ISSS Podcast: Global Connections at USF

ISSS Podcast logo: Global Connections at USF, navigating higher education with insight and support

Introducing our new podcast series, "Global Connections at USF: Navigating Higher Education with Insight and Support," brought to you by the International Student and Scholar Services! This podcast aims to provide valuable insights into on-campus and local resources, as well as student perspectives on navigating the diverse landscape of higher education. 

Don't miss out on this opportunity to gain valuable information and support as we explore the diverse experiences of our international community. Subscribe to "Global Connections at USF" and stay tuned for more exciting conversations and insights in the episodes to come! If you have a topic suggestion or would like to be featured in one of our episodes, please email us at or DM us @usfca.isss on Instagram! 

Episode #1: International Foods and Food Pantry Resources

In our inaugural episode, we delve into a crucial topic in our Community Spotlight - "International Foods and Food Pantry Resources." We are thrilled to present an engaging conversation featuring Hanna Ogden from the Office of Community Living and Joel Adetokunbo, an international student in the Organizational and Leadership program. They provide us with tips on finding fresh ingredients for cooking a Nigerian meal at home, access to the food pantry on campus and other food-security resources!

To learn more about the topics discussed in this episode, visit the USF Food Pantry website: USF Food Pantry

Host: Hello and welcome to Global Perspectives at USF presented by International Student and Scholar Services, where we explore the diverse and exciting experiences of our international student community! I am Rashi Bhatt, a graduate assistant for ISSS, and an international student from India pursuing my doctoral degree in international and multicultural education.

And in today's episode, we're diving into the heart of our community with a special focus on a critical resource for all our students, food and nourishment! I'm thrilled to be joined by Hannah Ogden from the Basic Needs Department in the Office of Community Living in conversation with me today. She will be highlighting the Food Pantry program and I’m excited to hear all about it. So, let's jump right in!

Hannah, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and your role at this department? 

Hannah: So as mentioned I am the program's assistant for the office of Community Living and I will get into the office of Community Living in just a second but my role is, I wear a couple of different hats, my official title is program assistant but I am the basic needs coordinator and the food pantry coordinator. This is where my work for food insecurity on campus comes in. The breakdown of my department is the Office of Community Living is made up of the on-campus team which is all of the residence hall directors and assistant residence hall directors the off-campus team so those folks that are going to help you if you have questions about moving off campus. And then, basic needs so my primary focus is basic needs but I support on and off-campus when they have projects or events things like that I'm involved in those as well but primarily basic needs which is defined as the things that students need in order to be effective in and out of the classroom. 

So the biggest thing we focus on campus is food and security but we also touch on housing insecurity, on clothing resources, transportation, all sorts of things. 

Host: Thank you and your colleagues for doing the important work at Basic Needs to foster a healthy and robust student community here at USF. Could you tell us a little bit about how the Food Pantry program got started?

Hannah: Yeah so the food pantry got started in the 2017-2018 school year, there was a need on campus for consistent food resources so we actually started in the basement of Gleason Library. Originally the food pantry consisted of a storage closet, where you could access non-perishable food items and then they expanded to include other things, but we had humble beginnings in the basement of the library. As the interest and need grew, the library donated space in the atrium, which is really awesome, so we've been able to expand the storage situation. It previously served one student at a time and now we can serve between four and six students at a time so much more efficient in that capacity but we've been open we were open all through COVID-19 in an adapted way but open consistently since 2017. 

Host: Wow, that's exciting to see it grow Over the years so what are some of the staples that our students can find at the food pantry? 

Hannah: So we have three main sorts of categories of things you can find in the food pantry we have non-perishable food products so I stock the non-perishable items so we have cereal we have Ramen, microwave popcorn, applesauce, oatmeal, we have canned beans, canned mixed vegetables, we have 2 lb bags of rice, we have almond milk, chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, we have pasta, dry pasta, and pasta sauce. Those are non-perishable items we try to put things in the pantry that kind of match One another so if you're going to get dry spaghetti you should have some pasta sauce, so those are the non-perishable food items. And then we have bread products that are typically provided by Trader Joe's so that Bagels, rolls of bread, tortillas, naan. Just various items that supplement the non-perishables so for example if you get a bag of rice, a can of beans and a can of corn you're well on your way to a taco night, so you might as well grab some tortillas! And then addition to that we have a produce section so we get our produce from Star Fruit Farms and from the Food Recovery Network on campus. And the Food Recovery Network goes to local farmers markets and kind of operates like an imperfect food system where we are passionate about including good quality items in the pantry and these are good quality items that just aren't being sold for whatever reason so they come to us at the pantry and Star Route Farms was gracious enough to provide us with a grant this year, so we have produced for the entire year. Overall non-perishables bread products and produce so we have a fair amount we're looking to expand in the future to other sort of categories of food but those are our three main ones right now. 

Host: Wow yeah, that's already a very exhaustive list. 

Hannah: Yeah we have quite a bit, we're very fortunate to supply that to students!

Host:  What has been the community response to the program and have you seen an increase in participation over the years? Are more students showing up in the spring semester or the fall? 

Hannah: Yeah so, the nature of something like a food pantry is that, especially on a college campus, you know college students are constantly flowing in and out. It's a four-year cycle so, there's always an influx and sort of it's a changing number based on the time of the school year. So typically it's a little more slow in the fall than in the spring we're definitely experiencing increases in the numbers in the spring now that everyone, hopefully is more aware of the pantry on campus. So we definitely experience more involvement and more enrollment in the pantry during the Spring. It also really fluctuates based on how where we are in this semester so if it's close to a break typically our enrollment will be smaller for those pantries but, we serve anywhere between 50 and 200 students. I think on average, last semester we served right around 70 students per pantry, so it just depends on a couple of different factors - class schedules really impact it. We are open every other Friday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and we opened two Saturday pantries this year. So its just all about adapting and you know we welcome as many students as we can.

Host: Yeah, of course, I'm glad that you guys now have a weekend day as well, because a lot of my classes at the School of Education are on Saturdays so now that I'm coming to campus I will stop by! Can can USF international students benefit from the food pantry, are there any restrictions? 

Hannah: Yeah, so, I wanted to actually touch on a little bit about how the food pantry has sort of evolved. It started as the food pantry and then it has evolved into, what is now, basic needs as a whole. So that includes the food pantry but we also do things like support Cal-Fresh applicants, its the California Food Benefits Program. We’ve also compiled recipes on our pantry Linktree. It provides students with more information about how they can use the food that's in the pantry. When it comes to International students we strongly encourage International students to use the food pantry because unfortunately, they don't qualify for CalFresh. A lot of California food benefits When your food benefits even if you're on a school Visa or really any paperwork you do have to be a permanent citizen of California to qualify for those food benefits which is unfortunate. So our long-term goal is to get as many currently enrolled USF students who are citizens of the United States on CalFresh as possible. So that we can provide International students with guaranteed food access and part of that is recommending food pantries that exist that are not affiliated with the university. So there's a fair amount of food pantries available and I think we'll get into that here in a minute. But yeah, we we strongly encourage International students to use the pantry. We have a fair amount of international students that use the pantry and it's a great opportunity to connect and build community with those around you. We really strongly encourage folks to you know chat with the people that they're in line with and build community in that way. We see a lot of international students coming together, which is a really fun environment, you know, we want it to be a welcoming environment for everyone!

Host: Yeah, it's exciting to hear that you guys are inclusive of international students and mindful of the program that they don't have access to, so they can come to the Food Pantry! 

I think you were starting to touch base on off-campus off-campus food banks that USF student can access resources. Are aware of any off-campus food banks?  

Hannah: Yeah, so just to plug our website if you find us at USFCA Food Pantry, we have a website page and as well as on our Instagram, it's linked in our Instagram bio, we have resources available for other non-affiliated pantries. The major ones that stick out to me, is the Richmond Community Center, in the Richmond neighborhood has a consistent food pantry. The Haight-Ashbury Food Program has a consistent pantry. And, St. John Pescetarian Church, all have food pantries that are in the area. In addition, the San Francisco Human Services Agency has compiled an exhaustive list of every Pantry in the city as well as their hours and their location so those are all great resources and like I said that's all on our website which you can find in our Linktree, in our Instagram. But there are plenty of opportunities to use the pantries around the city our goal at the USF pantry is to supplement and support either an on-campus meal plan and off-campus budget or other food resources whether that be CalFresh or other food pantries. We definitely acknowledge that you know it might not be possible to sustain an entire person's food needs through the pantry so we want to support as much as possible but other resources as well like that CalFreah or other pantries in the area. 

Host: Yeah definitely, these are excellent resources. Especially for students that have their program may be on the downtown campus and don't make it up here, they can go on to your website and find out food pantries nearby to them. Please tell us when is the next on-campus Food Pantry drive, and what should students bring with them if anything? What time should they line up? 

Hannah: Yeah so we have the food pantry every other Friday from 2:30 to 4:30 and all of our spring dates are currently listed on our website and our Instagram. Our most upcoming pantry is March 1st from 2:30 to 4:30 we always encourage students to bring a reusable bag. We got a wonderful donation from Student Leadership and Engagement of a lot of reusable bags, so its definitely not going to prevent you from using the pantry if you don't have a reusable bag, but if you have one we encourage sustainability and we encourage you to bring one with you if possible. In addition to that, we don't require any income information from students you do not need to prove a need to use the food pantry. We want everyone who wants to use the food pantry to use the food pantry. The only thing that you need to do before you use the pantry is scan a QR code and log in using your USF username and password. We do not keep any of your information or data, we just get a little checkmark that another person has used the pantry so we keep those numbers. And then yeah, all you need is yourself, a reusable bag and your log-in information, ideally your log-in information will come from a smart phone that can scan a QR code, if you don't have that we can always take down your information, your name and your USF ID and add you in manually. But, those are the main things, like I said, we don't require any proof to use the pantry, so we’re welcoming of everyone.  

Host: Wow, excellent! Thank you so much, Hannah, for providing us with the information and your insights on the USF Food Pantry program! I’ll be sure to stop by, and bring my cell phone, a reusable grocery bag, and a grocery bag to access this amazing resource! Thank you so much.

Hannah: Thank you!

Host: To bring a different perspective on the topic of food security and nourishment, we have a student guest, Joel Adetokunbo! Joel, do you mind introducing yourself, please tell us where you’re from, and what you’re studying.

Joel: Yeah, thank you very much, Rashi for having me on your program. My name is Joel Adetokunbo as you mentioned. Yeah, I'm from Nigeria Southwest Africa and currently, I'm a doctorate student in the OnL (Organization and Leadership) program at the School of Education at the University of San Francisco. 

Host: Oh how exciting, I’ve heard only good things about the OnL program! We're actually really looking forward to hearing about some of your tips on where you shop in the Bay to make your favorite home-cooked meals and maybe if we can share some tips on how you're making those meals a little bit more budget-friendly for our students.

Joel: Well in San Francisco it's actually been a very difficult thing for, especially people from Africa, students from Africa to shop and get their recipes, food recipes for their meal, in San Francisco. But, however, we have a closer environment to San Francisco, the likes of Oakland, and the likes of San Leandro. In Oakland, we have the African-Caribbean Food Market, where you can get all the necessary African things, especially, from Nigeria. You can get all the necessary food recipes there, and also in San Leandro, its a Chinese supermarket, but funny enough, it has all the things an African meal can contain of. Any recipe an African student needs, go to Foodnet Supermarket in San Leandro, you get that one too. 

