Study & Work Abroad - The United States

Interview & Text | Samantha Leong, Jia Xian, Khin Chong

Jia Xian, Siew (27) Jia Xian is currently helping at her family business while in search of a career that relates to her field of studies. She also wishes to resume her PhD when the time is right. Education Pathway: Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) > Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) > Bachelor Degree in Environmental Engineering > Graduated from the University of New Hampshire, the United States in Master Degree of Environmental Engineering > Withdrew my PhD after the first year due to family reason.

1. Tell us the early part of your University journey. To be frank, after graduated from my Senior Year 3, I am kind of lost and unsure of what to do next. Then I have taken one year off from my studies. During the one year gap, I spent time playing basketball and went to competitions, often thinking of what will my next step be and where will I end up. If I am asked to give advice to students who are lost after completing pre-university, I will tell them, if possible, don't worry and take a short break and think of what to do next.

2. How did you figured out what Major to take? I sent my applications to a few universities with my past experiences as a state basketball player. Initially, I was hoping to see if I could be accepted into the university with my athlete qualification. But it was not the case. Then I decided to seek support and advice from an education consultant to assist me on the applications and processes.

There I was, discovered about Environmental Engineering. A major that could give back and contribute to the environment.

My team members and I (first left from the photo) presented our senior capstone project at the Undergraduate Research Conference at UNH.

3. Can you tell us what kind of career options available as an Environmental Engineer?

Environmental Engineer includes providing assistance in Treatment Plant, treating wastewater and water treatment or it can also, provide consultation and advice to the developer so that during the development, all the constriction project are being developed accordingly to the environmental Act.

4. Why did you choose the United States as your education destination? I wanted to explore differently. As most of my peers went to Australia so I decided to go for the United States. I am grateful that my family supported my decision back then. It was an eye-opening and remarkable journey. It helped me to step out from my comfort zone, learn things that I never thought of, being a founding member of a CLUB that benefits international students and got to know friends from different countries.

5. I understand there is an ESL program for overseas students, can you tell us about it? An ESL program is designed to help students who are looking to learn English as their second, third, or in some cases, the fourth language to develop their: speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills.

6. For international students that taking ESL Program where do they seek for English Support?

Therefore during my first-year degree, a group of international students started a club name “ Hi, English Learning Partner (H.E.L.P)”. Our aim is to provide support to international students (non-native speaker). I am proud to share that H.E.L.P Club is still running today at my university to help more international students with their struggles. Check out the website H.E.L.P. - Home (

(pic above) Sisters of DXP participating in an on-campus event to raise funds for Boston Children’s Hospital.

7. Did you join any other university clubs or associations? How and what was it like?

I joined Delta Xi Phi Multicultural Sorority. This sorority directs their energies to support the following Five Pillars: 1) Advancement of women through higher education, 2) Increasing Multicultural Awareness, 3) Community Service, 4) Sisterhood and, 5) Friendship. Before I joined this club, I know nothing about Feminism. I am lucky, by joining this Sorority I get to know more about it and I am able to promote Feminism to others so that the ladies will know their rights and they could protect themselves. In this club, together with the team we did organise fund raising event to help those that are in needs.

8. Can you tell us about your accommodation experiences?

It is our University rules that the students must stay On-Campus. Per arrival, students get to choose and request what kind of room that they wanted to stay in. Few options like the single, double or triple room. Then based on the availability of the accommodation it will be arranged accordingly. The meal plan that we purchased cost 2000USD per semester and it is buffet style. You can eat whenever you want during the dining hall operation hours, eat and drink as much as you want to. In my opinion, I think that students that have a good appetite will be totally worthy of the meal plan.

(pic above) HELPers and students met every Friday to discuss their essays.

9. Did you took up any part-time job during your studies?

We are not allowed to take up a part-time job outside of the campus. However, I did spend my time providing education services such as a peer tutor, teaching in the H.E.L.P Club and joining the orientation as an orientation leader. By providing such services above I did get paid with stipend and allowances.

The student also can choose to work at the university’s dining hall as a part-timer. In the United States, visa regulation is very strict. International students are not allowed to work part-time outside the campus for personal safety purposes. If students break this law their visa will be terminated and they will be sent back to their home country.

10. Can you share with us a short review of studying overseas, in terms of their way of teaching.

In the US, the students will need to find out the solution themselves instead of getting it from the tutor or lecturers. I believe this also applies in Australia, Canada or any other countries. I did not know that learning maths could be that fun until I started my degree. In the US they will let the student know how this equation being formed, why they exist or even when to be used instead of students memorising it. By knowing all the why, how, went, etc everything seems to be interesting. There are no right and wrong on a topic during discussion(s). As long as you have enough data and evidence to support your theory. Overall, I personally think that the US education system teaches students to think out of the box and aware of the importance of human rights.

11. Any tip(s) for students and parents if they are deciding whether or not to send their children overseas?

International students may seek for Office of International Student and Scholar (OISS) department. During my orientation, OISS had the lead and guide us on the registration for bank account and telecommunication.

I also strongly recommend that international students can visit the university official website. The website usually will list out a checklist for students so they can prepare and pack accordingly. For example, the website will let you know that what size of bed sheet you will need for your accommodation.

Students should always prioritize what major they wanted to take and which university is the best for that major. Then students make the right decision by prioritizing those instead of following their peers. By taking up a major that you are not interested in or attend a university that is not the best for the major. This is really important.

I would want to highlight that since you are already studying overseas. Be brave and step out of your comfort zone. Make new friends, join university clubs to expand your network, try to work part-time and so forth. You never know what wonderful experiences you might encounter.

In my case, I would say having parents supporting their child’s decision is important. If your child still needs time to figure things out please show them some patient and also personal space to make up their mind.

The wonderful OISS staff who supported us throughout our study abroad journey. From our visa application process before entering the US to visa-related issues after graduation/during OPT, they always got our back. Additional info:

The Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) staff is the first group of people that you will meet upon arrival on campus. They are in charge of international students orientation week where OISS orientation leaders will take students to a local bank to open a bank account, to the mall to get a phone card, etc. OISS advisors provide immigration advising and make sure students abide by US immigration laws and regulations. They are your go-to people if you have any concerns regarding your visa. They also provide guidance on how and when to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

(pic above: Jia and Samantha during our online interview.)

Special thanks to Jia Xian for contributing valuable info to our e-publication!

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