July 6, 2020

Graduation with a global perspective

An international education was key for these UCR students’ futures

Author: Sandra Baltazar Martínez
July 6, 2020

The time these three students have spent at UC Riverside has marked their paths for international career opportunities.

Xinyi “Heidi” Chen

Xinyi “Heidi” Chen, from Singapore, Dan Guo, from China, and Jacqueline Aguirre De La O, a native of Riverside, all have their eyes on careers in which they can use their degrees, bilingual skills, and their passion for new cultures.

These students were among this year’s 6,825 eligible graduates. Their international experience should not be overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, said Kelechi Kalu, vice provost of International Affairs. 

“The broader global community benefits greatly when the unique knowledge, skills, and experience of UCR students, faculty, and staff is shared with the world,” Kalu said. 

Chen is waiting on her work authorization to start a job with Free Logic Media, a Riverside-based digital consulting company founded by a UCR alum that builds digital platforms and creates support networks among local business owners. She interned for the company as a digital strategist. 

She could have returned to Singapore, but prefers this opportunity, she said.

“The people here at UCR are really generous. They are some of the best people I’ve ever met and I am very thankful for this experience,” said Chen, 22, who received her bachelor’s degree in information systems from the School of Business.

Chen came to UCR in 2016. She is among 2,050 international graduate and undergraduate students studying at UCR. The students come from 87 countries, a 2019-20 UCR International Affairs annual report notes.

Chen knew she had made the right decision to leave Singapore and come to college here her freshman year, when she participated in the International Affairs fall orientation. 

“I met people from all over the world, and everyone was so welcoming,” Chen said. 

Chen celebrated her graduation with a small gathering of friends. Her parents cancelled plans to join her for commencement once COVID-19 became a travel impediment. 

Dan Guo

“While most people were concerned about the virtual ceremony, I was not,” Chen said. “I have no complaints; I’m just grateful for the people around me.”

Dan Guo, from Chongqing, China, has been away from home for seven years.  She watched the graduation videos alone in her apartment, she said. 

Guo is a transfer student; she came to the United States at age 16 to finish high school in Massachusetts. She then moved to California and started college at East Los Angeles College before transferring to UCR in 2018. 

Being away from her family has been manageable because she started elementary school at a boarding school in China. But finding a community at UCR made this last educational phase a treasured experience.  

Guo is flying back to China later this month. With a business economics degree in hand, her goal is to work with one of the country’s top financial firms.

“I have mixed feelings about leaving. I get to graduate and then spend time with my family, but it’s going to take some time to get used to being back home,” said Guo, 23. Some of her best classes at UCR were in international trade and public economics, which look at the financial aspects of different societal benefits, including health care and Social Security. 

“On the other hand, the good thing about being home is that I don’t have to cook myself, I miss mom’s cooking.”

During her years at UCR she served as a board member of the International Student Union, volunteering with Undergraduate Admissions’ buddy program, and worked at the International Students and Scholars Office in Skye Hall. 

The International Affairs office was her safe space, she said, and she wanted to offer that support to other students. 

Jacqueline Aguirre De La O with her mother.

“When I went to the International Affairs staff, they definitely showed their support,” Guo said. “They made me feel they were trustworthy and reliable, and I was very lucky to have this group of people who cared about us. That is something I will always remember.” 

Aguirre De La O, a 21-year-old sociology major, has a love for Korean culture that led her to a four-month study abroad program in 2019. She also worked as a peer advisor in the Education Abroad office. 

When graduation day arrived two weeks ago, her family celebrated the day with a carne asada barbeque and many Facebook messages from relatives in Mexico. She had planned to volunteer in Japan through GPI US, a program empowering Japanese youth through international education in Japan and the United States. COVID-19 derailed those plans, Aguirre De La O said.

She will continue to search for programs in which she can teach and work with the international community. College has allowed her to embrace both her Mexican culture, and the rest of the world, she said.

“I definitely want to work with international students; it’s a big part of my life,” said Aguirre De La O, who for the past two years has worked at UCR’s Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies. “UCR really helped me grow, I got to know people from California and the world. The school helped me get that global perspective.”  

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