt so proud when someone [asked] me which university I was from during my study-abroad experience. These experiences opened my mind, and pushed me [to] bravely speak up and make friends from all over the world by using English,” he says.
“[Studying abroad] was the most unforgettable experience I have ever had,” Siyu says. “Spending time to explore the world and myself is the best way to stay inspired. Although we are all from different countries with different cultural backgrounds, we are still keeping in touch.”
Enhancing his skills, landing the job
Back on campus in Columbia, South Carolina, Siyu credits CAP and his career advisors with helping him land internships at top advertising agencies like BBDO and DDB China, and ultimately, his first job at Baidu, a leading internet search and AI company in China.
“The CAP program is one of the most important reasons why I could get the offer from Baidu,” says Siyu. “I had not even thought about interview speaking, team cooperation, and other professional skills in terms of workplace relevance.”
Siyu also took full advantage of workshops on company research, cover letters, and resume writing.
“I remember the first time when I was making my resume, I was so frustrated to see I mostly [had] nothing to write on it,” he says. “That experience was such a positive pressure for me to enrich it as much as I can, by experiencing more and performing better. Step by step, I was guided not only on the format of my resume, but also what experience I should think about [accomplishing] before a specific date.”
From Beijing to UofSC, and back again
It worked. After setting goals to get an internship in the advertising field and pursue a graduate degree in product design at Chinese University of Hong Kong (and achieving them both), Siyu is now a product manager in Baidu’s user behavior research department in Beijing.
“My responsibility is to look for problems that give the user a negative experience on the Baidu app, and make better design to enhance users’ emotion on their journey. It could be the layout of a result page, the interaction animation, or anything the user experiences on the app,” he says.
Siyu loves the friendly, supportive environment at Baidu, where he is encouraged to take chances and share ideas. “Nobody needs to be over polite or careful when sharing thoughts. My leader tried very hard to make sure I am doing the things that ... make me really enjoy my work every day,” he says.
Advice for international student success
Siyu’s top advice to international students looking to study in the USA or work at a tier-one company like Baidu? Do not be scared of change. Do not be afraid to declare a certain major, or to change your major midway through your studies. Do not fear applying to a top company or graduate school. Fear is a natural feeling—and a sign of the success waiting for you on the other side of the challenge.
“It is never too late to start, but action talks louder than words. Think deeply and then take action, make adjustments on the way without any regret,” he says. “As long as you are thinking clearly at the moment you are making the decision, then there will be no real regret in [the] future—anything you are doing will help you get closer to the goal.”
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