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!