Experiencing International Style, Culture

To see more pictures of the 30th Annual ISO Expo and Cultural Fashion show, click here.


From Inside USD – The University of San Diego’s deep appreciation for international culture is tried and true. Whether it’s the 16th century Spanish Renaissance-inspired architecture, immersion trips beyond the nearby U.S.-Mexico border, opportunities for all students to study abroad, or having international students here on an exchange program or as full-time undergraduate and graduate students, USD takes internationalization seriously.

On Friday night, April 24, USD’s international emphasis will remain serious, but it will be seriously fun, too. From 7-10 p.m. in the Hahn University Center Forums (ABC), USD’s large space will present the campus community with one of most enjoyable evenings of the year — the 30th annual International Expo and Cultural Fashion Show.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the crowd and their enthusiasm toward the event,” says Claudio Trespalacios, a junior double major in business administration and environmental studies from Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. He’s president of USD’s International Student Organization (ISO), which means on Friday, he’s the event’s master of ceremonies. He’ll also enjoy the free international buffet available to all.

“I’m very excited about all of the food we’re going to have. This is one night where you can eat Italian, Mexican and German food at the same time in the same place. It’s great!”

Many come for the delicious food, but be sure to stay and enjoy a wonderful, energized evening of entertainment courtesy of international music performers and the student fashion show. During the latter, USD students, many representing their home country, take pride in modeling native fashions on the runway.

“It’s my first time to walk in the fashion show so I’m really excited to represent Syria,” says Katherine Saado, a junior international business major who was born and raised in Dubai, but is half Syrian and half Filipino.

Saado said the chance to wear, with pride, Syrian clothing, is extra special given the current state of affairs there.

“These past few years have been huge devastation and whirlwind for my family and I. We have our relatives in Syria who we’ve worried about every day since the war. Syria will get the peace it needs, at least that’s what I’m hoping for. … So, with everything going on in Syria and the bad news we hear every day, it will be nice to celebrate the country on a more light and happy occasion at the Expo. It’s one night where we all celebrate our pride and belonging to our countries and constant hope for the better in our struggling countries.”

Oftentimes, international and American students model by wearing the fashion of a different country from their own. It’s a chance to gain a new perspective and show appreciation for another’s culture in a public setting.

This event annually brings out the best in USD alumnus, Greg Grassi, who earned psychology and Spanish degrees in 1999. These days, Grassi is the associate director for the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) and ISO adviser.

“This event shows that internationalization has been on the radar at USD for a long time,” says Grassi, noting the event’s milestone year. “This will be my seventh Expo as ISO adviser and, even in that time, I have so many great memories of the show from dynamic performances to students proudly representing their countries.”

Grassi’s longtime appreciation for the event includes being an annual model participant (pictured, right). He’s represented Afghanistan, Japan and Kuwait in the past.

“I will be modeling for Morocco,” he says. “I’m fulfilling a promise to an exchange student from last year. She recently sent me the clothing from Morocco.”

The inclusive and diverse representation — more than 30 countries will be showcased on stage — is a testament to the international students who attend USD.

Trespalacios said the initial transition from his small town near Mexico City to San Diego and the Southern California lifestyle was a big change, but he’s settled in now: “It takes some time to adjust to the culture, but USD is a very welcoming community and there are incredible resources for international students at the International Office (Serra Hall 315), so the transition is not as bad. It’s also a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I try to get full advantage of all of what USD offers.”

Trespalacios’ ISO presidency is a great leadership opportunity. “One of my favorite experiences has been to serve on the International (Student) Welcome team at orientation. It was a week full of craziness and a lot of work, but helping other international students with this important transition is very satisfying. Plus, you get to meet an incredible amount of people you would never imagine you’d meet.”

Saado adjusted well to USD, too, through her immediate connection to ISO.

“I hadn’t realized how huge the ISO was until I attended all of the events planned out for the freshmen. As a freshman coming from really far away, you definitely come in with all of these concerns and fears of blending in. But ISO is where I met most of my friends and you gain confidence from meeting people from all other organizations on campus. Growing up in a very diversified country like Dubai and having parents from different countries, it brought me to just understanding and appreciating so many other cultures. All of my friends now are just so international. I love it.”

She thoroughly enjoyed a study abroad trip to Paris — “my experience studying abroad was beyond what words can express,” — to complete a French minor requirement.

And like study abroad, Friday provides the entire campus community with a sample of international culture all without leaving campus. One can meet new people, taste different foods, hear new music and see traditional and beautiful fashions.

