International Students Success Stories

Persistence pays off: an international student’s journey to a job.

Minah Kim, ’22, BA in Psychology

Finding a job after graduation is a looming concern for most students in their final year of college. But for Minah Kim (’22), an international student, there was an added layer of pressure.

“Because I am an international student, the process of getting a job and being secure to live in the US is so complicated compared to domestic students,” Minah said. “If I didn’t have a job by the time I graduated, I might have to fly back home.” 

Minah, who is originally from South Korea, had lived in Oregon since the age of 14, first attending an international high school in southern Oregon, then Umpqua Community College, where she discovered a passion for psychology. She then transferred to Oregon State, drawn by the opportunities within the School of Psychological Science to gain a degree that would allow her to further her dream career – impacting the lives of children in need. By her final year at OSU, she had spent nearly half her life in the U.S.

“I built a close community here,” Minah said. “I am more comfortable here, more accepted here. I wanted to continue living in the U.S., wherever I ended up. My life is here.” 

With her goals in mind: finding a career helping children, and doing so within the U.S., Minah turned to Karla Rockhold, her College of Liberal Arts career advisor, for support.

“Karla gave me a bunch of websites and tools to look into that are specifically for international students,” Minah said.

“She also helped me with reformatting my resume and explaining how it should look, which really helped. And she helped me through practice interview questions. She sat down with me and helped me figure out word by word what I would say.”

Armed with new tools and resources, Minah felt much more confident tackling her job search, even with a looming deadline. 

“Working with Karla to prepare for my job search brought me comfort, because I’m not an expert,” Minah said. “This was my first time applying for an adult job!”

– Minah Kim, ’22, Psychology

Eager to have a job lined up before graduation, Minah began applying for jobs months before her graduation date – which didn’t always line up with the needs of the companies she was applying with.

“The hardest part of finding a job was the timing. I like to have things planned, I like to know what’s coming up, and I wanted to have the security so I could be at peace,” Minah said. “But if a company is interviewing you now, they want people now.”

Although she participated in multiple interviews over the course of her senior year, as graduation approached, she still didn’t have a job lined up. She did her best not to get discouraged, instead using each interview as a learning experience.

“Doing so many interviews, it provided me the time and opportunity to be more confident in the setting,” Minah said. “Your sentences become more fluent. They ask you similar questions. You learn to be more comfortable with yourself as well.”

Despite working to maintain a positive attitude, by the end of her last term, Minah was getting worried.

“I just kept thinking about how if I don’t have a job, I don’t know where I am going to be living,” she said. “It was a constant battle of waiting, working on my resume, and practicing interview questions. I’m doing all this, but at the end of the day I still don’t have a job. It was really hard to battle with that thought.”

The day of her last final exam at OSU, Minah was busy, frustrated, and stressed – she was studying, she was waiting to hear back about apartment possibilities, and she was preparing to welcome her parents, who were flying in the next day from South Korea for her graduation. And she was doing her best not to worry about the unknowns in her future. 

Turns out, her worries were about to be over. That very day, she got the news she’d been waiting for.

“That was one of the most amazing days. That last day I got my apartment, I got my job, and finished my last final!” she said. “It was pretty overwhelming, but it actually did work out. On the last day, it worked out.”

Minah Kim met with her OSU career advisor, Karla Rockhold, to help prepare for her job search.

Minah is now working as an early childhood educator with Family Building Blocks, an Oregon non-profit dedicated to providing preventative services at no cost to families facing overwhelming life circumstances. Minah works directly with young children and also builds relationships with parents, providing them with help and support. It’s exactly what she wanted: a career that allows her to help children and to stay near the life she’s built in Oregon.

Minah’s advice to other Oregon State students feeling pressure to find a job? Don’t give up, and take advantage of the career support at OSU.

“Use the resources you have as a student,” Minah said. “We pay for it! We might as well use it! Use the people here who can help you clean up your resume, don’t pay some random website to do it. OSU faculty are the best. I never met anyone who just does the job because it’s their job. They actually want to follow up with you and make sure you succeed.”

Job Resources for International Students

Working in the United States: information for international students from Oregon State’s Office of International Services

Tips for International Students for a U.S. Job or Internship Search: a guide from the Oregon State Career Development Center

Application Tips for International Students: a guide from the Oregon State Career Development Center

Resources for Interview Practice

Guide to Interviews: A complete overview of tips and best practices from the Oregon State Career Development Center

StandOut: OSU students can log in to practice interviewing on an interactive video interview tool

Sample Interview Questions: a list of common interview questions to review and practice answers for

Video Guide | Interview Like a Pro: this video from the Oregon State Career Development Center covers best practices for job interview success

Career Fair Success Stories

She took a chance at a career fair — and landed a post-grad job.

Isabel Nieman at a construction site, wearing a hard hat and safety vest, and giving the camera a thumbs-up.
Isabel Nieman, a 2022 Political Science graduate, found a job with the US Army Corps of Engineers after meeting a representative at an Oregon State University career fair.

Liberal arts and engineering don’t mix, right?

Not true for Isabel Nieman.

When Isabel attended a spring career fair at Oregon State University a few months before graduation, the political science major made a point not to limit herself when it came to networking. With a B.A. in Political Science, focusing on International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish, Nieman was confident she could bring value to a variety of organizations – it was just a matter of making the right connections.

“I treated the event as if I was interviewing the companies present, rather than have them interview me,” she said. “Also, conversing with all companies, no matter what they may have been looking for, was important, because you never know what opportunities might arise or what connections you can make.”

Nieman’s tenacity paid off. She walked away from the event with contacts at State Farm, Trex Co, and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) who were all interested in hiring her.

Aaron Riojas, the San Francisco-based U.S. Army Corps of Engineers talent specialist who attended Oregon State’s spring career fair, was initially looking for engineering students, not liberal arts majors. But when Isabel struck up a conversation with him about a shared experience (she’s from the Bay Area, and was familiar with the neighborhood where the USACE building is located), it led to further discussion about how her experience in international affairs might be useful to the Corps of Engineers.

Isabel Nieman in a graduation cap and gown

“You never know what opportunities might arise or what connections you might make.”

Isabel Nieman, ’22, Political Science

Now, Isabel works for the San Francisco District of the USACE, assisting their Public Affairs and Equal Employment Opportunity teams.

Her advice to other OSU students who aren’t sure whether they’ll find a relevant job or internship at a career fair: give it a shot!

“The people at the career fair were so nice, and the companies present were ready to hire and excited to get to know students,” she said.

Resources for making the most of a career fair

Tips for in-person career fairs

Tips for virtual career fairs

Networking overview, tools, and elevator pitches

See upcoming Oregon State University Career Fairs