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How to be noticeable as an international CS student 🌍

Michelle Tan
My name is Michelle and I'm a software engineer. I’m currently coding in C# most of my time. Learning Flutter and Python on the side. Thoughts and opinion are of my own.
・4 min read

Studying abroad is a very unique experience. Being in a foreign country, surrounded by people you do not know, perhaps learning a new language or trying to assimilate to the local culture which can be very different from your home country.

It might be challenging as an international student studying computer science. Mainly due to the fact that you may not have the same advantage or network resources you would have back home. It's almost like a fresh start.

While grades are important, it can only reflect that you understand the course syllabus and studied hard in exams. There are other important aspects which makes you noticeable as an international student:

Build your network πŸ‘©β€πŸ’»

It is crucial to build your network. Someone might know about a job where you fit the role. Someday you might need a reference letter. Or you simply just needed someone you can reach out to.

The most straightforward network within your reach is your classmates and lecturers. Engage with your peers and help each other out. Ask questions in class or after class if you are a shy person. Have a good attendance rate. Do the basics well.

Ideally, your network should expand beyond your university. There are so many events which you can attend as a student in order to make the most out of it. Attend hackathons or volunteer in a tech event are great ways to expand your network, at the same time it is a fun learning experience!

The most important thing is to make friends and build genuine relationships.

Utilize university resources 🧾

Apart from attending class to acquire knowledge, you should also utilize the vast amount of resources provided by the university. You get to build up different skills such as time management, leadership and communication skills. It's a great way to let your personality shine.

Here are a few of them:

Library πŸ“š

β€œBooks are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles W. Eliot

This is pretty self-explanatory. The best part of being having an access to the library is that it's FREE. So, read lots of books.

Clubs and societies

Joining clubs and societies is another good way of building network because you get to interact with a group of people who share the same passion.

Other than that, it is also a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone to build leadership skills. Take up the role of being the club's secretary or treasury or even president. Can't find the club you wanted? Create one!

Teacher assistant/Peer mentor πŸ‘©β€πŸ«πŸ‘¨β€πŸ«

β€œWhen one teaches, two learn.” –Robert Heinlein

In most universities, teacher assistant (knowns as TA) and peer mentor (knowns as PM) exists for students to support the faculty and at the same time provide their experience to assist other students in a more personalized manner.

TA focuses on academic support whereas peer mentor isn't - it may depend on how your university defines the roles. Regardless, both roles require huge commitment. Time management is essential as you are expected to meet the faculty's expectation, support others while not fall behind on your own studies.

Needless to say, being a TA or PM is a rewarding experience because it's a win-win situation, helping others and learning along the way. In some universities, the added bonus is that you get paid!

Career department πŸ’‘

If you have the intention to work after graduating as an international student, you should also utilize the university's career department. Learn how to write CV/resume as the structure may differ from your home country.

Do mock interviews to familiarize with the job-hunting process. For technical roles, do mock whiteboard interviews as well. Some universities even have collaboration with local companies to have campus recruitment scouting to talents.

Keep an eye for any updates from the career department even if you are not actively looking for a job.

Internships πŸ’»

Last but not least, internships - a great way to gain real world experience, have a productive semester break and to earn some pocket money. Internships are beneficial not only because it looks great on CV/resume, it makes use of all the theoretical knowledge into practice at the workplace.

It is also a glimpse into the life after graduation, you get to know if you truly enjoy a certain role. Perhaps the preference is to be a software tester rather than an engineer, or a mobile developer than a web developer. You will know only know once you did an internship.

Enjoy your student life abroad ❀

Being away from home to further your study is already a great achievement. The most important thing is to take care of yourself mentally and physically first.

So remember to enjoy being abroad and travel around (post-Covid) using your student discounts. Student life only lasts a few years, make every moment count.

Thanks for reading, hope this helps.

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