“It’s a chance to honor our international student population and to show that we value the contributions of our international community,” says Grassi. “Plus,” he adds tongue-in-cheek, “I think students just enjoy seeing what I’ll wear each year.”

Get ready for a fun evening, Toreros — international style!

— Ryan T. Blystone

Alfredo: Tips on Paving a Pathway to Success

Name: Alfredo Baudet

Country: Venezuela

Major: Finance and minors in Economics and Management

Languages: Spanish, English, and French

Incoming FSR Associate at PwC


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Job Hunting Tips for International Students

I must admit that when I started as a student at USD I had no idea what I was going to study or what I wanted to do after finishing school. While studying at USD I gained an appreciation for all the opportunities the U.S. has to offer, especially when compared to Venezuela, where the economic situation is rapidly deteriorating. With senior year approaching, I decided I wanted to stay in the U.S. The next step was to find a job.

Choosing your career

Finding a job can be a daunting task. Some common questions are: “What do I want to do after graduation?”; “How do I know I will love what I will be doing?”; “What are my options and which is the best one?”

The first step in choosing a career path is to do research by asking others to help you and by discovering what you are passionate about.

Find out what people in your field of choice majored in. For some fields, your undergraduate major is critical while for others, a variety of majors may be suitable. Reach out to people that you, your family, or friends, know that work in your desired field. See if they are available to meet or if they are willing to offer advice over the phone, Skype, email, etc. Professors are good resources as well so don’t hesitate to ask them whether they know people who work in the industry you are interested in, or if they have any recommendations for your career search.

Asking others for advice should be complemented by your own search to discover your interests. During the semester get actively involved in clubs that are outside your comfort zone and test your boundaries. I also recommend students do something productive during the summer sessions such as taking classes, interning/working, or volunteering – trying different things will help you determine what you like as well as what you don’t like.

These are all very valuable recommendations that students hear throughout their years in college. I can attest to how useful these recommendations are because following them helped me find the job I wanted in the U.S. Each student’s experiences are unique. Bearing that in mind I will outline my college experience with the addition of a few helpful tips for future job seekers, specifically international students.

Getting involved

IMG_1609From experience, I suggest international students who are trying to find what they’re passionate about and what sort of career to pursue to follow this strategy: be active in extracurricular activities, excel academically, and have fun doing so.

I tested my boundaries when I first went rock climbing my freshman year. One of my floormates invited me to go, and despite being a little nervous at first, I ended up loving it. The Climbing Club showed me how much fun student organizations could be, and I ended up joining a wide variety of other clubs, such as the International Student Organization, Entrepreneurship Club, and Student Finance Association. Through these clubs and organizations, I got exposed to a lot of different activities and also got to meet a wide range of people. Both, the exposure I gained and the people I met, were immensely valuable as they helped me learn more about myself and to determine what kinds of things I likedmaybe you like outdoor activities, organizing events, or perhaps even telling others what to do (otherwise known as delegating).

Involvement in these organizations can make for very busy semesters, but it is important that your academic performance remain strong. Becoming aware of your interests while excelling academically will help you become an attractive candidate for any company.

What employers look for

Having an active presence in extracurricular activities and an excellent academic record is important because when a recruiter looks at a student’s resume they know that students don’t have the skills necessary to perform the job. Instead, recruiters look for indications as to how well they could learn them.

Being involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, and volunteering indicates ability to multi-task. Taking this a little further, being someone with greater responsibility in these activities also help demonstrate leadership and collaboration. A strong academic performance, as gauged by the GPA, is a good indicator of being able to learn and synthesize new information.

In the end, the recruiter also wants to see if they could work with the interviewee. Putting all of this into a resume makes you more likely to stand out when applying to jobs.

The sponsorship process

As the resume is being built, be aware of the numerous challenges ahead. The main challenge for international students is to find a job that is willing to sponsor them, which comes in addition to the challenges faced by local students when finding jobs. The challenges that you face when searching for jobs in the U.S. can all be overcome by knowing as much as you can about the application process and by knowing how to make the best use of your resources. But before getting into these let’s look at some basic Optional Practical Training (OPT) information.

The best way to make this search easier is to become as much an expert in the field as possible. Talk to the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at USD, reach out to people who are currently or were sponsored before, and do some online research as well. This will help you get a better sense of the application process and how it is different for international students. The OPT will allow you to work in the U.S. after graduating.


Staying in the U.S. is a process divided into two stages: (1) obtaining the Optional Practical Training (OPT) and (2) working with your future employer on the sponsorship process.

