A year ago, I entered the dangerous swamps of dreaming big. Despite being a high-achiever and well-rounded student, I’ve spent most of my life focused on the present, without ever daring to look forward. College and career plans were strangers to me, just like internships and research positions. As an international student, I knew very little about these opportunities and I never bothered to look deeper into them. When I finally did, I quickly realized I’d have to work hard to find and land the positions I wanted – not only because my school didn’t offer any of them, but also due to the ongoing pandemic.
Nevertheless, I rolled up my sleeves, and began looking for every
opportunity I could take. Here are four key things I learned.
1. Explore new passions
Knowing where to start can be daunting. With so many different fields, staying within your comfort zone is tempting and so easy to fall into. However, moving around and trying something new has endless advantages: you will gain new skills related to your interests, shift your way of thinking, meet a diverse group of people, and ultimately grow as a person. It’s ok to feel worried when you’re first starting out. Take small steps instead of diving head first! I began by reaching out and asking people about their passions and experiences, which allowed me to gain different perspectives. Would totally recommend!
2. Get involved in extracurriculars
One of the best places to find new opportunities is at school. Not only will you build a unique list of experiences, but you’ll also meet passionate peers and mentors. If your school lacks clubs, get ready for some research and start asking around for independent student associations to join and initiatives to take part in. Otherwise, make your own! Create a new coding club, gather a
community of artists, organize a fundraising event with your friends – the possibilities are endless. Community service is another great way to get involved with your community, and it doesn’t have to be associated with your school. If you are still unsure, seek guidance. Teachers and counselors
will be eager to help, and you may gain a new mentor if you are lucky!
3. Know your value
Especially when looking for internships or job opportunities, you will encounter other successful applicants. It’s so easy to look at your peers’ resumes and feel like you don’t have enough expertise to stand out from the crowd. A question I often found myself asking was, ‘why even bother applying?’ Don’t ever be scared. Even if you’re going for a position that requires a
range of technical skills and a long time-commitment, don’t back down. Instead, go for it! Everyone has different strengths: showcase yours to the best of your abilities, and hold yourself accountable to gain the skills that’ll help you succeed in the workplace.
4. Just ask
Finally, the surefire way to take new chances is to just ask. You’ll be surprised at the sheer amount of information that is not available anywhere, unless you get out of your way and ask for it: research opportunities, mentorships, and private initiatives are only a few examples. So, network! Cold emailing is the easiest way to get in touch with people you are interested in, as you can reach out to pretty much anyone in the world. Still, consider starting from your own community. Connect with your friends, colleagues, professors and relatives. Find out what they are working on and what they are planning in the future. A life-changing occasion could be just around the corner: do your
best to catch it!
Good luck with your endeavors, and never stop working towards your goals. There are opportunities everywhere - you just need to know where to look.