Host: Oh wow good to know I'm going to I'm making notes as you speak so has it been fairly easy for you to get to these grocery stores or even find grocery stores near where you are or do you always have to travel to find the ingredients you need to maybe cook a meal at home?

Joel: Yeah for me initially when I first started my education here I was staying in San Francisco so it was actually very difficult for me looking at the fact that I'm the kind of person that actually sticks so much to his cultural meal, I love my cultural meal, I wanna have this every day. So I usually travel, usually travel from San Francisco down to Oakland, sometimes down to San Leandro. But you know as a doctor or student I don't have to be on campus every day I go to school every other weekend. And so I thought why don't I move closer to San Leandro, and funny enough, we have so many masters and graduate students in San Leandro. And yeah where I stay in San Leandro is very easy for me to commute to where I can get this recipe because they have so many branches and San Leandro for those staying in Oakland, so many branches there too. Also even if you're staying in San Francisco, San Francisco is just like few minutes travel, from San Francisco to this place its about 30 minutes. 

Host: That's very true so yeah if you're just traveling out of the city to get to Oakland or San Leandro it's fairly close by you can get on the BART you can just Uber over so that's convenient good to know. And, What's been your most favorite quintessential Nigerian meal to cook here in the US? 

Joel: Well, As a Nigerian, it's always been Jollof Rice. I'm very sure of that! You’ve heard about the Nigerian Jollof, Nigerian Jollof has always been the most important meal that I’ve always thought about cooking, and always wanna cook, and also easy to cook! Getting the recipe easy-peasy, and you know, by the time you get the recipe, put it on fire, everything, so it's easy! 

Host: Sounds amazing, and for those of us who don't have these cooking skills are there some good authentic restaurants that you recommend or International Cuisine maybe Nigerian Cuisine it doesn't have to be in the city could be in Oakland it could be anywhere else in the Bay as well? 

Joel: Yeah! Yeah, that's very much available. Recently I stumbled Upon a Liberian restaurant in San Leandro it was very amazing. And also there is Nigerian, same in Oakland,  it's called Ruth's Buka, it's I think it's quite popular very popular in Oakland. There is also Golden Safari for Nigerian Cuisine and all this kind of food they actually served there. All the African countries can actually relate with. 

Host: Oh that sounds really amazing I'm going to have to go give it a try! Well thank you so much, Joel, for hopping on to our first very first episode of the podcast it's been amazing talking to you thank you so much for giving us those tips and some exciting restaurants for students to try, I really appreciate having this conversation with you!

Joel: Thank you for having me, I really enjoyed my time here too, thank you.  

Host: As we wrap up, I’d also like to remind students that the One Card office has partnered with Grubhub to allow your USF One Card to be used as a form of payment in the Grubhub app. Get Grubhub+ for unlimited free delivery and exclusive perks. This is a great way to save while eating your favorite meals and supporting the restaurants you love! 

And USF has also introduced a new notification system for free food availability on campus. You can opt-in to receive notifications through the USF Mobile app and help alleviate food waste, get introduced to new events on campus, and bring home some food! 

Finally, don't forget to visit the next food pantry and get updates on their schedule via the food pantry website at or Instagram @usfpantry for updates and photos!

Thank you for listening to the very first Global Perspectives at USF podcast! I’ll encourage everyone to follow our Instagram at usfca.isss  You can find updates about our events, workshops, contests, and information on our next episode, all on our Instagram page. Please share and DM us any topic suggestions and other comments you may have on IG as well! Your engagement is crucial for building a mindful and inclusive USF community!


In our second episode, we shift our focus to hearing directly from international students about their unique journeys, experiences, and adjustments. Join us as we delve into the diverse perspectives of undergraduate and graduate students, Dani Tan, Sanya Ansari, and Ifunanya Ekott. Together, they offer invaluable insights into navigating the academic, social, and cultural landscapes while pursuing higher education at USF.

Through engaging conversations, our guests provide firsthand accounts and practical advice for new international students, offering tips on academic success, community engagement, and finding one's place within the vibrant USF community. 

Resources Mentioned: ⁠International Student Association⁠ | USF Khandaan | USF Ministry | ⁠Cultural Centers 

Host: Hello and welcome back to Global Connections at USF where we continue our journey of exploring the diverse experiences of our international student community. I am Rashi Bhatt, graduate assistant at International Students and Scholars Services. And today we have an exciting episode lined up focusing on the international student experience as undergraduate and graduate students getting involved in on-campus programs and organizations and finding your community here at USF. Joining me first are Dani and Sanya, undergraduate students, and later on, I'll be chatting with Ify, a graduate student. 

So let's dive right in. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to our first guest. Dani Tan is the International Student Association's President and is deeply involved in fostering a diverse student community at USF. Dani, could you please introduce yourself briefly mentioning your program of study and where you're from?

Dani: Thank you so much for inviting me here, Rashi. My name is Dani. I'm a third-year psychology student and I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines.

Host: Well, let's start by discussing why you chose to come to USF all the way from the Philippines. Were there specific factors that you considered before you came here?

Dani: I used to be a student in a small high school in Manila. And from that experience, I knew that I wanted to be in a university that had smaller class sizes because this gives me a more intimate classroom experience. I also wanted to experience a community with more diversity because I do enjoy getting to know different cultures and perspectives And I like to practice keeping an open mind, especially with my major being psychology.

Host: Yes, it's definitely important to consider the diversity on the college campus as well as the greater metropolitan area as well as to use your high school experience to inform the decision you make while choosing your higher ed institution. So now let's talk a little bit about the adjustments you face coming to USF. Could you share some of your experiences and tips for academic and social adjustment as an undergraduate student, please?

Dani: One of the biggest adjustments I had to face was being apart from my family. In my culture, families are very tightly knit and it was definitely a big change going from a lifestyle where a family member can just walk into your room at random times. And a parent is holding you accountable for everything to a lifestyle where you're mostly on your own most of the time. 

And nobody is really telling you what you can or can't do. I've always enjoyed my freedom, but I was never used to having this much. So my freedom kind of felt like loneliness for a while and it was a difficult adjustment. But what helped me through this was talking about it more with myself and with the right people, this helped me put my feelings into words and understand them from a more objective perspective. Gaining insight from people with different perspectives also helps. 

Sometimes people's advice can be hard to hear. But keeping an open mind helped me work on developing a growth mindset. I did also experience academic struggles; lecture-based classes are my weakness. Initially, I tried to go against my own tide and pursue a major that was not really for me and taking classes that weren't really challenging me, but more so just discouraging me. But as soon as I put the time to discover my strengths, my weaknesses and my preferences and accept myself for those traits instead of putting myself in a box where I didn't really fit in, things did get a lot easier. It's never going to be easy and it still isn't. But I would say that my struggles have gotten more manageable since I started to be more honest with myself.

Host: Yes, truly. Thank you, Dani, for sharing your personal experiences with us before we wrap up. If you could offer one piece of advice to the newly admitted International undergraduate students, what would it be?

Dani: My one piece of advice is for you to put yourself out there by talking to people or asking for help when you need to. I can say from my personal experience that there's less regret from putting yourself out there than there is from not putting yourself out there studying abroad and being away from our families really puts us out of our comfort zone. So we might as well continue putting ourselves out there. We've already made the first step of flying out of our country, which I'm very sure was difficult for some. So we might as well continue making the most out of this opportunity. But of course, we should always remember to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally because our health is what allows us to keep going.

Host: Yeah, that is such important advice. Thank you for your insights, Dani, and for spending your precious time with us today. We will now transition to speaking with our second undergraduate guest. Hello and welcome Sanya. Could you please introduce yourself briefly mentioning your program of study and where you're from?

Sanya: Thank you. Hi, everyone. I'm Sanya. I am from Dubai, I'm Pakistani, but I grew up there and I lived there my whole life and I'm a sociology major and a psych minor.

Host: Awesome. So to start off what was it that attracted you to USF? Was there like a specific factor that drove you to moving here and choosing a program here at USF?

Sanya: I think there were a lot of factors. I really was interested in going to a big city, which was one of the main deciding factors. I had never been to San Francisco before, but I just knew that I think it was just like the idea I had of it was there, like it would be a big city, it would be diverse. It would be beautiful. California is beautiful. And then for us specifically, I think the things that I read about it with the small class sizes, like having like research opportunities and like being able to connect with faculty. And I think I like looked into some of the professors in the sociology department as well as psych department and they all seemed like really cool and their research was really interesting. So that was mostly the reasons that I chose to come to USF.

Host: Wow. Yeah, it seems like location and class sizes has been a recurring theme. You know, USF has such diversity in the type of classes. We have, some of them are smaller, more discussion based and then also bigger lecture style classes. So it's kind of like choose your own adventure. You can see what fits best for you and your learning style and it's good that you kind of had that perspective going in. So that's really nice to hear. Let's talk a little bit about the adjustments that you face coming to USF were, was there like a big difference in your academic journey back home versus here? And then social life? Was that easy to get used to? Do you mind sharing a little bit about that?

Sanya: Yeah, I think it was definitely a big adjustment. Like, there was a lot of differences, like, first of all, I was moving away from home and then I was also, my first two years of university were done on online because of COVID. So I didn't really get like any of the social life part of it. I was just, it was strictly just like academics like zoom classes. That's it. And then I came to USF I was a junior. I wasn't living on campus. I was an international student. I was a transfer student. So I felt like I had all of these like odds up against me and like, it was just like, I even missed orientation because my family wanted to go to Vegas. So I skipped orientation through that. 

But then, I think it was definitely an adjustment period where I had to like really, really put myself out there once I was on campus and like, try to get myself involved in clubs and like, try to meet people. And the first few months were definitely really difficult to like, find people because I think I came into the headspace of like, oh everyone already has their groups of friends. So where do I fit in?  But then it was like, I started going to like more and more club events, like the cultural club events, one of my professors actually connected me to someone that became like, really one of like, one of my really good friends now. 

So I think it's just like being open to talk to people and like, just like, not like going to as many things as you can and like, keep showing up. I think that's like the, the easiest way to like, meet any group of people. And like, when you just keep showing up, you'll see this familiar faces over and over again. 

And then also with classes, I think, just try talking, like, I tried talking to the people that were sitting next to me and just like, over time like that also helped. And I think because of our, the program is so small, like a lot of people I would have repeatedly in the same classes. Like I had, I think I had three classes with the same person that were for my major. So I think that was how I got it, got myself more involved academically. I think it was, it was an adjustment like the workload and just like the types of academics that we were doing. But I think like, just getting myself more in tune with like the resources that were available to me and like, knowing that I can make most of them, like, I can make the most of like office hours and like, just if I don't understand anything, like like help was always available to me and I just needed to like, put myself out there in order to access it. Yeah. So I think that helped and I also like, really, I know a lot of people don't like the amount of like gen ed classes that we have to take. But I really enjoyed all of the different classes that I got to take. Like, I loved all of the philosophy and history and like media studies, like all of the extra courses that I got to take as part of my degree.  So I think that was really fun. 

