This post is 100% my own personal opinion. According to me, these are the top mistakes most of International students do while studying masters abroad, please avoid these to make best of your time as a student.
#1. Don’t spend too much time on part time jobs
Earning few bucks during your time as a student won’t help your career in the long run. It can be counter-productive to spend most of your free time doing part time jobs than using that time to build your resume or improve your skills.
Most of the students who come abroad might have taken a massive student loans and spending money in dollars might be intimidating but trust me working on yourself would be far better than earning a few hundreds of dollars as part time. Try to catch the big fish than going after several small ones.
Do jobs like Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant under a professor, you can add these to your resume and also these jobs are well paid. I would avoid flipping burgers in McDonalds.
#2. Be Proactive in job search
Start your job preparation from day 1 of your study. Understand what it takes to get a full time job in your field and make a plan. The common mistake many do is postponing job hunt till graduation day and then getting very stressed about it. If you are studying in USA, you just have 90 days after graduation to get a full time job otherwise you would have to leave the country. In these situations, students can get desperate making them ideal prey for shady consultancies who would love to take a huge % of your pay.
#3. Use your university to maximum extent
Make every penny of your tuition count. The money you pay to the institution covers a wide range of student facilities your university might offer like career centre, job fairs, info sessions, gym, sports etc. Make best use of these.
Personally, I made my strategy for job/internship by attending Employer Info Sessions and talking to them to understand what they look for in applicants and how to make myself stand out from plethora of resumes they get.
#4. Get that internship
Internships are very valuable when you try to get a job after you graduate. Not only they make your resume stand out from tons of other new grads, they also can give you an idea of what to expect in a full time job and how to be better prepared for it. This is even more valuable if you do not have prior work experience (like me) and came directly to grad school after your undergrad.
I did my internship in Blackberry as Software Testing Assistant Student, I learnt a lot on what qualities managers look in a potential employee, what are the skills most valuable in real job, not to mention I received far more calls during my full time job search because of my internship.
The icing on the cake here is usually these internships/coops are well paid.
#5.Have a life
If you are geeky enough to read the stuff I write, you might fall into the same trap I fell into. Have a life, I cannot emphasize this enough. I didn’t have a life for first 8 months of my masters, ate most unhealthy food and didn’t do any sort exercise, the result ? 12 kgs weight gain.
My diet for first 8 months was 12 donuts and extra large french vanilla, this is the most disgusting thing I have ever done. I probably didn’t eat any donut after first 8 months. I kept taking so much stress, at the end of two terms I got panic attacks that’s when I realized nothing is worth of spoiling health and this has to stop.
Rest of my time abroad was focussed on dropping those kilos of weight, which was accomplished after 15 months. 🙁
#6. Surround yourself with people who you look upto
Grad school is fantastic time to learn more and work on your personality. Personally, I learnt more by being around people more smarter, empathetic than me and have a much better sense of clarity about what they want to do in life. I learnt a lot from my peers and it definitely helped me to change my thought process and view of the world. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in wrong room.
#7. Experience foreign culture
Don’t just be with people of your country who speak your language. If you want to make best of your time, make friendships with everyone, learn about their culture, food and how they view world differently from you. Be open minded and don’t bash any elements of their culture which you find funny. Try different cuisines, get a taste of everything. Loosen up, drink some beer and go to pub when you want to chill :P.
#8. Don’t chose your first job solely based on pay
Okay, this is something which I did. Not my first job but my first internship I chose is based on the pay. As a new grad, the most important thing is to learn as much as you can. The company where I interned was in a bad state, there were layoffs happening and employees are flocking away all the time so morale is very low. In addition to that, the role I was offered is tester in which I didn’t exactly want a career in but I still took this job leaving another role as developer in different company. Why did I do it ? I felt this company is in same city so no moving headaches, higher pay (even though its just some hundreds of dollars per month). If I have a chance to go back and change something, I would gladly take the role as developer and move to different city.
#9. Understand immigration
This is very important. Decide on what you want do after you finish your masters. Do you want to move back home ? Move to different country for a job ? or if you want to stay in the same country ? Understand how you can become a permanent resident there.
I know most of above is just common sense, but you would be surprised on how many people don’t follow these. Anyway all the above are just my opinions, feel free to disagree.