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How Nikhil at University of the Pacific Got CPT for a Data Science Job

University of the Pacific
career planning
COVID-19
By Matt Killorin
Last updated on April 1, 2021

During the pandemic, persistence pays off for one international student at the University of the Pacific. Read on to see how Nikhil from India landed a STEM-focused internship.

NikhilIndiaUniversity of the Pacific

Nikhil, an international student at University of the Pacific, sits and smiles for the camera

When Nikhil came to the US from India to study at the University of the Pacific (UoP), classes were all in person, and there were plenty of data science jobs and internships to choose from with Silicon Valley just down the road. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, classes went remote, and internships became scarce. However, with persistence, determination, and his Shorelight advisors’ help, Nikhil landed a Curricular Practical Training (CPT)-qualified internship with a global technology firm.

“I had applied to more than 200 companies, 10 or 20 every day,” said Nikhil. “I think the key is to keep looking for the right role, because your profile is not suited for everything that you apply for, but you must keep applying. Eventually, you’ll find something that suits exactly what your profile is and what you want, as well.”

Nikhil’s internship is with Nextuple — a software as a service (SaaS) company that incorporates machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data into e-commerce and order fulfillment sectors. Nikhil was able to qualify for CPT because he is still studying for his master’s degree, and the internship is for credit as an independent study. A member of the UoP advisor team helped Nikhil with the official paperwork, which he said was easy to complete and quick to be approved. After only one month, Nextuple has Nikhil working on exciting — and top-secret — projects. 

“I’ve been working on simulation stuff on the e-commerce side,” said Nikhil. “But I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about it!”

[Learn more about work visa opportunities for international students]

Nikhil arrived in California in time to take one semester of classes in person. He met many friends and made some connections in data science, but after COVID-19 shut down the campus, networking became more difficult, which also made it more difficult for Nikhil to find the right internship. He could no longer attend meetups or career fairs on campus in Stockton, in San Francisco, or nearby Silicon Valley. 

“For a while, there were not a lot of opportunities,” said Nikhil. “It would be hard to match your profile, too, when they only offer some key points in the job description. They need this, some experience in that, but exactly what they are looking for, you only get to know that when you go to the interview.” 

With in-person and live events canceled or postponed, Nikhil focused on networking online. “It would help more if we were going out, meeting people and building contacts, but that’s all gone now because of the pandemic,” said Nikhil. “So I went online. Eventually it really helps that you know someone.” 

Before getting his internship with Nextuple, Nikhil accepted a volunteer position on campus. He worked part-time for about four weeks, which helped him meet people in his field and better understand how to look for off-campus employment. 

“It was related to data science, but my goal was to just work, find anything, even if I don't get paid,” said Nikhil. He offers this advice with other students looking for work in their major. “If you don’t get a paid job, do not hesitate to find a non-paid job. It helps.” 

The UoP master of data science is a two-year (four-semester) program with classes located in San Francisco, about 80 minutes from the UoP Stockton campus. The program is part of the university’s prestigious School of Engineering and Computer Science, which features one of the top-50 undergraduate CS programs in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report

Despite the pandemic, UoP’s hybrid class style in the School of Engineering and Computer Science courses converted well to a full-remote schedule, allowing Nikhil to continue his studies. With both his internship and degree program coming to an end soon, Nikhil is determined to find the right role after graduation. 

“I think it can get a little frustrating when you believe in your work, you believe that you've studied well, but you still can’t find a job, but I think you should just keep applying,” said Nikhil. “That’s what I’ve learned... then, when you end up with a job, it definitely feels good.”

Discover the University of the Pacific, a top-100 university* >>

*THE, 2021