The OPT allows students under an F1 visa to stay and work in the US for a limited period of time.  If you don’t know what it is yet and are planning to stay in the US after college, please learn as much about it as you can. USD’s Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) is a very good source of information for those considering finding a job in the US. I suggest familiarizing yourself with the process as much as you can and then go to the “Working Visas Workshops” held twice a semester by the OISS. After attending initial sessions you can schedule a personal meeting with one of the advisors to plan out your process. Submit all the paperwork and remember to follow any requirements during your OPT time. After the OPT application process ends, students will then be able to apply for a working visa. Overall, this process can be complicated so I suggest attending the information sessions held by the OISS and start learning about it early to ensure success in finding an organization that will sponsor for the job you want.

Searching for jobs

When looking for jobs use your resources because applying to online openings without knowing the recruiter or having an established link is like shooting an arrow in the dark. For this reason, before sending out applications I recommend using your networks – talking to career services, professors, friends, and family – to see if they know somebody working at the place you’re applying to or if they know someone in the industry.

Another helpful asset in my job search was USD’s Career Services because they have a better-established network in the U.S. than I do. By using ToreroLink, the careers portal, I knew that the companies hiring were looking for USD students, which was reassuring. I used Career Services postings, online job openings, and my network to find a job that I wanted.

When faced with the issue of finding a job, being selective is just as important, and by this I mean: narrow down your search scope to particular cities where you would like to live. As a Finance major, I knew that I was not in the best city to find a job, compared to students in NYC. But in my research about the sponsorship process, I discovered that while San Diego is not among best cities for finance work, Los Angeles and San Francisco are a lot better. This helped me narrow the scope of my job search to companies in cities that wanted to live in.

Lastly, when interviewing, being transparent and selective will be crucial factors of your job search. When interviewing, don’t conceal your nationality because you fear a job rejection. Instead, be clear about your nationality and intentions. Your potential future employer will appreciate this and will streamline your interviewing process.

Life After USD

After four wonderful years filled with great memories with friends I will be graduating this coming May. There may have been stressful moments, at times, but hard work pays off – especially when you have established your goals early on. After doing everything that I have just described, after graduation, I will start working at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Los Angeles. Listening to others’ advice and forging your own path helped me get there, and I hope sharing my experience helps you too.”

-Alfredo Baudet



International Student Scholarship Recipients Honored at Annual Luncheon

From Inside USD – Patricia Marquez, dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies (KSPS), spent much of her time at the UC Forums’ podium Tuesday emphasizing one of the University of San Diego’s key strategic goals and, in particular, her school’s vision for it.

“It is to expand our global presence. We understand that talent is everywhere. We want to bring it here, we want to nurture it and we want to develop it,” she said. “For students from developing and conflict-affected countries, coming to the U.S. and to study in the Kroc School’s Peace and Justice program would be impossible without scholarships, without your support.”

The 28th annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon provided all donors the opportunity to meet the student(s) they’ve supported, give a student the chance to say “thank you” in person, share a meal together and connect.

But the sincerity of Marquez’s words and impact of USD donors’ generosity — be it alumni, foundations, parents, USD employees, education supporters and proponents of peace — was echoed by Maha Paulus, a KSPS benefactor via the Paulus Peace Scholarship. It was presented in a moving video tribute to the work of 2008 Master of Arts Peace and Justice Studies (MAPJ) alumna Shobha Pradham Shrestha. And, finally, current MAPJ students Naumana Suleman of Pakistan and Mathieu Bere of Burkina Faso reiterated it.

“Because we come from the Middle East, a region where peace has not prevailed for a very long time, we wanted to provide students like (current Paulus Peace Scholarship recipient and MAPJ student) Jasmine Afshar the opportunity to become ambassadors of peace and contribute to a legacy of future generations to come,” said Paulus, who along with her husband Al, immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq in the early 1970s. Their two daughters are USD alumnae. Maha volunteered with and has learned a lot about the Kroc School’s mission, vision and important work internationally. Al Paulus has also served on the school’s board of advisors.

Said Marquez: “The Paulus family was among the first donors to the School of Peace Studies. They had faith in our promise and that a new generation of peacebuilders, focused on thinking differently, with courage, could change the face of the planet.”

Both Suleman and Bere expressed thanks to the opportunities given to them to make their USD education experience possible.

“It’s been an incomparable experience for me being here,” said Suleman, whose skill set through the MAPJ program will be used for good despite being from a country that is constantly dealing with terrorists, faith-based violence and discriminatory laws and policies toward religious minorities. Suleman received the Gandhi Fellowship, a Joan B. Kroc Scholarship in Peace and Justice Studies and a Global Grant Scholarship from the Rotary Clubs of San Diego and Imperial Counties, District 5340.

