Upon graduating from Auburn University with a degree in finance, Marvelyn from Indonesia wasted no time in pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT) opportunities in the US. She now works at a consulting company in Atlanta, and plans to start her master’s program in the near future.
Learn more about Marvelyn’s journey in the US, including her life at Auburn, why she changed majors, her future plans, and advice for international students.
Why Marvelyn Chose Auburn
Initially, Marvelyn was looking for schools in the warm and sunny US South, as she is not a fan of cold weather. The more she learned about Auburn, the more interested she became in what the school had to offer.
Because she would be far from home in Indonesia, Marvelyn was drawn to Auburn’s family values and close-knit community. Though she was occupied with her high school studies and unable to attend an Auburn University campus tour, her family was able to go in her place, setting into motion the start of her journey to the US.
“They really recommended me to go, and I talked to several international students from Auburn and they also recommended it. So that’s the reason why I came here,” she said.
Auburn University is ranked among the top 100 universities in the US by U.S. News & World Report, and is well known for its highly ranked first-year experiences and diverse degree options. Through the university’s collaboration with Shorelight, international students like Marvelyn are given access to full support from day one all the way up to graduation.
Exploring Academic Possibilities at Auburn
In her sophomore year, Marvelyn began her studies with a major in science, but ultimately felt that the field was not a good fit for her.
“I felt like it was very theoretical and I’m more of a people person than … mathematical,” she said. “So, I was looking for a major that allows me to talk to people and have conversations, while also [using my] analytical side.”
Wanting to explore a field closer to her interests, Marvelyn visited Auburn’s Career Center and decided to take a few career tests to find fields that matched her goals. She also spoke to Auburn University’s career advisors and was invited to a majors fair, which helped Marvelyn learn more about the different options available.
After speaking with Mandy Harrelson, program champion of finance at Auburn, Marvelyn felt that studying finance was the next step in her journey to finding her ideal career field.
“At the time, I didn’t have an idea of what my career path would look like, and so I saw the curriculum modules and thought it was more appealing than other types of business majors. By the next week, I declared finance as my major,” she said.
With her major figured out, Marvelyn also set her sights on gaining work experience while she was studying.
Working at the College of Business Academic Advising Office
After an introductory role with Auburn Global, Marvelyn then found a customer service job opportunity through an academic advisor. Though Marvelyn found interviews challenging, her interviewer for the job was very welcoming.
Before long, Marvelyn became an academic advisor at Auburn University, a role she held for two years. She highlighted the importance of taking the initiative when searching for a job.
“I was really happy to be [an academic advisor] for two years in college. Basically, I think, to find a job on campus, you need to be proactive, and Handshake is a very good resource. You need to dig in, you can’t just sit and wait. You have to be proactive and do a lot of research,” she said.
Marvelyn’s Biggest Challenge as an International Student
“I think the biggest challenge was the language barrier,” she said. “Even though my high school had an English-based curriculum, it was still hard. I struggled with note taking, and it was very overwhelming.”
For many international students, the process of adapting to US culture can take time and it is very common to experience homesickness during one’s first months on campus. To tackle these challenges, Marvelyn decided to be outgoing and step outside her comfort zone.
“At the time, I tried to push myself to socialize more, attending more events,” she said. “I joined the international buddy program for almost two years, [and] it really helped a lot [with] adapting to American culture.”
Through her perseverance and hard work, Marvelyn was able to overcome her biggest challenge and meet many new students through her experiences. Marvelyn discovered her current remote working OPT opportunity through a job posting on LinkedIn, and she is already looking to the future and the next steps in her career path.
With the experience Marvelyn has gained through her work on campus and her deeper understanding of her own skills, she aims to follow in her parents’ entrepreneurial footsteps and start her own company one day. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in business analytics, studying topics such as machine learning and optimizations for business.
Her advice for other international students hoping to study in the US is to connect with professionals in their top-choice industries to discover job opportunities. She also stressed the importance of self-reflection, and having a good support system.
“[Seek out] people who support you and know you as a person, not [those interested in] superficial attributes,” she said. “When I was very confused with my life, I would talk to my sister, my mom, my best friend to get their opinions, but the most important thing is to filter the opinions that are true to yourself from the ones that are just noise.”
Marvelyn’s time at Auburn University and the support she received from faculty and student advisors gave her the chance to develop the skills and knowledge needed to secure key work experience in the US. If you’re interested in a study path that’s similar to Marvelyn’s, our advisors are always available to work with you toward achieving your personal and professional goals.
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