Host: Oh yeah, thank you. I think you've shared so many valuable insights and advice and little tips for students to keep in mind. You started off with speaking about adjusting post-COVID and that's such a relatable topic for so many students. You know, in the past like five years having to transition not only to a new country but starting their higher ed programs. Moving to a new city, it can be challenging but keeping the few that you said, putting yourself out there listening to your professors about making new connections, you know, tapping into all of the resources that you have available to you. 

Those are really great tips to keep in mind. So thank you for sharing that. Before we wrap up, is there a specific cultural club or a student organization that you want to plug, so that students have those listed out and ready to participate in once they're here in the fall? 

Sanya: Yes. So two of my personal favorites and the ones that I'm most involved in are the cultural centers. The cultural center has some really, really great events, but one specifically for international students is Cafe International. It's always such a good place to just come hang out and meet other international students and talk about our like unique experiences.  And the other club is Kandaan which is a club for South Asian students. And it's also just like a fun place to like come meet, find community and just like hang out with each other and like connect over our shared culture. 

Host: Well, yeah, it sounds really good. Seems like both these student organizations and clubs foster a really robust space to have open and diverse conversation amongst the international students community. So thank you so much for sharing that with us and thank you for spending a little bit of your time speaking to us and hopefully speaking to some of the potential international students that are listening to our conversation and finding some valuable tips that they can utilize when making their journey over here to us. So thank you so much. 

Sanya: Thank you for having me.

Host: I'll now be meeting with Ifunanya Ekott to hear her perspective as a graduate student. Welcome Ify, if you could please introduce yourself briefly mention your program of study and where you're from. 

Ify: Hi, everyone. My name is Ify I'm from Nigeria and I'm in the Masters of Arts Program in International and Multicultural Education at the School of education here at USF. 

Host: So what attracted you to us f and this program could you share your perspectives as a graduate student? Or what factors you considered while finding a graduate program that fit your academic journey the best? 

Ify: Yeah, of course. Thank you for that question. While considering universities for my graduate program, it was really imperative that I saw I went to a school that had a proposed continuity. So not just a master's program, but maybe even a doctorate program that I could continue if I wanted to do that. Another thing that was a huge factor for me was the finances while graduate school in America as an international student is very pricey.

 Something that was very interesting about USF was that for grad school, the domestic and international students pay the same amount. So you're paying the same amount that the domestic students pay. So that was a perk for grad school. It's not the same for undergrads, however, so please do your research. 
This is something that I saw that was really attractive. And then finally, the last thing was the quality of professor student relationship as well as the class sizes. So as you know, us f is relatively smaller than other universities and so can accommodate smaller class sizes where you have intimate settings with your professors. And I can definitely say that that has been met in the school of education. There is great, I have great relationship and rapport with my professors and I find that my professors are extremely supportive and very accessible.

Host: Wow, thank you so much for sharing those factors. Those are really important factors that people should consider while choosing any program, especially a graduate program because it's such a big investment with your time and your finances. 14:35 So thank you for sharing that. Let's talk a little bit about the adjustment you face coming to us. If could you share some of your experiences with academic and social adjustment as a grad student and maybe balancing work and school? I know it can be a lot. 

Ify: Yeah, absolutely. That's a great question. I think I'll start with the social aspects. For me, it was a little bit difficult finding a place to stay. Although we do have some good resources with off campus housing that kind of help you navigate what the housing situation is in San Francisco, I will definitely say it's important for you to do your research on the cost of living for whatever city you're going to. I definitely undershot it. And so when I got here, I was a little bit taken by surprise. but I got a lot of help from professors again who recommended, wrote a letter of recommendation to landlords and landladies. So that was really great. Another thing that was an adjustment I would say was finding a job because as an international student, you depending on what your financial situation looks like, if you are on scholarship or if you are, you know, supporting yourself, whatever it may be. It's possible that you would need a job to sustain your daily cost of living, right? 

So finding a job was a little bit difficult for me. However, I was able to find a job on campus with the learning center, which I love so much as a project success coach. And then further down, I was able to find a job at the office of sponsor programs as the grad student assistant with that though, there is a restriction of the amount of hours you can work. And so you aren't making as much as say domestic students are making. So that, that was a little bit of an adjustment. Another thing that was important or that was an adjustment was finding resources for food on campus. And luckily, we do have the food pantry for fresh produce and some food as well. So that's something that I would definitely recommend. There are also some charitable organizations, religious organizations around some of the churches in connection with ST Ignatius do also have pantries as well and there are like dates that you can check up on that. I'll switch now to the academic adjustment that was made. So I had been out of school, I would say formally for about twoish years before going for a post degree in education in Nigeria. And then a year after that, applying for school for grad school. So I think getting back to the schooling situation was a bit of an adjustment for me. And then so adjusting to graduate school requirements because at this point, it's not necessarily like a structured routine of you have classes and then you have a break and you have classes, we have classes every other week. But then in the week, we might have classes like 34 hours or sometimes like eight hours at a stretch. So the adjustment of time management was something that I had to work with. And then of course, you have the autonomy to decide on how you want your master's or doctorate to go. And so there is that pressure that is put on you to know what you're supposed to be doing. Of course, there's support from professors letting us know like you know what to do and help us streamline our passions. 

But so there is something that you have to figure out for yourself. And then of course adjusting to, I would say writing academic papers because this is academia. And so just that adjustment there as well. Yeah. 

Host: Thank you, Ify. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences as a graduate student and the various forms of adjustments that you've had to go through. Before I let you go, if you could offer one piece of advice for newly admitted international graduate students. Just one quick one. 

Ify: OK, I would say, ask all the questions. Don't think that you're asking a stupid question, even if it's like, where is this building or can you direct me to this or even if it's something you think, you know, but you're unclear, just ask love that one. 

Host: "Thank you, Ify, for your valuable insights and advice. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in to 'Global Connections at USF.' Stay tuned for more enriching conversations in the episodes to come! Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @usfca.isss and share your comments, topic suggestions, and if you’d like to participate in one of our upcoming episodes!"


Tune in as we explore the ins and outs of Off-campus housing with firsthand insights from international students Axel Ndombasi and Prakriti Shakya and department expert Brandon Thomas, the Office of Off-Campus Living’s Off-Campus Community Manager,  for navigating the rental housing market in San Francisco. Finding housing can be one of the most stressful parts of adjusting to life in San Francisco and the U.S. Don't miss out on valuable tips and experiences shared by our guests as we continue to support and empower our international community.

Resources Mentioned: ISSS Instagram | Off-Campus Housing Appointment | OCL Instagram | Vendor Letter

Host: Hello and welcome back to global connections at USF I'm Rashi Bhatt, your host and today we're diving into a crucial topic for many international students navigating off-campus housing. Joining us for this discussion is Brandon Thomas off-campus community manager who will provide expert guidance on the intricacies of the rental market.

But first, we'll hear experiences from international students, Axel Ndombasi and Prakriti Shakya as they share their journeys of finding housing in San Francisco.

Welcome, Axel. Can you please introduce yourself, mention your area of study, and where you're from?

Axel: My name is Axel Ndombasii and I am a computer science student at the University of San Francisco and I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Host: Thank you. So, Axel, as an undergraduate student, did you have a plan in place for switching from on-campus to off-campus housing? Were there specific factors that you kept in mind? Can you walk us through that process, please?

Axel: Yeah. So when I first started out, I didn't really have a plan. I was just like, yeah, this is not working out for me. Living on campus with a roommate is not something I enjoyed, I wanna say. So I kind of started making my own plan out, like, as time was going, you know, researching, I didn't really reach out to the off-campus department. I was like, I'm an old man and, you know, I can do things by myself. I definitely asked my brother that also lives in California already and he gave me tips on what to do and how to look for apartments. And that's how I, I get. I got it started and I, you know, scheduled tours and try to make sure everything was set up, and then Yeah.

Host: Awesome. Ok. So what are some of those tips that your brother shared with you? I feel like our listeners would find those to be helpful.

Axel: No, definitely. Honestly, the biggest tip he gave me is you need to start like ahead, you definitely can start moving in. Like let's say you are planning to move in September, you can start looking for apartments in August. This will not work out. You won't get what you want. I started looking for apartments six months ahead. And, well, a lot of, a lot of the times when I used to reach out to them, they were like, yes, no, please reach out to us like when it's closer to your moving date. Yes, please don't do that because at the end of the day, you still wanna tour the apartment, make sure you feel home. See all the potential availabilities that they have and just make sure like you're in a safe environment, especially for San Francisco. So definitely looking ahead is like one of the biggest tips he gave me.

Host: Is there anything that international students or anyone in the renter or housing market should be mindful of?

Axel: To be honest, I wanna say yes. When I was looking for apartments, I did find like a spot that looked too good to be true. It was a one-bedroom, a single room and it was a studio at the same time and it was like super nice, super clean, super spacious and it just looked too good to be true, to be honest with the price that was listed and it was like at a good location and I was like, you know what? Yeah, this is the spot I'm gonna take I texted the listing agent from that that from the from the listing on Zillow. And I was like, yeah, I'm looking forward to like move in like two months. Do you think we're able to like sign the documents or whatever? He was like, oh yeah, no problem. Just the only thing you need to do is just like send me the deposit through Zelle and I was like, huh interesting. So I texted Zillow, I was, I was so glad that I did text Zillow because it was eventually a scam but I did text Zillow. I was like, is this listing like credible listing? Is it a a real person or is it, is it a scam? It because it was really too good to be true. What happened is that Zilla texted me back? They were like, oh yeah, let's look into it but I will let you know and I realized that the listing was gone and so it was a scam. So just be mindful of people that will try to scam you because a lot of students are just like, yeah, I just wanna get over it and everything. It is a very complicated process. Just don't give up and just don't fold for people that are trying to scam you. So just be mindful, just make sure and double check that this thing is legit. You wanna of course go toward the spot. Don't rely on images. The images can be very different from what they are in reality. So that's another tip that I wanna give up.

Host: Sure, definitely. So I guess looking back now, do you think you would have done anything differently?

Axel: To be honest, something I would do differently is just stick to your plan and stick to your budget specifically your budget. I wanna say that because when I first started looking for apartments, I was like, you know what? All right, I think I'm able to pay like $1500 for example. And I started looking at places and I was like, oh, this place is 1600 maybe I should look into it. Oh, this is 1700 is not that big of a difference. Honestly, the best thing you should do is just stick to your budget. Make sure you keep looking. I know it does get a little, a little bit frustrating when you don't find places that are around your budget. But I promise you that if you keep looking, you will find those places. And you should also be aware that if you want to leave by yourself, for example, you will be paying more rent than somebody that will have roommates. So just be mindful of those things as well. Just know that not all apartment buildings will have your utilities included. So a lot of the list prices that you see on the websites, just make sure to add like maybe 100 or $200 per month, just so you have your utilities covered and whatsoever you might need from the apartment to be honest. So that's something I would do differently. I would kind of lose myself a little bit and go like maybe I could like change my budget. But honestly, I'm glad that I didn't and I kept looking. So that's something you should definitely stick on right now and that's something I would definitely do differently because I did waste a lot of time looking at other apartments that were out of my budget and yeah, it was just a waste of time basically.

Host: Now that you live off campus. Are there any specific facts that you keep in mind for traveling to university? Anything else that has changed because of your housing that you'd like to share with us?