Bere, whose native country experienced a military coup last year, is focused on adding to his skill set in conflict resolution, governance, sustainable development and peace. A Fulbright Fellowship and Dean’s Graduate Merit Scholarship recipient, Bere said what he learns at USD will make an impact upon his return.

“There is an urgent need for people with specialized training in conflict resolution,” he said.

The work done by all students in the peace studies program — whether a MAPJ student or an undergraduate student in the peace and justice minor — as well as students in other USD schools provides a glimpse of what a USD education delivers and, with the support of generous donors, helps to reinforce a commitment to the mission of its founders.

“All of the ingredients, the mix, that’s really focused on our mission as a university are right here in this room,” said USD President Mary E. Lyons, PhD. “There are, as you know, so many talented and deserving men and women around the world who benefit from this university’s mission and education. The only limitations are resources. … The work we’re doing on behalf of the greater good has tremendous impact around the world. You are all a part of that mission. All of us share in that.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Learn about supporting USD scholarships and other USD giving opportunities

Photo descriptions (clockwise from top): Naumana Suleman speaks to the audience; Mathieu Bere; and Vice President and Provost Andy Allen chats with current USD students, each of whom received scholarship assistance through generous donor support.

Julian: Changing Hats from Mechanical Engineer to Professor Soccer Player

Name: Julian Ringhof

Country: Germany

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Language(s): German, English


FullSizeRender“Hi Toreros! My name is Julian Ringhof and I was a student-athlete and international student at USD and graduated in Mechanical Engineering in December. But for now I left the engineering world behind. Growing up in Germany I started playing soccer when I was four years old. My entire family has always been very passionate about sports and becoming a professional athlete had always been a dream of mine. However, knowing that an athletic career doesn’t last forever and could come to a sudden end because of injuries I didn’t want to chase that dream at cost of a good education. So after going to university in Germany for one year while playing soccer semi-professionally I decided to transfer to a school in the United States to become a student-athlete. The college sports system in the US presented a great opportunity of keeping the dream of potentially becoming a pro athlete alive while receiving a great education on an athletic scholarship. A compromise the European college system doesn’t provide.

Unfortunately my path to USD was a little longer and more complicated than it could have been. My first two years I went to a state school in Los Angeles. Even though I had a great time at Cal State LA it became clear to me that for both a better soccer program and a better academic institution I needed to transfer. Transferring as a student-athlete however, is a rather complicated. I don’t want to go into details but it was quite the risk to ask for a release from my old school and potentially losing my entire athletic scholarship in order to reach out for other schools. Just coming back from an ankle surgery and not being able to train at the time made the process of finding an athletic scholarship at a better school even more complicated. Luckily Seamus McFadden, the head coach of the soccer program at USD, took the chance and offered me a transfer to USD to become a Torero. All it took for me was one visit to the beautiful USD campus and I knew this was where I wanted to go.

IMG_2503What followed were the best two and a half years of my life. I assume most of you don’t take the opportunity of studying at USD for granted but believe me being able to compare it to a regular state school made me appreciate it even more. The family-like atmosphere among students, professors, coaches and administration is what makes USD such a unique experience. The sense of community on campus is something that most European universities and many commuter schools in the US such as my first school do not have.  This sense of community is why I call USD home and why friendships with teammates and classmates at USD will last a lifetime. It’s only been a few months since I graduated but I already miss being a student-athlete at USD.

But as sad as it is that this chapter is over now the career opportunities that I have thanks to USD is more than I could have dreamed of when I first decided to come to the US. At a USD career fair my senior year I was offered a job by Solar Turbines, an international subsidiary of Caterpillar and arguably one of the best engineering companies in San Diego. And the job I was offered was exactly what I wanted my first job to be like: travel around the world for engineering projects.

However, I ended up not taking the job. This is because I was able to make my dream come true and become a professional soccer player. Two weeks ago I signed a contract with the Rochester Rhinos in New York to play pro soccer in the United States. Still understanding that an athletic career is limited to a few years the only reason I’m taking this chance of playing in the second tier of American soccer is because I have a degree in engineering from USD in my back pocket, the best career safety valve I could imagine. I’m sure sooner or later I will return to the engineering world.IMG_1731

So what can I say; I don’t think this journey of coming to the US and transferring to USD as a student-athlete could have turned out any better. Yes, it was a lot of hard work and being on the soccer team while earning a degree in engineering required a lot of sacrifice. But thanks to my friends, family, professors, coaches, the great support of the International Office and maybe some good German efficiency and time management the last two and half years were incredibly fulfilling and pure joy. Thank you USD and GO TOREROS!”

-Julian Ringhof