The room was packed for the highlight of International Education Week as alumni of CC, GS and SEAS shared their experiences and advice with international undergraduate students on navigating the job search and workplace in the US. 

The panel was facilitated by Allegra Girardello, co-chair of the International Student Advisory Board.

The alumni panelists included:

International Alumni Panel November 2019
  • Nazli Tuncer of Smarter Grid Solutions
  • Nicolau Civit of GEP Worldwide
  • Makiko Anzai of MUFG
  • Atti Worku Seeds of Africa
  • Sahil Rai of Strategy&
  • XingJian Li of Gemic

This event showcased the strength of collaboration to support international students among CCE, Multicultural Affairs, GS Alumni Relations, International Student Advisory Board, Global China Connection, Columbia College Student Council, and Ivy Council for International Student Affairs.

Capturing the key themes of the night, panelists shared their honest opinions and experiences from their time at Columbia, and how their career paths have formed as international students to global citizens in the workplace across various industries.


The panelists found their current jobs through a variety of means from LionSHARE postings to an Industry Showcase to setting up their own international development business. One panelist went home after graduation and then returned to the States a few years later through her company. All agreed that exploration of opportunities helps enormously to figure out what you want to do.  Don’t focus solely on location, think about who you want to be with and what you want to do so you can make informed decisions.

Resourcefulness is key

“Always think out of the box, look at different alternatives.”

Panelists and audience.

In addition to researching job opportunities, all panelists emphasized the importance of identifying resources on and off-campus as well. The panelists joined clubs on campus as they saw the value in having their peers as friends and resources for identifying opportunities and networking. One panelist received funding through the Center for Career Education for an opportunity, which allowed them to do research over the summer.


One panelist shared his thoughts about his long term goals now, after having spent some years in the workforce.  If your long term goal is to go home or go to another country, learn what you need to do to get there. One panelist didn’t think he wanted to go home, but that idea has changed over time.  “Your Columbia degree is powerful abroad, however, you need to investigate how will your experience in the US will translate back to your home country.” 

“…don’t forget about jobs in other places.” 

Audience members.

Also, consider what you want to be doing in five years’ time and find people who are doing that now to learn their paths and get their advice. 


All panelists spoke of relationships that supported them along the way and recommended that students make the effort to speak with people. In relationship building, quality is important not quantity. Do your research and consider whom you want to meet, then research those people and think about what questions you have. 

“Focus on the human aspect. At the end of the day, it’s about the people you work with.” 

Genuine questions show your motivation and interest and you connect in a meaningful way, which can lead to long term relationships. Remember people move from company to company and industries become smaller and smaller as you progress in your career. It is wonderful and valuable to know people in your field. 

Student and alumni talking.

“There is no downside to reaching out to people; the worst-case scenario is that they don’t respond…The earlier the better so right now is the best.”

Want to learn more?

Visit our “Info For” page to access resources specifically for international students.