Many international students interested in data science choose the University of the Pacific because of its strong track record with Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) opportunities. With Silicon Valley and San Francisco hosting the world’s top tech firms, Pacific is in the perfect location for students looking for data science job experience.
We spoke with three recent graduates about CPT and OPT opportunities for Pacific grad students and alumni and found that their real-world work experience led to the beginning of exciting careers.
Capstone Projects Guarantee Experience
At Pacific, the Capstone Project is an excellent opportunity for data science students to join a multidisciplinary team and gain career experience with other grad students. During the Capstone Project, grad students apply their learning to real data analysis problems for corporations in the Silicon Valley/Northern California region. Through their Capstone Projects, students are assigned to a group and a company and get resume-building experience without going through the typical application process.
Khushboo, a 2021 graduate with a MS in data science, said she probably wouldn’t have picked E. & J. Gallo Winery for her CPT-eligible Capstone Project, but she was very happy with her results.
“It was really great. It gave me a hands-on view of how [a] real project works,” said Khushboo, who now works as a data scientist at the Well Living Lab in Rochester, Minnesota. “And honestly, that was something [that] really helped me learn my current job. [It] was really helpful.”
Students meet with clients and professors to discuss the Capstone Project status and deliver updates, which builds presentation skills and project-building expertise. During the project, student responsibilities include SQL queries to extract data and other applications of the students’ data science skills and learning in real-world environments.
Learn more about Curricular Practical Training at US universities >
Moxshil was an international graduate student from India, like Khushboo, who participated in the E. & J. Gallo Capstone Project at Pacific. Moxshil said that during his studies, the students worked in programming languages, such as Python, while also tackling projects for different parts of the business, including sales. Studying internationally for the first time, he wasn’t sure how he would do in a professional work environment for a company in the United States. However, his confidence quickly grew, knowing he had support from professors and the necessary training and knowledge from his studies.
“It was a really nice experience and really interesting. The client was super supportive,” said Moxshil, who now works for Ellkay, focusing on health care data management. “If we had questions during the week, they arranged a meeting very quickly and helped us execute the query. Whatever it was, they would show us. We also worked as an important research team through the project.”
OPT After Graduation
Some graduate students at the University of the Pacific opt out of the Capstone Project their last semester and choose to find opportunities in the workforce after graduation. These students, such as Atik, a Pacific graduate from Bangladesh, use their Optional Practical Training after graduation to work in the United States.
Graduates of master of science programs qualify for a 24-month extension to their OPT status on their F-1 visa, which means they can find a job and gain some great professional experience while staying in the US.
What’s the difference between CPT and OPT? Learn more >
“My ‘internship’ was basically me signing up for a full-time position,” Atik said. He works for Vien Health in the product department. “It was right after my program ended, after the first month, during my OPT period. It turned into a full-time position after three months.”
Back home, Atik had worked for several years as a product manager (PM) and came to the University of the Pacific to add data science expertise to his skill set. While many students in the University of Pacific International (UOPI) program have their sights set on data science careers, others use the master’s degree program as an opportunity to climb the career ladder in a parallel industry.
For me, the entire point of getting this master’s was to get better at my job as a product manager,” Atik, computational science, University of the Pacific
Atik used his OPT opportunities to learn more about the local tech scene and get better at interviewing and crafting the perfect resume. UOPI international students can find help with networking, building a resume, and preparing their visa documents through the UOPI office.
“The international student coordinator, she handled all the documentation; she was super helpful,” Atik said. “She sent an email to the entire cohort about what steps to take, which was really nicely documented. It was quite easy to follow and, if I [had] questions, I would just reach out to her and she made sure everything went well.”
According to Khushboo, her I-20 documentation was returned with her updated CPT status less than a day after submitting it to her international student coordinator.
UOPI Student CPT Experiences at a Glance
Country of Origin
Country of Origin
E. & J. Gallo Winery
Country of Origin
E. & J. Gallo Winery
Data Science Opportunities Help Land Great Careers
Data science is a competitive field, and work experience is essential to landing the best role for your goals, whether you want to be a data scientist or work in a related role. CPT and OPT are great ways to gain experience while in the United States on an F-1 visa. With CPT, students can work in roles that are part of their learning experience at Pacific, and with OPT, they can pursue roles after graduation.
“Most companies are switching and moving towards data science, and there are so many job opportunities,” said Khushboo. “With Pacific, you get the benefit of living in California and the chance to network. So that is something I really feel is good about this university. Also, most professors are currently working [outside the university], [and] they have current industry knowledge, which is so valuable.”
For Moxshil, it isn’t just networking and career opportunities. His experiences at UOPI made him an expert in his field and more confident professionally.
“When I first came to the United States, I saw the professor, very highly qualified, teaching high-level stuff, and I’m just a new guy. I’m fresh and [don’t have] any experience. I had doubts,” said Moxshil. “But my experience [here] helped me understand the technical problems, and when I needed help, my professors were there. So, [my time at UOPI] is always increasing my confidence.”
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