Studying abroad not only presents the opportunity of learning within the campus you enroll in but within the whole country as well. After all, why limit yourself to the confines of “college life”? As an international student from the Philippines, I sought to explore opportunities that were viewed to be exclusively offered in the United States. Luckily, Santa Clara University is strategically located in the heart of innovation, Silicon Valley.
To push myself to my limits, I knew that I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I cannot simply live my life and develop my career based on a single known experience, in my case, how the gears work in the corporate world of the Philippines. That is when I decided that applying for an internship in California would provide me with the fresh perspective I sought for. Of course, internship hunting is no easy task. More than finding a company that is the right fit for me and the legal requirements that must be processed to validate my stay for the summer, it is the unfamiliarity of how corporations would treat an international student that provoked my anxiety. What if U.S. corporations don’t like international students? What if I don’t find the company with the right culture for me? What if I will not be given equal opportunities as my colleagues in the workplace since I am not a local?
However, as I underwent the process of securing an internship, I realized that the “anxiety” I was feeling turned out to be, more than anything, pure excitement. There is no better feeling than being nervous, since being nervous is a sign that you are doing something new, and it is in the “new” that we experience the excitement of growth. All of us would have distinct reasons to be anxious about finding an internship: not being able to get your dream internship, messing up an interview (my heart skips a beat with the simple question “tell me about yourself”), or even only being able to pick one offer among multiple amazing opportunities. Well, it’s totally normal to be nervous. The secret is to keep moving forward and to be excited about it.
With the attitude of greeting every new opportunity and experience like a friend, I was eventually able to land an internship in a spectacular tech company called VMware. As I shared with you earlier, I was nervous about how my managers and coworkers would interact with me in the workplace. However, my uneasiness was instantly subsided when I discovered that, like the campus life of having a rich multicultural community, VMware also supported the inclusion of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds (e.g. VMinclusion). My fear of interning in California for the first time was easily dispersed as I became more comfortable in calling VMware a safe and supportive environment to develop my professional career and my personal character.
I even got to meet Spock (Zachary Quinto)!
Through the numerous opportunities the company offered, I realized that I was viewing the business world through a keyhole all along; an internship abroad gave me the key to open the door and explore the interconnectedness of corporations around the globe. For example, despite physically being in California, I was still able to work on projects with managers in Tokyo, Japan! Even more, beyond learning about the culture of corporations in the United States through my interactions with colleagues, I was also prompted to revisit my identity as an international student.
From simply referring to myself as an “international student,” I realized that there is immense value in confidently acknowledging, “I AM an INTERNATIONAL STUDENT” instead. As an international student, I can consider myself as a professional with a global perspective. One must not shy away from the fact that being away from home is a benefit and a competitive advantage. The takeaways in every experience at home and abroad, from thinking with my native language to learning how to communicate my ideas using another dialect, further highlights how we, as members of a global community, can foster a better environment by sharing our distinct perspectives.
At the same time, we must continuously strive to seek out experiences that provide us with the insight to grow and the opportunity to give back. Going through an internship program was one way that allowed me to not only personally develop but also have a better picture of the “real world”. So, if you decide to one day begin your search for an internship, I applaud you for taking the initiative. I applaud you for stepping out of your comfort zone to seek growth. But, of course, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for daring to peek through the keyhole.