International Student in USA: Here is How I Crafted My Edge

Being an international student in the USA, the struggle gets real fast. However, you have to find a way to find your professional edge. All you need is some professional insight, community engagement, and genuine guidance to move past all the odds.


The United States has long been considered to have some of the best educational resources in the world, which attracts students from around the globe to come here to pursue higher education. My home country China is the second most populous country in the world, and nearly 300,000 students come to the United States each year to attend school. And I am one of those students. 


Despite people may have different goals for studying in the U.S. and some of us are inevitably in a constant process of discovering ourselves in terms of determining what path to choose that is best for our future development, my goal has always been straightforward, I want to build up my profile and develop my core competencies to gain a competitive advantage in global job markets.


However, it is easy to say than get it done. There are always difficulties along the way. And I have encountered two major ones so far in moving forward to the goal.


Language barriers

The first difficulty was the language barrier, which for me was not so much about not being able to communicate effectively with other native English speakers, but more about my own psychological fear of being embarrassed by speaking to locals in a second language that they don’t understand. I have also discussed this matter with friends who also have this concern and consulted their real thoughts, and came to a similar conclusion: many times they choose to avoid saying anything for fear that others will not understand.


Cultural differences

According to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, the cultural variances between China and the United States are big in four of the six dimensions as shown below. The individualism index indicates that people from the U.S. rely on individual capabilities and expertise whereas people from China value group work. As a person who comes from a very different cultural background from the United States, I was worried that the cultural differences might cause problems when I work with others in a team. 


An opportunity for me to practice my global competencies

It was such a valuable and unforgettable experience for me to work closely with my teammates for three months to develop a business consulting case for Delve under Dr. Julia Ivy’s guidance. This project has encouraged me to utilize the frameworks I have learned in class and apply them to a real-world business consulting case. It marks the first professional consulting case in my academic journey/ future career path. 

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Personal capital investment:

It has been a quiet journey for our team to first reached out to the client, then conducted research on its preferred targeted countries, and finally thoroughly analyzed each factor and gave recommendations. It was an amazing opportunity that I could personally conduct an online interview with the CEO of our client, Delve, a digital consulting company. Without hesitation, the company CEO provided me with his insight into his company’s business model, internal operations both domestically and overseas, organizational structure, as well as his personal stance on future development goals for international establishments. I was impressed by the comprehensive knowledge he had of the digital consulting industry that he is in. Through the conversation with him, not only I have gathered the essential information we needed for the case, but also I have concluded that a person needs to have in-depth knowledge and extensive skills in order to be successful in a competitive industry.


Social capital investment:

The project has pushed me forward to work with a group of people who share a different cultural background with me for three months. Because of the amount of work, everyone in the assigned group had to stay in close contact if we wanted to succeed. Luckily, all the members in our group have shown tremendous dedication to the project and excellent time management skills in terms of finishing both individual and collective parts. Since I didn’t encounter any problems when working with them, it boosted my confidence in engaging with other people in the future.


Professional capital investment:

The recommendations we offered to the company are based on systematic extensive research and cautious objective analysis guided by the case framework. In order to give the most suitable recommendation of market and mode, and make the implementation part feasible, we applied what we learned in the class and carefully matched them with our research result before concluding. This whole experience certainly has trained me to be more professional in thinking and writing. 


Utilization for accumulated capital:

The case not only has provided recommendations to our client, but also has offered a solution to the difficulties I encountered previously. Overall I have become more confident in delivering my ideas to others in public than before starting the case. In addition, it erases my uncertainty about engaging with people from different cultural backgrounds. I would carry the established confidence and necessary skills to move further down the path.


About the Author

Shengqiao Sun was born and raised in Shanghai, China. 

He is a second-year student at Northeastern University, majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Consulting.

He has developed an interest in international affairs through his earlier experience in Model United Nations and thus he keeps up with global news every day.

Shengqiao Sun’s LinkedIn

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