Friday, May 22, 2015

OPT process

Hi everyone,

This is my last post before I walk to the graduation ceremony, and it's breaking my heart to say goodbye to MiraCosta. Before I go I want to talk a little bit about Optional Practical Training (OPT). Since I am graduating today, I'm allowed to work in the country on my field of study (psychology) for a year before I transfer to a four-year university. I already sent my documents to USCIS and now I'm waiting for my OPT card in the mail so I can start looking for work. During this process, I reached out to a MiraCosta alumni, Javier, who went through the OPT process and now is a student at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). I asked him a couple questions about how did the pick CSUSM and his OPT process. Here's what he had to share with us:

Why did you choose CSUSM?
I chose CSUSM because it is the closest university from where I currently live, Oceanside. Since I'm staying with some family members, the proximity of the campus helps me reduce some of the room/board and transportation costs.

During the application process for CSUSM, what did you find to be the most challenging?
The application process was fairly easy. I just followed the instructions that the admissions recruiter at San Marcos sent me and once I get the application started on CSUMentor, the steps were straightforward. What took the longest time, in my case, was requesting the transcripts from an university I had previously attended in my country, Nicaragua.

Can you describe how did you feel once you received your acceptance letter for CSUSM?
I felt relieved and eager that I had been accepted there to continue studying in the U.S. In my case, I was first notified of my acceptance through email and the following week, I received the letter with some orientation information.

How did you like MiraCosta and how difficult/easy it was for you to leave MiraCosta?
I enjoyed my time at MiraCosta. Not only did I grow academically, but personally as well. I made great connections, many friends, I was part of some of the clubs (Honors Program, Soccer Club) and every of these activities was a learning experience for me. At first, I thought that transitioning to a 4-year university was going to be more overwhelming, but since San Marcos is a small campus, the adaptation was not really difficult. I felt sad to leave MiraCosta since I studied there for three years, but at the same time, I felt eager and determined to keep advancing my education at a 4-year university.

During the OPT process, what did you find to be the most challenging part? Was it easy to find a job?
OPT was not really challenging. With the guidance of the International office at MiraCosta, I was able to follow the instructions exactly so I did not leave out any important steps. Since I had previously enrolled at a Co-Op internship class prior to graduating, finding a job was easy since that same company offered me a position as soon as my OPT started.

Tell me about the job you did on OPT?  What did you learn from the experience?
In the 2 companies I worked at during my OPT, I was a junior web developer responsible for maintaining the companies' website and mobile applications. The Computer Science classes I took at MiraCosta were an excellent foundation for me to keep learning other technologies. During my OPT, not only did I improve the programming skills I had developed at MiraCosta, but I also learned many others. However, what I took away from such experiences were not just related to my major; I learned and developed some workplace competencies such as professionalism, work ethics, team-work, time-management skills, etc..

How do classes at CSUSM compare to MiraCosta classes?
Most of the classrooms at CSU San Marcos are small, comfortable, and with a capacity of no more than 45 students. Similar to MiraCosta, when classes are not big, students have a greater chance of communicating with their instructors and receive individual feedback from them. Also, most of them are smart classrooms (with technological equipments: computers, projectors, audio system, etc..) just like some classrooms at MiraCosta. As far as the classes go, instructors are always welcoming and willing to walk that extra mile with students so they can succeed in the class. CSU San Marcos also has a educational portal called CougarCourses (similar to MiraCosta's Blackboard) where professors post their lectures, notes, homework assignments, and tests so students have all that information available.

Based on your experience, what would have you done differently that could have made your OPT / CSUSM application smoother?
I'm not really sure. With the help from the International office, the OPT application was easy. The trick is following the instructions carefully and apply to OPT early, even before a few weeks before the deadline. Same with CSU San Marcos: following the steps at CSU Mentor and communicating with the university admissions counselor helped my application tremendously.

What is your advice for someone who’s graduating from MiraCosta and applying for OPT?

When applying to OPT, my best advice would be planning ahead. OPT is an amazing opportunity to gain experience in your field of study and improving your resume, and the application should be taken seriously. Always gather the necessary documents early and do not leave things for the last minute. Communicate with the International office; they'll be happy to help with you with your application. Also, when looking for a job, apply to as many companies as you can so your options of having interviews increase. OPT says that if the student has 90 days unemployed since the first day till the last day of OPT, his/her authorization to work will be cancelled. So, applying to different companies may help the student to get a job early.

