Valeria Renee Rivera is from San Salvador, El Salvador, and graduated from Lycoming College as a business & commercial design double major with a minor in art history. The choices she made before and during her study abroad journey have brought her to her OPT in California, working as a marketing specialist at Study in the USA. So what choices did she make along the way?
“The most important choice that I made was the school that I attended. Obviously, you’re going to be there two years, four years, however long your degree is. You want to choose a school that meets all your expectations when it comes to academics. Your social life’s going to be very important. You’re living on campus. You’re going to be spending 24/7 there, especially if it’s a residential campus. And so you want to be in an environment that supports what you want out of your study abroad experience.”
You can’t make the right decisions if you’re not in the right frame of mind. Valeria understood what she wanted out of her studies and decided accordingly. There are lots of schools that promise an exciting journey, but not all journeys are meant for you. Find a place that supports all of the unique and exciting things that you want out of your life’s journey.
Choosing your English-language test
Your choice of English-language test can impact your success on the test itself and how universities perceive you. There are many options, but TOEFL stands above the rest. With TOEFL now offering multiple ways to take the test and a variety of test options – which is the best for you? Valeria says:
“If you’re someone who can sit down for three hours and concentrate and give all of you and do a great job all throughout all four sessions — then great for you. [TOEFL] iBT is probably a great choice for you. If you’re still unsure which schools you’re applying to, iBT might be the safer bet. With [TOEFL] Essentials, if you’re someone who maybe has a shorter attention span, likes things to move quicker — Essentials is probably the best choice for you in that regard.”
Choosing your university
What makes a university the right fit for you? We can’t answer that question for you, but we can tell you the questions you should ask yourself.
- What do you want from your study abroad experience?
- Where do you like to live — in a thriving city or in a quieter small town?
- Are you shy, or are you an outgoing person? Would a small college or a big university work best for you?
- Do you seek competition? Are you motivated by a good challenge?
- Do you prioritize a flexible work-life balance?
These questions are important to ask yourself and can help narrow your school search.
Choosing to keep going
This journey is filled with the highest of highs and plenty of lows. There’s an easy way out, but to take it would mean giving up on something you’ve worked so hard for. Valeria had come to such a crossroads:
“I was feeling very defeated when it came to my social life, for example. I just felt like I didn’t have as many friends as I wanted to at that point in my college career. I felt like academically, I wasn’t achieving as much as I envisioned myself doing at one point or another. I was talking to a friend of mine, and I was telling him, ‘I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like I came all the way here, I spent all this money, and I haven’t done what I wanted to do.’”
She was on the brink of giving up, but her friend looked at her and gave her advice that changed the trajectory of her life, “Val, you don’t actually fail until you give up on yourself.”
Life is all about choices — not every choice we make will be perfect, but we live hoping that the next choice we make will take us to where we’re meant to be. Valeria’s choices brought her to Study in the USA. We’re glad she made the choice to keep going, and we hope you do too.
In case you missed it…
You can rewatch our informative Facebook Live session with TOEFL and Valeria Rivera to hear her story in its entirety.
Thanks to our friends at TOEFL for supporting this program!
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