Axel: Yeah. Something that definitely has changed is how I get to school when I used to live off campus. It, it was like, oh, you know what, wake up an hour early,, shower, get ready and then I'll be in class on time. Living off campus. You have to factor the bus time, and your commute time. And that in a lot of like in a lot of situations can be very different than living off campus. For example, I live downtown and before getting my scooter, it used to take me an extra 40 minutes to get to school. So that's something you should be mindful about. Just look at different transportation options. I got a scooter because I felt comfortable riding a scooter and that has helped me a lot. And now that I have my scooter, it basically takes me 10 minutes to get to school. So that's something that I really enjoy. It does not make me lazy at all because I know like if it's like a 40 minute ride, let's say, for whatever reason, your bus is late and then, you know, you miss like your bus or for example, you have to wait another 40 minutes and then you show up to class late and maybe you don't even want to go to class no more. So just that, that's just something you should probably keep in mind. something I would just want to share just for like general knowledge and just so you're aware about like the moving process living on campus and off campus is totally different. Like you get into a place where you don't have no furniture like you, the apartment is basically totally empty. You have to make up everything by yourself. And it's a lot of money, to be honest. how I dealt with it is shopping like with my availability basically and shopping the most important things. So I didn't go ahead and buy like a TV, for example, right away. I started with my bed, you know, with my U utensils, for example, like things that I would need before anything that I would want. So that's something you should definitely keep in mind and try to help your friends to help you out. Also just be aware that it does feel very lonely if you live by yourself. For example, I used to have a roommate and now I live by myself. I was lonely for the first couple of months honestly, but I got used to it honestly, just find time to enjoy your time by yourself. just being independent is just very different than just being on campus. Like on campus, you have your friends, you could just step out, go to class, for example and just start studying at home. You have to make your home a study area, you know, for example, and also just like, you can't just make sure you don't go back home like at midnight, for example, it could be like dangerous or whatever. Like, what are the factors that I that I took into consideration to select my apartment? Definitely the price if it felt like home because honestly, a lot of the places here don't feel like home and I was able to find a spot that really was heartwarming to me. Try to communicate with your parents. Honestly, they are able to tell you like they have experience they know what you need. So try to communicate with them, send them videos, send them pictures if you have send them pictures and videos. Just so they're able to help you out because they probably have more experience than you in like moving in those sorts of situations. So find, try to find something that is really heartwarming, try to find something that is close to something that you like. For example, I have one of my close friends that is from Congo as well that lives in an apartment living that is two minutes away from my spot. So sometimes when I need something, let's say I'm out of laundry detergent, I'm just able to walk to her spot and, you know, get some help, for example, or let's say if you're a big fan of, let's say a, specific supermarket and you're like, oh, I know I'm gonna shop there every day, maybe try to find a spot that is gonna be close to that, supermarket or whatever. But yeah, that's just something you should keep in mind at the end of the day. Just know that once you sign that lease, it is going to be very complicated to change your decision. So just make sure you feel at home, you feel safe in the area you select before signing that lease. And yeah, and also just remember that because you're an international student, The deposits are very different from that regular domestic students, for example, I had to pay 1.5 times the price of my lease while residents here just pay like like half of the lease or like a quarter of the lease, which is different values when you think about like $1000 for example. So that's something you should be mindful about. Just be prepared, honestly, and ask questions, you can come to our office, ask questions and I myself will be happy to help.

Host: Yeah. No. Thank you so much for listing some of those factors that you kept in mind. Landlords typically require a US cosigner or a social security number which most international students may not be able to provide. Right. So some landlords may ask for a higher security deposit to lower their risk as you mentioned. And just to ensure that you will pay the rent owed for the length of the lease. And this amount varies based on the company or the landlord, but typically it is one month's rent held as deposit. So it's always good to keep some of these specifics in mind while you're planning and budgeting for your off-campus housing. I'd like to thank you again, Axel for speaking with me today and sharing your tips towards securing your place of residence.

Prakriti: Hi everyone. My name is Prakriti Shakya. I am a second-year master's student studying international development in economics and I am from Nepal.

Host: Wow. Ok, welcome. So do you mind sharing a little bit about how you went about conducting your housing search from abroad and what factors you kept in mind doing?

Prakriti: So, of course, so I started looking for housing as soon as I decided that I wanted to do my masters at USF but then I actively started looking for housing just a month and a half before moving because stuff, it's like the landlords only start like renting out the place a month before. So I started actively like sending emails messages and also following up with calls and with calls, I made sure I was aware of the time zone as well.

And besides that, I was a part of a lot of like Facebook groups where I was like, actively checking it every morning and evening and sending messages as well and asking for virtual room tours because I couldn't do it like in real, I mean, in real time.

So I could ask for like room tours. And then some of the factors that I kept in mind while looking for a place was like the location to the bus stop. If I was like living further away from the university, how close is to the supermarket and the cost, the rent, the amenities, how many roommates were there? And was it like a monthly or yearly lease? And I also made sure that it wasn't a scam.

Host: Yeah. Thank you for listing out those factors. Those are super important to keep in mind. So do you mind walking us through a little bit about the methodology that you implemented for your search? And has it been fruitful for you? Were there any hurdles that came up that you're now kind of mindful of just looking back is there anything that you would like to change?

Prakriti: It took a lot of time and energy for me to look for places from abroad, like, especially like people would get suspicious because when I tell them that I'm from Nepal, which is why I wish I was more open to other options as well.

I wish I had reached out to my like international classmates in the program so that we could have looked for housing together because it's better to look for housing together than rather to like look for it like in like by yourself. And then I also wished I had looked into more resources provided by the off-campus housing department.

And I would say the second time cause I, cause I had to look for housing. The second, I mean, twice from abroad because I went to another country during summer for research work, which is why I had to look into to housing twice from abroad. And the second time, I would say I was more comfortable because I already knew the places in San Francisco. And I also knew what I was looking for, what to prioritize, what not to prioritize. And yeah.

Host: Before we wrap up, do you mind giving our listeners maybe three top tips or resources that you think would be the most helpful to them based off of your experience?

Prakriti: OK. Like I mentioned earlier, I wish I knew about the resources that the off campus housing were providing. And I wish I had like, actively reached out to them and made an appointment to actually have a conversation about. Although I read their vlog blogs and other resources. I wish I had talked to another person who had expertise in this topic.

And besides, I wish I had known about like other apartment listing, like outside of just Facebook that I was actively looking into like other website like Zillow or Craigslist.

And lastly, I wish I wish I knew about the vendor letter that US F provides that mentions that you are an incoming student and you have the finances to live in the US to study in the US because that would have helped me build trust with the landlords or the agents. They wouldn't have been suspicious about me, like, like reaching out to them from Nepal, you know. So I wish I had known about that.

Host: Wow. Yeah, that's super helpful to know, especially because you're basing it off of your experience firsthand and I'm sure our listeners are going to be taking notes and help them make their housing search a little bit easy. Thank you so much for, for spending a little bit of time with us and sharing your tips and your off campus housing search. So thank you so much.

Prakriti: Thank you.

Host: Hello, we'll now converse with Brandon Thomas. Brandon can you please introduce yourself briefly? Tell us a little bit about your office and the roles as an OCL community manager.

Brandon: Yeah. So hello everybody. My name is Brandon Thomas. I use he/him pronouns. I am the off campus community manager here at USF I've been in this role a little bit for about eight months now.

And so my job, my responsibility is to help students who are looking for off campus housing, whether they're incoming students, graduate students, they're making that transition from on campus to off campus. I'm just here to, you know, be that person that can, you know, listen, but they also give advice, they also just help you through the process, not necessarily tell you which apartments are good, but just give you advice, information about the general housing, general housing options in San Francisco.

Host: Oh, awesome. Yeah, that seems like an all-important job. especially when students are making that transition from on campus to off-campus or just like navigating the San Francisco renting market. It can be overwhelming. So thank you for the role and thank you for the resources that you provide.

Brandon: So do you mind giving us a bit of an overview of some of the most common questions that students reach out to you? Maybe in the different stages of their housing search specifically maybe for international students. yeah, there are multiple ways that students come to us. So I like to break it down into three stages.

So it's the first stage I haven't even started and I'm planning to arrive at us f I've started but I still need more information, which is like the second stage and then the third stage is OK. I think I've gotten everything but now I just want to review it just to make sure.

And so whenever I talk to international students, they are always with within one of those three stages or a combination of the three. And it's, and it's interesting because international students who are, you know, come to us south, they aren't necessarily like, they aren't here in San Francisco looking for housing as an on-campus student who's looking for housing or just like a regular student who's like coming from like another state. And so I think that it's interesting. and so one of the things that we do is we always set up a meeting time whether and it's always on international time.

And so we meet with the student, we talk about some of the things that they're looking for what's their budget range, things that they can do things that they can provide when they're looking for housing. A common question that we always get is do landlords like international students?

And the answer is Yes. Actually landlords love international students which was new to me when I got here. And so yeah, so we always say that it's easy.
Well, it's, it, it's a process when looking for housing but for international students, it takes a little bit more information. and that's fine. It's better to provide more information than not to have enough information. 

Host: Yeah, definitely. I think it's good that you mentioned that there are three distinct steps, but students can reach out to you regardless of where they are in their housing search and find some specific resources, especially if they're trying to find some listings. You know, from being abroad and just verifying the information that they need to provide. But also the information that's listed if it's valid or if it's fraudulent. 

Brandon: No, that's a, that's a really good one because there are so many times where like an international student would be like, oh my goodness. I found this great place. It's amazing. And then it turns out to be a scam and that's what we don't want for our students. So we try to give as much information, but we also tell students that like you live in the real world. So like people can sometimes be cruel and try to, you know, take things that don't belong to them.
And so we, we tell students about scams and how to avoid them and things to look out for and then if they need again that additional support or additional resources, they can always email us and be like, hey, I have this apartment listing. I'm not sure if it's a scam. Can you, you know, answer this question for me?

Host: So yeah, yeah, that's good that they could kind of reach out to you and have somebody else wet it as well. So there's like two sets of eyes looking at the list thing that's super helpful. And are there any specific resources that students can find through your office? I know a lot of students need to provide proof of finances and explain to landlords why they don't have a social security number? And the vendor letter that your office provides in congruence with international students and scholars services is such a vast resource for international students, right?It explains to landlords that the student has secured a visa based on financial ability to pay for their living expenses and tuition and just that they are a USF student. And also information about why they may not have a social security number. So are there any specific resources that you have in mind?

Brandon: Yeah, so as you were talking about the vendor leather is always a good resource for students to provide to landlords or people that they're looking to rent from.

There are a couple more that they can provide a couple more information that they can provide. One of them is their class schedule slash their USF ID. A lot of times a landlord will believe that they, that, you know, international students are in classes, but they just wanna make sure that they are taking like the appropriate amount of classes to be a full time student. So they can provide that. they can also, and in conjunction with that, they can also offer to pay two times the rent or not the rent, sorry, the deposit and or pay in advance.

So a lot of international students that have come through our office, they, we've told them that you can double the deposit. So if your deposit is $1000 you would double that to 2000. just to have that security that you can make payments to the landlord. But then also just showing that, you know, you're a really good tenant and that you have the money to pay for it.

Host: Yeah, excellent. And I'm guessing we could have our students go to your web pages to find some of these resources.