So, this is it guys. I hope Javier can give you more insight about life after MiraCosta and what to expect. I'm going to experience that myself in a couple hours from now, and hopefully one day I can come back as a guest and share my experiences with you all.

Now, time to head home and get ready for graduation!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another student's perspective

Hi everyone, I’ve been sharing my experiences with you for a while, and before I pass the blogging task to someone else – yes, I’m graduating this semester and I will no longer blog =/ - I would like to share someone else’s perspectives about MiraCosta and life in the U.S.

I reached out to Jessica, a Canadian student here at MiraCosta to tell us a little bit about her experiences. Here’s what we talked about.

Why did you choose to come to the U.S.?

I am from Canada and I chose to come to the US for two reasons; but they all started with my love of California. The first reason was that there would be no snow during the winter months if I were to study in California, and the second reason was that it would help with my major. My major is in Television Production and I wanted to go where the industry was!

Why did you choose MiraCosta College?

Because of the ease of their website and friendly looking environment in the pictures. I noticed that MiraCosta was a more affordable option for international students compared to other schools and the pictures on their website looked beautiful and very inviting. I had also emailed with the international office before deciding if studying here was really something I wanted to do, and they were very helpful with all of my questions I asked. I asked a lot of questions!

How long have you been in the U.S.?

I have been in the U.S. for two years now and it has gone by very fast!

What do you miss the most about your home country?

I miss certain foods the most. While Canada has many of the same foods that the U.S. does, I was surprised to learn that many food items were not available here.

How do you stay in touch with your family and friends in your home country?

Skype is a wonderful thing! I’ve been able to talk to my parents and siblings every day since I’ve been here all because of a skype account. For other family members and friends I’ve been able to keep in contact with them through Facebook and other forms of social media. 

What do you like the most about studying in the U.S.?

I love the diversity and the different people that I’ve met. I have been able to meet people who have similar beliefs and values as me, and I have been able to meet people with completely different views on the world. It makes what you are learning and what you are doing so much more interesting when you are introduced to other perspectives.

What are your future education and career goals? 

Well, this Fall 2015 I will be transferring to California State University Northridge to complete my BA in Television production, so my goal right now is to graduate! After I graduate from there I hope to have a career as a film and television editor and maybe make movie trailers.  

Outside your school experience, tell me about your life in California?  What do you like to do?  How do you spend your time outside of studying? 

Life in California has been amazing! I have enjoyed not dealing with the snow for 7 months out of the year like I would normally deal with in Canada. When I’m not studying I like to go to the movies with friends, or I’ll just go to the beach and sit on the sand staring at the ocean. I’m also a big reader, so chances are if I’m not studying I’ll usually just be sitting outside reading a book!

How has your experience in the U.S. helped you learn more about yourself? Can you provide an example?

This experience has made me learn a lot about myself. I have learned that I can actually do things on my own and that I am capable of being independent. I have also learned to really enjoy going places by myself. When I first moved here it took me a while to make friends so I would go out and explore different places by myself. I also don’t drive and don’t have a car so taking the bus to these new places was something I had to learn how to become comfortable with.

Jessica was really kind to let me publish her interview. Shout out to her for that! 

I still have one more post before I say goodbye, and for that I will let you guys into the world of OPT! Stay tuned!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Graduation... now, what?

We have four more weeks to the end of Spring 2015 semester, and with that Commencement arrives! On May 22, 2015 MiraCosta will hold the Commencement Ceremony for students graduating this Spring.

For a lot of international students graduating from MiraCosta means transferring to a 4-year University (you can understand the difference about Community Colleges and University on my previous post), but for others it means receiving OPT (Optional Practical Training). What does OPT mean?

OPT is a 12-month employment authorization for F-1 students to gain work experience in the field of study they chose, and you remain under F-1 visa during OPT. More information about OPT can be found at the OPT session under the IIP website.

