Baruch alumni advise international students on careers

Baruch College alumni who identify as international students regaled their journey in the U.S. job market at an “International Panel” last week hosted by Golden Key International Honor Society.

The panel was comprised of Baruch alumni Ilya Bratman, Yash Upadhyay, Renny Saldanha and Cherlyn Agbayani. Panelists shared the challenges faced by international students in school, how cultural differences can be a competitive advantage in the professional world and advice on how to present oneself at a job fair.

International students often find themselves lost and out of place, even at an ethnically diverse school like Baruch.

“One of the most challenging obstacles I’ve encountered was coming to school and not knowing anyone at all. I would suggest students find clubs to join. Immerse yourself in a club and stay active,” said Agbayani, now employed as a corporate banking analyst at JP Morgan Chase.

A marketing assistant at the CUNY Center for Student Entrepreneurship, Renny Saldanha recounted the obstacles she once encountered on a daily basis. “Schools in my home country are completely different than schools in other countries. A simple thing such as deciding where to eat during lunch or who to eat with is one of the many obstacles I had to face, especially since Baruch is a commuter school. During lunchtime is the only time you get to mingle with other classmates.”

Making sense of American pop culture and slang are other areas where international students must play catch-up. Those who grew up in the United States are versed in what is considered “trendy,” which varies in every country.

“There may be jokes that had been engraved within this generation in this country that international individuals do not know about,” continued Saldanha.

According to the panel, cultural assimilation is not as difficult as it may appear.

International students bring their own culture to Baruch, while the college itself attracts students from many different backgrounds.

“Even though this was an obstacle, Baruch has taught me that teamwork dynamics is very important. We don’t have the upper hand because as we did come to this country, we were shy and it’s hard to put yourself out there in group projects,” said Upadhyay, a senior IT audit manager at Prudential Financial.

Others held full-time jobs, so prioritizing their responsibilities while still attending classes became an obstacle for them. “I was faced with working a full-time job while managing my grades in school, and building up a network at the same time. Questions I asked myself [included] ‘What should I prioritize? What comes first?’ The idea is to build yourself up in every sector. Find the balance for yourself,” shared Bratman, executive director at Baruch Hillel.

In addition to speaking English as a second language, many students struggled with the question of what career path to focus on as they entered college.

Agbayani put her finance major to use during her internship with AXA Advisors, an insurance company.

“This was a place where it helped build my character. It was a rather tough environment to be in because I was constantly answering calls with the company’s clients on the other line,” said Agbayani. “It was a big pressure on me. After this internship, I knew I wanted to get into an investment bank.”

Deciding on a career path consists not only of identifying one’s passion but also weighing the expected income.

“I have touched upon so many different areas, but one thing I enjoyed doing was working with public affairs ... I enjoy the mission-oriented type of work. It is an honest living if you ask me, because I am not looking at the amount of money I can make. I want to do something meaningful,” said Bratman.

Upadhyay changed his mind several times about his major before settling. “Instead of accounting, I found interest with computer information systems,” he said.

“Having internship opportunities that Baruch has to offer to its students helped me to such a great extent. These internships not only help me build my career path, but it also helped me in class.”

Beyond being knowledgeable about the company during the interview process, international students bring unique stories that make recruiters remember them.

Upadhyay said, “You need to know what the companies are doing and bring up some of the things that are associated with the company. Be very well prepared. Recruiters will know if you are not taking the interview seriously. They will know if you really know your information or if you’re just blabbing off the top of your head.”

Being an international student has its advantages as well. Students are able to share unique stories about their lives that many others do not have.

“Embrace being foreign,” said Bratman. “Find common ground with your stories. You want to be someone the recruiter remembers. At the end of the day, it is how you build your brand and present yourself.”

Bratman advised that students should relate a personal experience that signifies the values recruiters maybe looking for. Whether it is loyalty or resilience, the goal is to find a connection with the recruiter.

Toward the end of the event, there was a moment where the floor was opened for questions from the audience. Students had the opportunity to speak to the alumni, as well as members of Golden Key for more information and personal advice.

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