News, University News

ISE*CON offers int’l students career support

International alums, faculty give advice, share experiences through panels, discussions

Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, March 11, 2018

ISE*CON was CareerLAB’s first CareerCon for international students. The event concluded a series of four CareerCons for different identity groups.

Students from all over the world joined alums and faculty at 85 Waterman St. and Brown/RISD Hillel Sunday for ISE*CON, CareerLAB’s first CareerCon geared toward international students. The event, co-hosted by International Student Experience, brought international alums back to College Hill to discuss specific challenges international students face in the job search process, said Director of CareerLAB Matthew Donato.

“International students tend to view the career planning process differently because of limitations on work permissions, whether it’s internships or full-time jobs when they graduate,” Donato said. In particular, many students have concerns about “how difficult it is to get a job in the U.S. if you’re an international student on a visa,” said Christina Phillips, program director of ISE. “International students have expressed concern that CareerLAB focuses on getting a job in the U.S.,” she added. Phillips said she hoped ISE*CON would show international students that “there are multiple pathways to getting a good job and being successful.”

In an alumni panel for international undergraduate students, alums reassured attendees that they don’t need to stay in the United States after they graduate. “When I came to Brown, I thought I was on my way to making it, and being in the U.S. was a big part of that,” said Advik Iyer Guha ’16, a software engineer at Google. “There’s this sense that the U.S. is the final frontier, but there’s more.”

Devika Girish ’17 agreed with Guha. In the same panel discussion, she encouraged students in attendance to “think about your reasons for wanting to stay in the U.S.” after graduation.

The day-long event also featured smaller breakout sessions with alums and a luncheon where students could network with international alums and faculty, said Amy Tarbox, a career counselor at CareerLAB and manager of the CareerCon series.

“We made sure that the alums that were coming back were a good cross section of undergraduate and graduate alumni, people who stayed in the U.S. (and) people who went internationally,” Tarbox said. Phillips added that the 10 alums who returned to campus for ISE*CON represented a “diversity of experiences” in career paths such as finance, journalism, technology and international development. In addition to offering students a chance to build connections and confidence through networking, Donato said ISE*CON aimed to “showcase success stories” of former international students who have built prosperous careers.

“Being an international student, I’m confused about career opportunities,” said Huayu Wang ’20, who attended ISE*CON. Wang said she went to the event “searching for answers” from international alums who have dealt with the same challenges she will face in finding employment after graduation, including “immigration issues, financial issues and what does ‘home’ mean?”

Emma Kumleben ’21 said she was excited when she heard there was an event “to highlight issues that international students face.” Beyond issues like the challenge of immigration to the United States, Kumleben said she was especially interested in how the CareerCon addressed “issues from a personal perspective,” such as the difficult decision of “where you want to be” after graduation.

Kumleben added that she found ISE*CON to be “very helpful” in teaching how to “leverage your international background” and providing networking opportunities with both international faculty and alums. “Those connections will be very useful going forward,” she added.

Biying Zheng GS moderated the alumni panel for international graduate students. Zheng said she focused much of her discussion with alums on the skill of networking, which she said “is especially difficult” for many international students who come to the University from cultures that don’t encourage them “to speak up in class.” Hearing alums share their experiences facing such challenges “is very instrumental” to students preparing to enter the working world, Zheng added.

ISE*CON capped off a series of four CareerCons held in the past month that focused on addressing career concerns for specific identity groups, including students who identify as LGBTQ and first-generation low-income students, Donato said. “This is one step toward supporting international students better,” Donato added.