I myself am applying for OPT and I'm currently searching for jobs. It's not an easy task, and to help us with that I'm going interview a MiraCosta alumni to give us his advice about the best path to take. I'll post it soon! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Técnicas de estudo

Entramos na sexta semana de aulas, então as provas estão se aproximando rapidamente!! Eu tive uma prova ontem, e terei outra semana que vem.

Algumas pessoas sofrem de ansiedade pré-provas, então essa época de provas pode deixá-las sobrecarregadas. É extremamente importante focar e estudar bem para reduzir o estresse antes das provas, então vou dizer aqui a minha "rotina de estudo".


Eu preciso de um lugar calmo, sem barulho, e sem perturbação. O andar de cima da biblioteca é um ótimo local para estudar porque eu posso pegar alguns livros emprestados e adicionar como fonte de pesquisa nos meus trabalhos, posso usar os computadores e imprimir o que eu precisar, e é calmo. Algumas pessoas gostam de ir para coffee houses, mas eu me distraio facilmente, então preciso me isolar. Se estou em casa, normalmente me tranco no meu quarto e coloco protetores de ouvido.

Juntando os materias necessários

Junto tudo que eu provavelmente ache que vá precisar: livros, cadernos, marca-texto, caneta, lápis, borracha, sticky-notes, laptop, lanche (comida pro cérebro), lenços (eu espirro muito), água, e café (sim, eu vivo de café).


Começo lendo o sumário do capítulo. Faço isso porque assim eu tenho uma idéia geral do que vou ler e os termos importantes que tenho que prestar atenção. Depois do sumário, dou uma olhadinha por cima e leio os subtítulos e as possíveis definições que ficam na lateral das páginas. Agora eu tô preparada pra ler o capítulo inteiro.

Enquanto leio, vou marcando as partes importantes. Se estou lendo um livro alugado eu não marco nada, ao invés eu marco a página apontando o que é importante. Já que inglês não é minha língua nativa, eu vou anotando as definições das palavras novas que não sei numa sticky-note (dica: o dicionário online Merriam-Webster é ótimo, bem como o aplicativo). Se estou lendo um artigo que imprimi do BlackBoard (um portal do estudante) ou se foi um documento entregue em sala de aula, eu rabisco tudo! Escrevo diretamente no papel, ponho minhas anotações, escrevo as definições, e marco com marca-texto. Independente do que estou lendo, sempre faço anotações e comparo com as que fiz na sala de aula. Isso me ajuda a assimilar a matéria e é uma boa maneira de revisar.

Quando termino com as leituras, estou pronta para responder as perguntas ou escrever meu trabalho. 


Quando estou estudando para as provas, primeiro reviso minhas anotações. Se não lembro de algo muito bem, leio a parte específica sobre isso, não o capítulo inteiro. As outras coisas que eu lembro, leio bem por cima e vou repetindo e me ensinando à medida que vou lendo (isso mesmo, eu falo comigo mesma e pareço uma doida, mas não tô nem aí). Se estou estudando para uma disciplina que involve números, como estatística, eu refaço as questões para ter certeza que entendi as fórmulas e os conceitos completamente.

Se tenho tempo suficiente, normalmente rescrevo minhas anotações feita em sala de aula. Quando termino de estudar (e normalmente é tarde), vou dormir. Estudos indicam que uma noite de sono bem dormida é importante para reter informação (então, não estude tudo na noite anterior).

Grupos de Estudo

Grupos de estudo são uma ótima idéia. Normalmente não faço parte deles porque, como falei anteriormente, me distraio facilmente. Ao invés disso, encontro com um(a) ou dois(uas) amigos(as) e a gente ensina um ao outro o que a gente sabe mais. Ter alguém te ensinando de outra maneira o que você não entendeu ajuda muito e é muito útil para o aprendizado.

Bem, essa é minha rotina. Parece bem longa, mas uma vez que você começa você vê que na verdade é bem fácil e útil.

Agora, de volta aos livros!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Study techniques

We're now on our 6th week of class, so midterms are approaching really fast!! I myself had a midterm yesterday, and I'll have another one next week.

Some people suffer from test anxiety, so midterms can be really overwhelming. It is extremely important to focus and study well in order to reduce stress prior to tests, so I'm going to tell you my "study routine".