Brandon: Yeah. or if they're in conversations with us, we'll probably drop like these little nuggets here and there. But all of this information is on our website.And so we want students to be well prepared and well and well versed when talking to landlords. That they know exactly what they're talking about and they know exactly what they want.

Host: Awesome. And if we could ask you to give us three quick tips that students could keep in mind either during their search or when negotiating their rent with the landlord or just like quick tips for off campus housing search.

Brandon: Yes. So, there are three, so one, is actually a two parter that we tell all of our students no matter whether graduate students, undergraduate international students is that there are always, two types of searches that you wanna do. So your soft search or like your soft launch into looking for your apartment.

That is when you are researching the market, that's when you're researching, all of the, the market price, the neighborhoods, deciding whether you wanna live on a busy street or on a quiet street, you're researching the neighborhoods, you are doing all of this research and gathering all of this information. So then when you get to the second step, which is your heart launch or your, like your heart search, That is when, a lot of different things come into effect. So the 30 day cycle that is on sf And so, what that is is you wanna backtrack 30 days before you move into your apartment?

So if you are planning to move into your apartment, August 1st, your heart search would start July, June 30th 31st slash July 1st. So it's the end of so it's the end of June, beginning of July because every 30 days there will always be new apartments that populate. So let's say you're in April and you're like, oh my goodness, I need to find an apartment for August. You're very, very, very, very early. which is not bad, which is we, we always we always thank students for being early and being on top of this.

But now they're in their soft search. So they're looking their research and they're like, ok, I can, you know, have ease of mind because I can take it day by day. But when you get to June that June, July time period, that's when you wanna start understanding. Ok, I want to live in this place. I like this neighborhood. This is how much I can afford, this is my budget. This is how much I pay for amenities, utilities, etc.

Second, you can talk to friends. So I know that for international students, there are different webinars that students attend. And the last one that I was a part of I saw so many students creating whatsapp groups and getting to know each other and all this other stuff. So if you're in one of those groups and you're like, hey, like I really like you or I think that we should room together just to save our money and time. Definitely rooming with friends, especially people that you're gonna be in the program with. that helps a lot and so that, you know that both of you are gonna go through this process together and you're not gonna do it by yourself because Oco will be here. And then lastly come and talk to us, we are always here, always ready to lend out all of the information that we have. We try not to gatekeep it or hold it to ourselves like we want students to ask as many questions as possible.

Because the more questions you ask, then the more that we kind of take a step back and understand the needs, not only of our undergraduate and graduate students, but also our international student population. Well, definitely, I'm sure those tips resonate with a lot of students like either in their soft search phase or their heart search phase.

Host: So thank you for listing those out for us. As we close, please remind our students how best to get in touch and we'll be sure to link all of the resources that you mentioned in the episode description as well. Also, please remind us of any recurring or prominent events that they can look for. Look out for either during the semester or in the fall.

Brandon: Yeah. So every Wednesday, we have a walk in Wednesday. So, let's say I only have 30 minutes and I don't have time for an appointment any other day. We will be tabling. And it's always posted on our social media, our Instagram of where we will be tabling. So I think this week we'll be on the first floor of the University Center and we'll be tabling. There's no appointment needed. You can come up, sit down, have a conversation with a couple of our, our team members and talk about off campus living. Get resources, ask us questions, take brochures. We always try to have snacks at our tables. So if you're just hungry and you're like, I just need somebody to sit down and talk to about off-campus living. We will be there.

Host: Awesome.Yeah. Thank you so much for providing all of your tabling kind of timelines. And I know you guys do a lot of online events as well like Instagram live and such. So we'll be sure to list out your Instagram in the description so students can join and check in on your stories and see when the next one is happening. Thank you so much.

Brandon: Yeah, of course.

Host: Thank you so much for participating and sharing these amazing resources with our students. We were so happy to have you on here.

Brandon: Thank you.

Host: Thank you and thank you so much to our listeners for tuning into global connections at USF stay tuned for more enriching conversations in the episodes to come. All of the resources mentioned in my conversation today will be linked in the episode description on our podcast web pages. Please also don't forget to follow us on Instagram at @USFCA.ISSS and share your comments, topic suggestions. And if you'd like to participate in one of our upcoming episodes, see you next time.


Embark on a journey through the complexities of work authorization and employment pathways with Global Connections at USF’s latest episode. In Episode #4, ISSS advisor Tina Ricafrente navigates work authorization options for F1 and J1 students and on-campus resources, while attorney David Gluckman sheds light on employer sponsorships. Student and alumni guests Giselle Sutjiadi and Angelica Gloria, respectively, share firsthand experiences, from F-1 work authorization options to job search strategies. Don't miss this insightful discussion, available on Spotify!


Resources Mentioned: HandshakeNetworkUSFJob Success Workshop videos | Job Success Workshop SlidesISSS resources for employmentISSS AdvisorsDavid Gluckman - Students can email for a copy of the handout mentioned in the podcast.

This podcast recording is for informational purposes and doesn't replace individualized immigration advice. ISSS does not endorse the information provided by those outside of the ISSS office staff. 

Host: Hello and welcome back to Global Connections at USF. I am your host, Rashi Bhatt. And today we have a very important episode planned for you around work authorization and off-campus employment options. This conversation is going to be very engaging and informational as we speak with ISSS advisor Tina Ricafrente, who is a certified SEVIS administrator and whose advising population includes several undergrad and graduate students across different majors.

We'll also hear from David Gluckman, an attorney with expertise in employment authorization, followed by student perspectives from Giselle Sutjiadi and Angelica Gloria on securing successful career pathways in their respective fields.

Host: I'll start with Tina. Hello, Tina, welcome to the Global Connections at USF podcast. We're so excited to feature our very own advisor for this episode. Can you please introduce yourself?

Tina: Hi, Thank you, Rashi for having me. My name is Tina Ricafrente and as you mentioned, I am the SEVIS administrator but also an advisor here at ISSS specifically advise students in the school of nursing and health professions. And I also advise students in the MSDS program and Jeep students who are here under the J-1 Jesuit Education exchange program.

Host: Excellent. So I guess to start from the basics, what are the employment options for F-1 and J-1 international students who are currently enrolled here at USF?

Tina: So for students who are currently here under the F-1 and J-1status, they can work on campus without any prior work authorization. So if they'd like to work on campus, say at the bookstore or with our events management bona petit, they can do so without getting authorization for their F-1 or J-1 status.

And they would look for employment through the student employment website.
And then from there, they would, once they are able to get a job on campus, they would need to make sure that they apply for their social security card so that they can submit that to the student employment office.

Now, there are some regulations to keep in mind if they are currently enrolled and working on campus, they can only work up to 20 hours a week while class is in session during break, and students can work up to 35 hours a week.

Students studying under the J-1 status are also allowed to work on campus to student employment and off-campus with academic training authorization.
However, they first must obtain approval from their J-1 sponsoring agency or institution before beginning any employment, both on and off campus.

Host: Ok, great. Thank you for listing out those specifics for us and when students are transitioning off-campus from on-campus, for example, if they're looking at graduation in a couple of months, what work authorizations should they start to consider? Do you think there is a timeline you recommend to your advisees when they meet with you for F-1 students?

Tina:  Specifically, there are a few options about working off-campus. One is CPT or curricular practical training and the other is OPT optional practical training with CPT just like its name, it is curricular. So it's typically done. You would need to have a course or degree requirement that requires practical training in your major field of study. And then if you do have a course or degree requirement and you're able to find like an internship off-campus, you would be eligible for CPT and with OPT, that's a 12-month work authorization that you can use either before or after you graduate.

And so students typically like to save that 12-month, full-time benefit for after they graduate called post-completion OPT, but they can also use it before they graduate called pre-completion OPT.

And unlike CPT, with OPT, you do not need to have a course or degree requirement for practical training. But before you can be eligible for CPT or OPT, you do need to keep in mind that you must be in full-time academic F one status for at least one full year prior to your authorization. So the only caveat to this or exception to this are for students in graduate programs that require CPT or practical training right away in their master's program. But say you're an undergrad student under F-1 status and you wanted to do an internship for your course.

Using CPT, you would need to make sure that you've been in active F one status for at least one year or two academic messages immediately right before the A the authorization for CPT.

Host: Oh, interesting. So there are plenty of options that students could explore, be it during their study through possible internships and post-completion of their program. As long as they read up on the details of each of the work authorization types that they'd like to opt in for and then they can reach out to their ISS advisor to explore these options further.

Tina: Yes, definitely. If you have any questions about you know, am I eligible for CPT?
You know, when should I start applying for OPT? Our website is a great resource for that. 

Host: Yeah, I was just about to get to that. So how can ISSS help international students navigate work authorization options? I know you mentioned, meet with your advisors. Definitely refer to our web pages. I also know we can conduct some workshops. Did you wanna briefly touch on that? And some other resources you may have in mind?

Tina:  Yes, actually one of our biggest workshops or most popular workshops that we hold often is our OPT workshop that OPT workshop is actually mandatory for students who are going to request for OPT recommendation. So if you are a student and you want to learn more about OPT, you definitely are required to attend our OPT workshop and we have those online via Zoom.

And we also hold them a couple times during the semester. In person on campus, we also have our networking and interview sessions that we do in the fall and in the spring and we usually hold that in conjunction with like the career service center.

And here we sometimes have alumni come and talk about their experience looking for jobs and, and working off-campus. So this is a great way for current international students to get information directly from the source from other international student alumni. And we also have ISA, which is the International Student Alumni Network, which is part of Network USF and in ISA, you can connect with other international students and alumni who across the globe, not just here in the US, and they can share their experiences about looking for jobs all over.

So not just here in the US, but everywhere. And it's a great way. To stay connected with your alumni who are also a resource for you as you try to navigate, you know, your work authorization after graduating. And last, we also have our advisors. You can make an appointment with your advisor, your ISSS advisor. You can also email, you can call us. There's so many ways to get in touch with us. So after you've done all your your pre-work and visited our employment web pages, maybe went to a workshop or two and you still have questions.Your ISSS advisor is there to speak with you with you and give you more specific answers to your questions?

Host: Yes, definitely. And we'll be sure to link all of the mentioned resources in the episode description below. Thank you again, Tina, for speaking with us today. The conversation with you has effectively listed out the timelines. What should students keep in mind about their employment goals and the resources they can access to realize those goals like our online workshops around OBT HONEB and much more our detailed web pages with information on CBT on-campus employment FAQs.
And if you ever need more assistance, you can always schedule an appointment with your ISSS advisor and meet with them in person or online.

Host: Thank you, Tina. And now I'll be speaking with David Gluckman. He's an attorney with expertise in work authorization processes and he's helped process a variety of places for international students post their academic degrees.
Hello and welcome, David. Do you mind introducing yourself for our listeners? Tell us a little bit about your work and where you're currently based.

David: Thanks so much, Rashi. My name is David Gluckman, as she said, and I am an immigration attorney with the law firm of mccanless Holton and I'm based in Virginia, but we do cases nationwide because immigration law is federal.

So immigration law is the same in California as it is in Virginia and Guam.
So I have a great deal of expertise, helping out international students and scholars navigating their postgrad graduation journey from F one status to permanent residency and hopefully us citizenship. So, I have a great passion for helping smart people in the United States. That's what drives me to do what I do and that's why I'm here today to talk to you guys.

