Aung at University of the Pacific Gets a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Role

University of the Pacific
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career planning
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By Sakina Taher
Last updated on August 11, 2023

Aung, a University of the Pacific computer science undergraduate from Burma, shares his story about landing a CPT role during his studies.

AungBurmaUniversity of the Pacific

Aung from Burma is a fourth-year computer science student at the University of the Pacific in California. His undergraduate experience has been a combination of in-depth academic learning, getting workforce ready with co-op training, and making friends throughout his journey. 

Read on to learn more about Aung and his experience at the University of the Pacific.

Aung’s Decision to Attend the University of the Pacific

Aung is an enthusiastic and driven student who arrived in the US excited to begin his university studies. 

“I remember coming here [and] meeting new friends — everyone was friendly,” he said. “The University of the Pacific International team prepares the transportation, which is very convenient. At first, I did not know what to do, [but] there was a person already waiting at the airport, raising my sign [with] my name and University of the Pacific [on it].”

Upon arriving on campus, Aung and fellow international students met with a dedicated team of staff to ensure they had their important documents and details in order, then settled into their dorms and student life. 

Initially, Aung was not sure how he would make friends in a foreign country. He soon realized, however, that he had a variety of different opportunities right on campus to meet new people and join a community. With Pacific’s clubs and organizations, students can participate in events such as taco night and movie night, network, and make connections with other students in different degree programs. 

At first, I was a little bit nervous, but also I kept my mind open. I also met very friendly people with the University of the Pacific International team and overall it was a great experience.” — Aung, computer science undergraduate, University of the Pacific

Ranked #56 in Best Value Schools and #87 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs by U.S. News & World Report, the University of the Pacific offers top-quality, affordable, and well-rounded programs in arts, business, and STEM. Pacific also offers students a welcoming environment with access to a variety of guided learning support services.

“Before I came to University of the Pacific, I did not have any computer science background; I was like a blank slate,” Aung said. “When I came here, I met several people who were very helpful with first trying to [help me] integrate into the American learning system, and also the [community] here [is] very friendly.”  

The professors, mentors, and students at the University of the Pacific ensured that Aung had a smooth transition to student life in the US, both socially and academically. Making new connections can be easy — if you put in the effort! 

“You just have to reach out to people and communicate, saying, ‘Hey, this is something I don’t understand, or I’m new to this,’” he said. “Because I utilized these resources, I’m able to fully immerse myself into an environment where I am not really familiar!” 

Studying Computer Science at the University of the Pacific 

“I am a fourth-year computer science student (undergraduate), concentrating in software development,” Aung said. His favorite courses focus on databases, the importance of data organization, and its role to interlink networks and information. 

The University of the Pacific’s computer science program, accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, offers concentrations in graphics and simulation, networking and computer security, and software development. Each pathway is built on a strong foundation of math, science, and engineering subjects.

The University of the Pacific also maintains a student–faculty ratio of 13:1. With small classes, students get lots of face time with instructors, and are expected to ask questions, discuss upcoming industry developments, and collaborate closely with peers. 

“Just reach out to [professors and mentors] and say, ‘Hey, I need help with something, could you please make time,’” he said. “That is how I have been able to grasp materials and score good grades so far.” 

Aung also spoke about how students at Pacific are encouraged to explore their interests and understand their strengths, often combining classes in art, business, classics, and more.

“I took a class in philosophy that was very interesting; [we talked] about the meaning of life,” he said. “Computer science and philosophy, it’s a perfect match! I recommend future students take it.”  

My transition process from my home country to getting successfully on campus and integrating to the American culture and the learning system, I would say [was] a lot smoother than what I expected, and it’s all thanks to the University of the Pacific International team.” — Aung, computer science undergraduate, University of the Pacific

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Work Experience While Studying at Pacific

At the University of the Pacific, both on- and off-campus jobs enable students to get work experience while also gaining valuable insights into US work culture. Working while studying also enables students to start building a professional network before graduation. Pacific’s co-op program spans two semesters and is typically aligned with one’s field of study.

“For my major, there is a co-op program. This is like a practical training program that is not required, but is something you can take to [build] your credits in order to complete your degree,” Aung said. 

Aung’s co-op was a crucial learning experience, as he learned about the industry, the importance of Curricular Practical Training (CPT), and how to achieve it. 

“[There] is the class where they teach you how to write your resume, how to reach out to your potential employers, how to do well in interviews, how you introduce yourself, how you reach out and network,” he said. “So, I took that class and after that, I started sending out my resume to potential employers and I had interviews. Overall, I had like four interviews [and] two offers, and I accepted one, and the company that I accepted was Delicato Family Wines. It is the fifth-largest wine company in America.”

Using Engineering Skills at Work

Aung’s technical engineering co-op at Delicato was seven months long and included both a salary and housing stipend. “I reported directly to the VP of Engineering,” he said. “The types of projects I worked on ranged from cost-saving [opportunities] from insulation of the [wine] tanks to upgrading site-wide security through updated network switches and protocols. Some projects were heavy on engineering, and some were more technical.” 

He regularly drew on his Pacific coursework at his CPT role. “I applied the concepts I learned from my computer networking class to ensure I [was] making the right decisions to update the IT and OT networks, while [also] maintaining security,” he said. “Moreover, I also had to learn skills on the job, like drawing in AutoCAD and some thermodynamics.”

After completing the program, he realized he wants to focus on software engineering, and is currently putting together a career development plan to work toward achieving his goal.

You have to go out there and reach out to people. Always take the initiative to get it.” — Aung, computer science undergraduate, University of the Pacific

“I am thinking of getting into a new industry. I feel like I want to explore other areas of software engineering,” he said. “What I’m looking to [do] after I graduate is to focus mostly on the software engineering side, so I might apply and reach out to other areas of the tech industry.” 

Aung’s Interview Tips for International Students

To stay calm and ace your interview, keep Aung’s tried-and-true tactics in mind. 

“First, relax [and] calm down,” he said. “Make sure your resume looks good and make sure you dress nice — that’s important.” He recommends that students speak to advisors to get additional tips, join professional webinars and workshops, and ask professors and colleagues to check over your resumes and cover letters.

He encourages students to get plenty of rest the night before an interview, and to make sure your mind is clear and you are well-prepared an hour beforehand. 

In the interview, practice good communication, especially speaking clearly. 

“Make sure you answer the interviewer’s questions, you convey your answers thoroughly, [and that] your communication is very clear,” he said. Stay focused and keep practicing, as mastering an interview is a learning curve. Feeling nervous and overwhelmed is normal. With a little practice and confidence, you can make an excellent impression during your interview. 

“Believe in yourself, keep pushing forward, you can do this!” he said.

Aung’s Advice for New International Students 

Aung is in his senior year at Pacific and is excited about graduating in December 2023. He hopes to land a job in machine learning or software development, and wants to explore areas of the industry where there is future growth. 

He credits his success to his perseverance in addition to the facilities and resources at the University of the Pacific. 

“What makes the University of Pacific stand out [are] its extensive programs — especially for engineering majors and also for finance majors — and its co-ops.”  

He offers three important tips to international students:

  1. Learn how to make use of campus resources and gain work experience during your degree. 

  2. Get involved in the student community and make connections with local and other international students. 

  3. Have fun!

Like Aung, you too can achieve a fulfilling and inspiring higher education experience in the US. Shorelight advisors offer application assistance, visa support, and housing guidance, and are dedicated to helping you build your own unique and rewarding journey toward a prestigious degree.

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