I need somewhere quiet, with no noise and no disturbance. The upper level at the school library is a great place to study because I can check out other books to add other sources to my work, I can use the computers and print papers if necessary, and it's quiet. Some people like to go to coffee houses, but I get distracted fairly easy, so I need to isolate myself. If I'm home, I'm usually locked in my room with ear plugs on.

Gathering necessary supplies  

I get everything I can possibly think I will need: books, notebooks, highlighters, pens, pencil, eraser, sticky notes, laptop, snacks (brain food), tissues (I sneeze a lot), water, and coffee (yes, I live off of coffee). 


I start off by reading the summary of the assigned chapter. I do that because it gives me a briefly description of the chapter and key terms I should pay attention to. Following the summary, I skim the chapter reading the headings and possible definitions on the side of the pages. Now I am ready to read the full chapter. 

As I read the material, I highlight important passages. If I'm reading a rented book, I don't highlight anything; instead, I put a tab on the page to mark what is important. Since English is not my native language, I keep track of new vocab by writing its definition on a sticky note (hint: the Merriam-Webster website and app is really good tool). If I'm reading an article I printed from BlackBoard (a student portal) or if it's a handout, I completely tear that paper up! I write on it, make my annotations, write my new vocab, and highlight it. Regardless of what I am reading, I always take notes and compare them to the notes I've taken in class. It helps to assimilate the subject and it is a good way to review it.

After I am finished with my readings, I am ready to answer the assigned questions or write my papers.


When studying for tests I first review my notes. If I can't remember something very well, I read the chapter or the specific heading for that topic. Everything else that I do remember I quickly skim the chapter and kind of teach it to myself as go (yes, I will be talking to myself and sounding like a crazy lady, but I don't really care). If I'm studying for a class that involves numbers, such as statistics, I re-do the questions to make sure I completely got the formulas and concepts.

If I have enough time, I usually re-write my notes and combine them with the notes I've taken in class. After I'm done studying (and it's usually late), I go to bed. Studies have shown that a good night of sleep is important to retain information (so, don't cram up the night before the test).

Study groups

Study groups are great as well. I usually don't take part of it because as I said before, I can get easily distracted. Instead, I meet up with one or two friends and we help each other based on our strengths. Having someone else giving you a different insight on something you quite don't fully grasp is extremely helpful and it does help with learning.

Well, this is my study routine. It does seem quite long, but once you start doing it you will see it is actually very simple and helpful.

Now, back to the books!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Working on campus

Hi everyone,

It's been a while since I last posted, but end of the semester, holidays, and the beginning of a new semester took its toll on me. :) Nevertheless, I want to talk to you guys about employment on campus. What? You didn't know it was possible? Oh yes, it is!!

To be a student worker on campus you must qualify.  In your first semester, you must provide a successful midterm report to the International Office in order to request on-campus employment. If you have already completed your first semester, just stop by at the International Office and request a letter to show you are ready to work as an international student.  You bring the letter to the Career Center to learn which campus departements are hiring. 

Student workers are allowed to work no more than 19hrs / week during school session, and no more than 40hrs/week on school breaks. You must maintain your F-1 status and a valid I-20.

I started working on-campus during my second semester, and [un]fortunately this will be my last one since I'm graduating in May. The International Office was searching for bloggers, and I had an interview with the director and woot woot!! I got the job! :) Since then I have had the chance to interact with faculty and staff, and my networking started to develop. I ended up applying for a second job on campus, still at the International Office, as a student worker helping with administrative processes and helping international students with documentation, walking them to where their classes are, and so on. Working on campus has given me a great insight on how school is behind all the books and classes. I've had a chance to see how all the processes work from the moment a student apply to the moment he/she arrives on campus for their orientation day, and I have to tell you it is an amazing feeling to help them step by step during the process. It's rewarding!

I truly recommend on-campus employment to all my friends, and to all of you perspective students as well! It's a great opportunity to learn work ethics in the United States, an even greater opportunity for networking (trust me, this is extremely important for your career), and it's also a good way to make that extra money.

I hope I shed some light in this process. If you're more interested, or if you would like to ask me some questions, feel free to drop me a line!