Host:  Excellent. Thank you so much for taking the time out to be with us today. So I guess let's start from the basics. Can you briefly tell us what employer sponsorship even means and how it is relevant for students on a visa?

David: Yeah, sure. So I think it's best to sort of back up and take a look at our immigration system, which is incredibly imperfect. Our system has not been meaningfully updated in decades and unfortunately, it's very arcane and archaic and that it is mainly based on employer sponsorship. If somebody wants to get post graduation work, visa sponsorship and then post graduation and post visa sponsorship for permanent residency. So sponsorship can mean a number of things in a of different contexts.

So and I'll talk about the steps to this sort of thinking about it as a ladder. So I graduate from, from college and then the first rung is I have something called optional practical training opt. And the next rung up on that is a longer term work visa such as the H1B.
And that's what keeps me here and working until I'm able to get to the top rung of the ladder with just permanent residency. And you'll, and as I'll discuss, there's no need for employer sponsorship in the early stage for OPT.

But if you ultimately want to stay longer in the United States after your OPT and, and pursue a green card, you're going to need something an employer to sponsor you and you know, that requires an employer a lot of times to file paperwork to attest a certain obligations.
But as I'm gonna discuss in a few minutes, by the time that comes up, you're hopefully already gonna be a valuable member of their workforce and it's gonna be a no-brainer for them to go ahead and proceed with that.

Host: Mhm. Ok. I think it's good for students to have that little bit of background context. In mind and also the latter that you mentioned while they're looking through job board sites and pay close attention to mentions of sponsorship for sure. So what can students do during their studies And while on opt to increase their chances of getting sponsored by an employer? I think you're starting to get to that.

David: Oh, yeah, I think, I think it's very important almost from day one to take the long view of your immigration journey. Ok. That will allow you to sort of plan in advance even from an internship phase from when you're doing your undergrad or graduate class work. That will hopefully lead to post graduation opportunity opt and then hopefully for sponsorship. So it's always good to start early. While you are a student, you have access to something called curricular practical training.

That is what allows you to engage in off campus work such as internships to sort of build your resume. That's something you can work with your advisor on camps on in terms of finding appropriate opportunities that the school will be able to support.
Once you do that, then it's a matter of getting opt after you graduate, making yourself invaluable during O BT and then hopefully following that pathway towards sponsorship for longer term work visas and then ultimately permit.

Host: Yeah, excellent. So I gotta start early and plan ahead. Those are helpful tips for students to keep in mind continually as we going through this process and start having this conversation with their employer.

So even before that, I guess so when the students are in the interviewing process, starting to get closer to figuring out like their work authorization options, how do you think students should best bring up the question of sponsorship with their employer?
In your experience, do you think they're open to discussing it during the interviewing process? Just your, your thoughts on this?

David: Well, it's not something that I would affirmatively raise unless they ask about it and we'll talk about this in a second because I know there's a question about how to answer that the query about whether I need sponsorship.

But I think the most important thing is to take advantage of the things that are within your control.

There are certain things not in your control like the H1B quota. The permanent residency quotas, all that stuff is not in your control.

What you can do is on day one, make yourself indispensable to that employer. And that's why OPT is such a valuable benefit. I don't think I'm overs selling it when I say that next year degree itself. OPT is the second most valuable benefit of having a F-1 status.

And the reason for that is because unlike some of the future sponsorship that we've talked about, opt does not require the employer to do anything So you pay for that application fee, you submit the paperwork yourself, you get the card yourself, you show up on day one, ready to work.

And during that time you have with the employer on opt you build a relationship with that employer.

You become indispensable to that employer, they train you, they trust you, they like you.
And when it becomes time to talk about other sponsorship like H1B, by that time, you will already have built a relationship with the employer.

So that is more when I would affirmatively raises when you feel comfortable and the value that you're providing to the employer, such that it should be a no brainer for them to agree to sponsor you, you bring it up too soon in the interview, especially if it's a less sophisticated, less experienced employer, then my fear is that it might scare them off, shouldn't scare them off because there are certain, there's information you can provide to them sort of demystify the process. But to the extent you can defer that discussion until you've already built that relationship. I think the later the better.

Host:  Hm, I see, I take advantage of the opt to start building that relationship with the employer and if the student was doing excellent in their position, the employer will be willing to keep them on. I guess not all us employers are familiar with the sponsorship process and maybe they might be on the fence about sponsoring an international student. They don't know what it entails, the paperwork and such.
So, what information do you think international students should share about, with the employers about sponsorship specifically and how they should approach, bringing it up with the employer and like them being involved in the process.

David: Yeah, that's an excellent question. And, and I have developed a handout which I distributed at my campus presentation and I just gave one at the University of San Francisco, I believe last month. And it's a handout that is entitled the easy guide to hire in foreign graduates. And I encourage anybody who wants a copy of this document to email me. I'd be happy to share.

But basically what it does is it distills what an employer needs to know about the sponsorship process, what the steps are, how long it and how much it costs so they can again to demystify it to make it more accessible.
A lot of employers are under the impression that they need to do things like advertise and prove there are no us workers available when that's absolutely not the case on OPT.

They can hire you just like they can hire any US worker you have that work hard and there's no problem with that.
The H1B there's no need to show that there's no qualified workers available. It's just a matter of you do a lottery. And I have information about them. So it really is a good document to have.

And the reason I designed it that way is so that I can empower you guys with the information that you need to answer common questions of interview because a lot of them will ask. Ok, well, how long is the week? How much does it cost? When do I have to submit a registration? And it's all on them?

Because I think that self advocacy is really gonna be key and, and if you want to email me, I can share you this document and it has my contact information on the bottom that you can share with employers. And I always talk to employers free of charge, answer questions.

They might have to sort of get them off the fence with respect to sponsorship because at the end of the day, while you should be able to answer some of these basic questions about, you know, you know, the pathway going forward, you're not gonna be able to answer them all. Sometimes a large, especially those that are doing this for the first time. They might have some additional logistical questions or other things that they might have read. That might not be true. And you can put them in touch with me or another qualified immigration expert and we can sort of walk them through the process.

But yeah, it's definitely not as scary as employers think the fact that I was able to distill all that stuff onto one page and make you guys a little bit less intimidated because the information is very accessible and it's just a matter of being prepared to answer those questions and that document. If you're interested, you can email me and I'll give you all the information.

Host: Wow. Yeah. No, I feel like I'm gonna send you an email right away for that document once, get to the point of speaking and bringing up the sponsorship question with my employer and also like excellent resource for even students to review for them to be well prepared for the potential questions that might be posed to them and then pass it on to an expert like you, if the employer wants to have like a third party, you know, like non-biased perspective and go through the specific questions that they might have for you.
So no, those are excellent resources. Thank you so much for bringing that up. I know a question that a lot of students have is what should they take off when the application asks? Do you require sponsorship now or in the future? Do you have any thoughts on this one?

David: Yeah, I mean, that's a really hard one because you know that if you answer yes, there are certain algorithms that are just gonna filter you about altogether. So the question is, is there a good faith basis for me to say no, I don't require sponsorship and I think that there definitely is because first of all, most of the time you're gonna be applying for a job and you're gonna have opt and that does not require employers sponsorship.

Like I said, that's an entirely student driven process that does not involve the employer at all. And once you have opt, I mean, you have no idea what the future holds. I mean, does anybody have a crystal ball? It very well may be that you'll get a, you'll get a marriage based green card that does not require employer sponsorship. You may get a self sponsored green card and sort of the extra inability or national interest waiver categories that doesn't require employer responses.

So there are many ways that you can say that you do not require employer sponsor because there are definitely many ways where you can on your own, get a green card and there's just no way that you're gonna be able to know at the time. You answer that question, whether any of those a are definitively going to be closed off.

Host: Mhm. I think after participating in the workshop that you were mentioning last month, I've started changing how I respond to that question because prior to this, I always thought I had to take yes, but you've changed my mind a little bit about you never know what the future holds and you can get your sponsorship in a variety of ways, right?

They it doesn't have to be dependent on the employer. So yeah, this this one is super critical one. Students pay close attention to this. So thank you so much for the practical tips.

Finally, before we let you go, what are your top three advice for international students who are looking to get more job experience in the US beyond their student visa? Just top three quick ones that come to your mind. 

David: I mean, I think we went over some of these, but number one, I would say again, start early. You know, this is a long term process. It's not like for a country that has a modern immigration law and we're, we're gonna basically stay to a green card to your diploma after you graduate. I mean, that would be great. I wish that was our policy, but unfortunately, it's not. So definitely my first piece of advice would be to start early, the second, is definitely to make full use of opt. I mean, there are billions of people around the world that would pay a lot more than the current filing fee of 400 something dollars for opt for the ability to work an entire year in the United States.

I mean, that is an unbelievably valued benefit, not only because it sure let, lets you make some money finally after you graduate.

I mean, that is an unbelievably valued benefit, not only because it sure let, lets you make some money finally after you graduate. But more importantly, it allows you to build those relationships with the employers that are ultimately gonna need to be sponsoring you for longer term work, visas and permanent residency. And I guess the third thing I just say is again, just take the long view.

I mean, immigration is sort of a chess game, you know, you gotta think a few steps ahead. So while certain things that might seem good pathways, like if I'm an entrepreneur and I wanna work for myself during OPT, I mean, that's wonderful.

And I, a lot of people who have that entrepreneurial spirit, but you've got to understand that the pathway beyond OPT if you wanna be an entrepreneur is very limited.

So I don't wanna clip people's wings, but you have to understand that our immigration system is very arcane, very old and need of updating and it's not very friendly towards entrepreneurial pathways.

So in the vast majority of cases, it's gonna require an employer sponsorship and you're gonna need to know that early on. So you can, you can sort of suss out the right opportunity, find an employer that's willing to hire you, build that relationship and then hopefully parlay that into future sponsorship for longer term like the H1B for the Green Card.

I do those types of cases all the time. Don't feel discouraged if you're listening to this podcast because it certainly can happen for you.

Every single year there's far more demand for these visas and there is the supply available. So, you know, my question is why not you? And it certainly is available option.

Host: Thank you. I feel like work authorizations and visas are like such big topics and it could be daunting for students to even think about, let alone start planning ahead and look into the future. But I feel like you've made some of these options very approachable and given us some practical tips for students to keep in mind.

So thank you again for spending your time with us.

I really appreciated talking with you and I'm sure all of our listeners have found your insights to be super helpful and super practical.

Thank you. I'll be sure to mention the resources that you were speaking about and your email and contact info in our resource list.

David: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure speaking with you today. Thanks for hosting.

Host: And now to put all those tips and resources and action. I'll be speaking with two brilliant USF students who have made their career goals into reality.

We'll get to hear about how that timeline both Tina and David mentioned has played out how they utilize on campus resources and if they turn to experts in that process to always remain in visa compliance, I'll first speak with Giselle Sutjiadi.

Do you please mind introducing yourself what you study at USF and where you're currently working?

Giselle: Yeah, for sure. Hi, everyone. My name is Giselle.I am currently a senior majoring in accounting. Right now my position I'm working on an on campus job. I've had the opportunity to work as the accounting intern at the events management and guest service office. It's been a lot of fun.

What I love about my role is that even though I'm an intern, I have a lot of autonomy and control on how accounting processes are facilitated and how they're managed.

So I really love how I'm given this opportunity to manage certain aspects of how accounting is done in our office. And yeah, moving forward to the summer, I'm really excited as I'm having, as I'm having my internship lined up at Ernest and Young in L A.

So, yeah, outside of just being an accountant.

I love to spend time off of work and school and playing some spike ball at us f it's a new growing club and yeah, it's, it's loads of fun and it's a lot of fun being in the competitive team, a lot of fun meeting new people and yeah, it's just a new growing score.

It's been amazing.

Host: Wow. Yeah, it seems like you're involved with multiple different USF communities at your work, at your internship and also at this sporting club that you mentioned.

So, thank you and welcome. I'm excited to speak with you today.

So do you mind telling us where you're from? I know you said you're an international student just so that our listeners know and if there are other students from your home country that can just relate and plan out their career goals, maybe in line with where you're from.

Giselle: Yeah. So I am from Indonesia, but I grew up in China in the Bustling city of Shanghai.

Some of the measures that I took to earn the position, the job position I have today is that I really understood that it is quite high as high barrier of entry as an international student to enter in like job opportunities without work experience.
So I've really took the time to carve out some job opportunities in my home country back in Indonesia.

So I've interned at a logistics company as a secretary intern. And so I've managed it's been a lot of fun. I've managed an IPO ceremony with this logistics company.

So I've gained a lot of experience in like management and like teamwork.

And from there, I was, I also applied to a consulting internship in Deloitte in Jakarta.
So having experiences in having a lot of job experiences in my native country before transitioning and to some work opportunities in America has been a big help.

Moving forward just like the resources on campus has just utilizing the resources, has been a lot of help for me. I've had recruiters from companies from, for example, enterprise and KPMG revise my resume before I submitted my application to some internships here at SF And so, yeah, so I've also had a lot of opportunities with ISA as I've served as the finance officer being involved in ISA has been and they've offered a lot of on campus opportunities which otherwise I would not have found myself.

So that has been a big springboard and it's been, and I've been really grateful and that's how I found my events management accounting intern, it's through ISA.

And so, yeah, I'm really thankful for ISA for providing me these like job opportunities.

Host: Excellent. So just recapping all those exciting and insightful resources that you laid out there for us. You mentioned that definitely start early even as early as you being in your home country and starting to build those job positions on your resume.

So that when you're here in the US, you could be ready to apply towards your job search, be it through internships, be it through on campus work positions.

And then also like having that resume be looked at through some of those experts that visit our on campus events for recruitment and such.

So excited that you were able to kind of make the most of all of those opportunities that are available to you, not just through the experts, but also through the student organization, right?

I know you mentioned ISA and working very closely with them and I'm glad that students are able to identify different avenues where they could kind of jump in and make the most of the opportunities laid out for them.

I guess do you mind sharing which F-one work authorization option you had utilized to achieve your career goals? I know you mentioned moving to L A. Did you have an opportunity to meet with your ISSS advisor before making that move? Just to stay in compliance with your visa authorization?

Giselle: Yeah. So I have been in touch with ISSS to make sure that I am appropriately work authorized for my internship at ey one work authorization I had to apply was the CPT and that stands for the curricular practical training.

And it's basically a program where you tie an internship with a related class work that you've done that's related to your major.

So I've started planning this out, I would say two months before the beginning of my internship, which will be around mid June.

ISSS has been a big help in walking with me and what I should prepare with my I twenties and with my work authorization letters.

So that has been very smooth and more.

So what I really love about us f is the, is the workshops that they provide in like the beginning of the year or like in the beginning of the semester, they have provided opt and CPT workshops so that students have a very clear and concise timeline on when to turn things in so that you're all set up for your internship.

So yeah, really grateful for that.

Host: Yeah. Excellent. I'm glad that you were able to participate in those workshops. I know you mentioned at the beginning of the semester. So it gives you a really good idea to plan ahead and make sure that you're on top of submitting any documents or requests that you need to do and have everything ready to go for your internship perfectly in time for the summer.

And finally, before we let you go, are there three tips that you'd like to give other international students who would like to map out their own pathway?
Like you have maybe through an internship, maybe through a job opportunity. Just three tips that you have in mind for them.

Giselle: Yeah, I feel like the first tip is to be upfront as an international student. You do not wanna waste your time with a company that doesn't recruit or appreciate the international student talent.

So whenever you're on, whenever you're applying for a job, when you're applying in their portal or through like work day, you really want to scout out the companies that are CPT and opt eligible.

That way you are lining up with this with a company that will value yourself as an international student.

And on top of that, it just doesn't waste anyone's time, it won't waste your time or the recruiters time.

Secondly, definitely to plan ahead and attend the workshops that USF provides, it's really important to know which hard how long it takes for CPTs to process how long opts to process.

Because the last thing you wanna do is have an internship lined up only to find yourself in like the logistics and not being eligible to apply only because of the dates.

So last, but not least I really recommend to be in contact with recruiters so that you understand the recruiting timeline, so you can get ahead of yourself of the competition. I feel like there are a lot of competitive applicants in the Bay Area.So what really would differentiate yourself is to understand the recruiting timeline.

For example, for accounting internships, they've already started opening positions for summer 2025.

So if you're on the lookout, if you have the radar, if you're in contact with recruiters, you can apply early when the positions are open and ready.

So that's my advice for international students. Just to plan ahead, understand the, the CPT and opt timelines, do the workshops and also give yourself a competitive advantage by understanding the recruiting timeline and when these jobs open, excellent.

Host: Those are super helpful and very practical tips for a student to keep in mind. Thank you so much as well for spending some time with us and walking us through your career plans, your goals and how you're making them reality through all the various resources and steps that you've been taking on campus and before you were even here at your home country.

So thank you so much.

Giselle: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Host: And now I'll be speaking with Angelica Gloria. Do you please mind introducing yourself what you studied at USF and where you're working at currently, 

Angelica: I am Angelica Gloria. I am from Mexico City at USF I did the International and Development Economics master program.
I graduated in May 2023. And right now I work at the California Public Utilities Commission in the Energy Division and I am a regular analyst.

I'm sure as international student yourself, our listeners are going to find your successful journey to work authorization here in the US very insightful.

I had the opportunity to stay in the United States, but I had to go after a, a, an internship to have those credits for, for my, for my thesis. So part of getting the internship was also a huge help.

My, my, my thesis advisor in the summer from first to second year.
So I worked with a CPT and that I got my CPT that, that moment and I worked for open research lab.

They were doing economic research when I was talking to my professors, one of them suggested, have you checked the California Public J this commission, I know they hire international they knew.

So I, I applied for, to CPUC, I started my opt process in February and by May, I had like my E AD card, everything that's going on.

I was just missing a job. So, again, it's, it's no shame to talk about this with your professors.Sometimes they don't know that we are on like a clock, you know, after your EAD gets, I was very, very transparent about this with my thesis advisor.

I worked as a research assistant during the summer.

There was a couple of months right before I got called back from CPUC. And in this two months, this two months, I applying as to as many jobs within the industry that I wanted.

That also limited my, my chances because I was after a very specific industry you mentioned so many insightful tips there. I did not even consider being open and upfront with your professors or your thesis director about your visa status because they can be an excellent resource as well to can make you connect to like potential the jobs or for them to, you know, offer you a research assistantship.

Host: That is a really great tip for international students to keep in mind for sure. I'm gonna try and do that for my own thesis. Yeah, definitely.

Angelica: When I, when I started talking to my professor, well, my thesis advisor about this, he, he didn't know he, he was really surprised about the time limits that we have and, and so he was like, wow, that's difficult.

Well, let me see if I can help you. So he actually was very, very nice and very helpful when you were getting closer to your graduation.

Host: Did you start to consider other options for your visa sponsorship? Were you able to bring up those conversations to your employer and where they readily, you know, receptive to that? 

Angelica: Yes, I am actually right now on my opt and I would have the opportunity to extend to stem opt.

However, CPUC doesn't sponsor stem opt, they do, however, sponsor H ONE B and in my case, because I'm from Mexico, the TN Visa, they knew they, they knew my status from the beginning.

From the first interview I I told them. I'm on opt.

Do you sponsor this by then? When I had my interview with them, I had, like, practice from so many other interviews.

Host: Do you said that you took advantage of the opt? We need to find a job that's within our study curriculum. It can't be like working at a coffee shop, just a job within 90 days. It has to be a job that falls under your course, practical training requirements. Oh, do you want to give us some 323 quick tips that students could keep in mind when they map their own pathway like you have after graduation to achieving their career goals.

Angelica: Sure. Number one attend to as many job fairs as you can.

Number two have all your documents with you like all your bachelor's diploma, bachelor's don't be afraid of getting no, I mean, you will receive re rejections and that's the day to day you, you have to be aware of that.

It doesn't say anything about you as a professional, doesn't say anything about you as a person.

It's just that's the way the process works, be comfortable with getting those rejections because eventually you will get a yes and that's the end.

Host: Yeah, of course. Excellent. I love that. Eventually you will get a yes. So keep trying. Thank you so much, Angelica for spending this time with us.

And I think the tips that you've not only the tips the conversation that we've had has been very practical and super insightful for all of our listeners to try and navigate their own journeys.

But keeping in mind some of the things that you highlighted for them and how you made it happen for you.So thank you so much for spending some time with us. I really appreciate it.

Angelica: You're welcome and anything you need, let me know.

Host:  Thank you, take car. As we come to a close, thank you so much, all of our listeners for tuning into another episode of Global Connections at USF. You can find all of our other conversations and resources listed below and on our podcast web pages, please also don't forget to follow us on Instagram at @USFCA.ISSS and share your comments, topic suggestions and if you'd like to participate in one of our upcoming episodes! See you next time.

Episode #5: global Graduates: Student Success Stories

Celebrate the culmination of a semester-long journey with Global Connections at USF's final episode this year! Join us as we spotlight two graduating students who share their transformative experiences and future aspirations. Tune in for inspiring stories of perseverance, growth, and success!

Resources Mentioned: ISSS Instagram | MyISSS | ISSS Email :
Guests: Emmanuel Abuenyi @The_peoplesmayor |  Minh Tam Tran (Talisa) @tamtam_chm

Host: Hello and welcome to the last episode of this semester's Global Connections at USF. Get ready to be inspired as we hear about the journeys of two remarkable graduating students.

I'm your host, Rashi Bhatt. And today we're celebrating the achievements and aspirations of Emmanuel Abuenyi and Talisa Tran join us as we explore their transformative experiences, lessons learned, and future dreams.
I'll be speaking with Talisa first. So, hello and welcome to our podcast, Talisa and congratulations on graduating.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself to begin with. And how did you integrate yourself in the US F community when you just started your program?

Talisa: Hi, my name is Talisa. I am a senior who's graduating next week at USF and I major in communication studies with double minors in PR and business.

Host: Congratulations. First off. That is so exciting for you. Thank you for spending a little bit of time talking to us about your journey. Despite I'm sure this week and the next week being super busy for you as a graduating student. So I'm really appreciative of that. Thank you. So let's start off with you.

Moving here to the US and to integrating yourself in USF's community. Did you gravitate to certain clubs just to integrate yourself.

What was that experience like?

Talisa: Yeah. So I am from Vietnam. So I came here after my first year, so I spent my freshman year at home setting because it was COVID. So my first year here was actually my sophomore year. And when I came here, I was gravitated towards a few clubs, especially as an international student. And one of my hobby is dance.

And so I joined varsity, which is the teams, the club sport, the hip hop team in the school as well as ISA, which is the International Student Association here.

So those were the first two things that I was gravitated towards and I am still doing until my last year of college.
And it has been really amazing, aside from that I am also engaged in well within my own department. So we have PRSSA which is like a public relations Student Association.
Situation is like a club for pr students and LAMBDA Pata, which is our honors chapter in our department. So, yeah.

Host: Hm. I see. So it seems like although because of COVID, you've had to start your in person hands on experience only sophomore year onwards, you were still able to find academic based clubs and also cultural and extracurricular clubs and organizations to help you with that transition.So that's amazing.

That you were able to do that and reflecting on your time here at us f what were some of the most significant lessons or experiences that have shaped your personal and also professional growth?

Talisa: I feel like for me, what really shaped my personal growth being here at USF is that I learned to live with myself and embrace, embrace a lot of me time or alone time because I don't really have any close families nearby or I don't have a lot of like big connections when I came to USF so I spent a lot of time by myself.

I just never, I was like, never really comfortable with living with myself before. I feel like I always have to have somebody, especially because I live really close with my parents back home. So being here alone is definitely very lonely at first because you just always by yourself and even if you have friends, sometimes they're not always free to hang out.

But I have just kind of grown to live with it and find things that I can do by myself to just kind of be my own best friend and professionally. I have feel that during my time at USF I could say that connection is definitely everything but not like connection that you get on linkedin and you would just connect and message them.

But it's, it's important that you make genuine connection that you kind of have to be your friend and it takes a lot of work to, you know, connect with somebody on a personal level.

Host: Yeah, thank you for sharing that, creating a sense of independence and becoming comfortable with your own company. All the while keeping up with your academics and on campus commitments is a tall order for anybody and especially international students with their family living so far away. I am so happy that you've gone through this journey and come to these realizations for how important it is to take care of your own emotional health.

So before we let you go and close out the conversation, do you mind sharing a little bit about your plans after graduation? 

Talisa: Yeah. so because of the job market right now and with the major that I'm studying, which is communication, so I want to go into like pr and marketing is definitely a very competitive field since everybody is always looking for a job.

So I haven't found a position here at, at San Francisco to be completely transparent.
And I am planning to go back to Vietnam after after school, after I graduate and get a job there. But that's like the instant short future and right now, but in the future in like the long run, I feel like I could see myself starting my own business, opening a little cafe, a little bakery.

I don't know, I just see just me being very independent in the future. But for right now, definitely still figuring it out, definitely going back home after graduation. And I feel like that should be ok for international students to go back home because sometimes it's just hard to get a job here.
And I feel like we shouldnt limit ourselves to, to like, think that we have to stay here after graduation.

Host: Of course, I think it's so important for all of our listeners to hear a perspective that emphasizing finding a job in the US for international students isn't the only or best next step for graduation. People might want to continue their studies. The job market, like you said, might not be conclusive to getting a ton of offers. You may just want to go and build your life and career, your home country.

So understanding that there isn't one correct path to success and allowing yourself to explore all of those options after graduation is excellent.

Talisa: And I feel like we really should keep our options open. I mean, I'm not like that person who will have to go back home and I'm just sticking to that path. Like I'm open to go to other places. I'm open to come back here.

I'm open to anything but I feel like I would go anywhere if I have a job, that place, you know, if I get a job here, like five years later, I would definitely come back because why not but I think that keeping your options open and I think have a plan is important but be sure that your plans will change.
So as you prepare to graduate, let's give you a little pat on the back.

Host: So what's been your most proudest movement or achievement accomplishment during your time here at USF So some of the product accomplishment I have as at USf 

Talisa: I said before, some of the most beautiful connection that I have made with the people, not only in my department but other clubs, other departments are the majors and this includes like my professor and my classmates and the friend that I have made in my different clubs.

And I'm also really proud of the different contribution I have made with all the organization that I'm in like ISA VC or POSSA and Lambda paed.

And if you are, I mean, looking for a specific third moment, I could talk about that one time when the Vietnam Prime Minister came to USF and I got to represent the students to ask him questions and gave him the gifts after the ceremony.

And I just feel extremely proud because somehow I got chosen to be the one to be on that stage, talking to him.

And this event funny enough, got me a lot of connection and got me really close to the people at not the embassy of Vietnam but the people who represents Vietnam in the, in San Francisco. And I got invited to a lot of Vietnamese community events after that.

And I felt that not only do I have a community at school, but I also have a community of Vietnamese people who I've got to known here and my time in S F Yeah, that's awesome.

Host: I'm so excited for you to kind of build on that relationship from that one singular event that I'm sure it was a massively proud moment for you and for your family back home. So I'm excited that you were able to do that.
I think you gave us a little bit of an advice there in the last sentence, but just to put it more formally, is there something specific that you would recommend or advice to incoming freshman students? Maybe from Vietnam?
Maybe to all of our international students who aspire to follow a similar path as yours to come to their like self reflective journey and find out what their goals are.

Talisa: So I feel like personally for me, when I came here, it took me a bit of adjustment time to be able to really navigate school and friends and clubs and everything.

I think that took me around like a year, like during my freshman year when I was at home, I was not being open to anything except for zoom screen and I guess a canvas system.
But that time I didn't really,, really found a way to navigate through these things. So my class grades were horrible. Like I had the worst GPA ever. It was like two point something. Like, it was not something I was proud of, but it was, I feel like a learning curve for me at the beginning because I didn't, I was never exposed to these things before.

So it was definitely like a foreign thing that I got. I took time to adjust to. And then when coming here asked me losing a year of social life at home. I didn't have a lot of friends in the beginning and I was having a lot of trouble just like being with myself because I was like lonely. I didn't have friends. It was like, it was pretty sad.

It was like a like a sad few years, but I was glad enough to have a friend who was also from Vietnam who came to school with me.

So it was really like a blessing to have met her and to have her by my side. But I feel like for students who come in here by themselves for the first year is definitely very lonely. So something that I would really recommend is to join student organization, join clubs. Like if you want friends, join these things, especially the things that you're interested in.

Like for me, if you're interested in dancing, I would recommend you for join varsity or 
We have vitality, join those things even if sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming or daunting as you like, join a new club and you don't know anybody. But sometimes there are people who are like you in that club and they're looking for friends or looking for a new circle.

So just join those things and then eventually you will make those connection, you will make friends and you will be plentiful with your social life. And you will have a lot of things that are fun and exciting aside aside from your school and also organization within your department or your major.

So like ours, we have like pure S S A or we have Lambda Paleta or I feel like other, other departments would have a lot more student association that you can join to make deeper connection with your colleagues or your professor.

And another thing is that try to make genuine connection with professor, especially major or department professor, you never know what opportunities they could give you from, you know, knowing them and getting, getting to know them personally.
So I think those are the two things I would recommend like that really helped me to make my life at college like a lot better.

Host: Yeah, excellent. Thank you so much for sharing those two tidbits. I think making connections for your personal growth and also making connections with your professors for your professional and academic growth. I think both of those things are practical, doable and important. So, thank you so much for sharing that with us and for spending a little bit of time talking through your USF journey. Congratulations again on graduation. I'm so excited for all the amazing things you're going to do after. So, thank you so much.

Talisa: Yeah, thank you.

Host: And now I'll be speaking with our second guest, Emmanuel Abuenyi. Hello and welcome, Emmanuel. Do you mind introducing yourself and telling us what you've studied?

Emmanuel: Thank you very much. And my name is Emmanuel Abuenyi. I am from Ghana and I came to us basically to study my  MBA at the University of San Francisco.

And it's been a wonderful journey. I've been able to acquire some knowledge and experiences that over the years I didn't have. So I am really appreciative of the journey so far and I'm grateful to the university.

Host: Wow, excellent. And so reflecting on your time here at us f what were maybe some of the most significant lessons or experiences that have shaped your personal or professional growth?

Emmanuel: OK. So in relation to lessons and experiences, I I'll go academically, then I will come to my leadership roles and all so academically, I have been able to acquire certain knowledge like knowledge in Tableau knowledge in Python SQL, knowledge in agile management, consulting all these things I didn't have it earlier.

So I am grateful for the courses and how it was, it was structured and out of these structure, I've been able to acquire certain new things that I think would help me going forward in the future.
And when it comes to my leadership experiences, since I was the president of the Graduate Student Association, I've been able to get some extra organizing skills.
I've been able to know how to communicate well with management or people that I work together with. I've been able to gain more experience with team management and also collaborations with other, other sectors of the university.

Host: Thank you. Yeah, excellent. It seems like you've been able to get some critical, you know, like skills that will translate over to your professional career along with all of your academic, like coding languages and such that you've been able to become proficient in. So that's awesome. And you're graduating? So congratulations.

I know it's a hectic, busy, exciting fun week for you. And I'm sure everyone's been asking you this, but what are your plans and aspirations moving ahead for the future, personally and professionally?

Emmanuel: Ok. So professionally, I'm applying for financial analyst rules and I have my fingers crossed. Hopefully I'm gonna get into one. aside that I want to also develop an NGO I've seen some gap with international African students.

So I want to have an NGO that will help bridge this gap for International African students and,, going forward any business ideas that come to mind. I like, I like to own my own business, do my own stuff, control my own thing. So that is, that is why I'm looking to do. 

Host: Yeah. Well, fingers crossed. You get all of those things accomplished for you in the next how many ever years? And I know you started to mention a little bit about your involvement in student organizations on campus.

Do you want to talk a little bit about how you being integrated with them added to your experience as an international student? At USF.

Emmanuel: I would say that USF is a place where each and everybody, regardless of where you're coming from as an international student can. Should I say sink into the system and let's those skills that I really need to come out.

So when I was coming from Ghana already, I, I mean to leadership back in my country.

So when I came here, my head of, oh they need a representative for skill of management. And I'm like, OK, cool, let me just join and I joined. And out of that, I began to gain more interest in student leadership on campus.

So the next year I decided to contest for the president and with one vision in mind to make GSS known to all students because of the pandemic, our association was a little bit down but as a general body for all graduate students, so we need to revive it and bring it, you know, live for everybody to know.
And yeah, we've, we've been able to achieve that no 100%. But we could, we did that and we did some amazing things that have made almost most students know more about GSS.

Host: Yeah. So before we let you go, is there a piece of advice that you would like to give incoming international students who aspire to follow a similar path as yours?
Maybe I would say that coming to USF as an international student is a risk worth taking.

Emmanuel: So just be bold and take that risk and then you will never regret coming to us.

Host: Thank you. I like it a risk worth taking that will stay with me. OK.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you spending some time with us and talking to us about your journey here at USF congratulations again on graduation and good luck with everything ahead.

Emmanuel: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Host: And that wraps up another enriching episode of Global Connections at USF. A big thank you to our guests, Emmanuel and Talisa for sharing their incredible stories with us. And thank you to our listeners for supporting this new ISSS endeavor. Stay tuned for more inspiring content in the fall. And in the meantime, you can continue engaging with our team through our Instagram @usfca.isss and through our email.

Until next time, keep exploring, keep learning, and keep connecting globally. This is Rashi Bhatt signing off.