International student Marcello Mattei of Venezuela is earning his master’s in this exciting new field.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I’ve always been passionate about creating things. Since I was little, I was obsessed with Legos and games with moving parts, so it became very clear that I wanted to be an engineer of some sort. However, I also loved biology. I found biomedical engineering was the sweet spot between the two.
This career was not available in my home country because it was so new. Thus, I decided to come to the USA to study, as it was a fast-growing career that had been integrated into multiple universities.
Why did you choose your university/college?
I chose the Florida Institute of Technology (aka Florida Tech) because of three main aspects:
- Its size — I knew a smaller university was for me, and Florida Tech was perfect. This has allowed me to get personalized attention from professors in my classes and projects, and it makes it easy to get into research.
- The diversity — Florida Tech prides itself on having students from more than 80 countries. I’ve always been a people-person, and I enjoy meeting people from across the globe, so I knew this setting would be great for exploring new cultures and making new, meaningful connections.
- The program — the biomedical engineering program was recommended to me by a career advisor. I would have the opportunity to participate in research firsthand and interact with state-of-the-art equipment while focusing on computational modeling.
Have you taken any classes outside your major that you’ve enjoyed?
Yes! Most of my favorite classes are outside my major. I have taken classes for hobby, such as a cappella and concert choir. I am a huge fan of singing, and I wanted to explore that passion a bit more, which allowed me to learn about music.
However, I have also taken classes that have turned out to be pivotal to my career. For example, in the world of biomedical modeling and signal processing, I came across artificial intelligence (AI). I decided to take two classes to deepen my knowledge of this, so I registered for machine learning and neural networks, both forms of AI.
Coming out of my comfort zone allowed me to get good at coding and learn new concepts for my thesis project. I also started bringing over those concepts to my research lab and my department.
What were some struggles you faced, and how did you handle it?
My main struggle was homesickness. Coming to a new country and having to express myself in an entirely new language is an important challenge and a change in your life. It’s especially harder when your friends and family are not there with you. In my freshman year, the feelings of loneliness and missing my culture were overwhelming at times.
Luckily, Florida Tech offers plenty of ways for you to find that support circle and make new great memories! Going to international events and making friends with other international students who also understood my feelings made a gigantic difference for me. Some of these people are still my best friends. Being part of campus organizations, such as Residence Life, also helped me connect with a higher purpose of service and find my fit away from home.
What is your favorite place on campus?
The dining hall! I have amazing memories there. Eating with all my friends at gigantic tables, getting a good laugh in between classes, figuring out our homework together. Sharing a meal can be so meaningful. For me, it has been the start of many, many friendships.
What do you want to do after graduation?
I currently work as an AI engineer, making algorithms to detect arrhythmias. I love what I do, and I intend to keep doing it after I graduate. I want to gather as much experience as I can, so I can eventually bring it back to my home country and help incorporate AI into our health care framework.
What are some of your summer plans?
Over summer, I try to travel abroad for some time to visit my family in Venezuela and in Spain. For the past few summers, when I came back to the states, I would spend my time working for my internship at a cardiac technology company. I did research on cardiovascular fluid mechanics.
Overall, I love the summer because a lot of my friends also stay around, and we all have more free time. So, it’s easy to plan fun things like going kayaking, trips to Orlando, or going downtown at night for dancing!
Does your university/college organize any fun events you’ve attended or are looking forward to?
We have Homecoming, which lasts a week and includes multiple events, talent shows, and a Homecoming Fest concert that takes up the entirety of downtown. I was crowned Homecoming King two years ago!
Once per month, we also do a market day, where local vendors set up tents on campus and bring artisanal products, such as candles, baked goods, jewelry, and much more! Additionally, every housing area has multiple small events throughout the month, such as coffee hours, game nights, and movies. Each area puts together a large event and many residents come out to participate in fun activities, such as karaoke, arts, racing, video games, and more.
Have you traveled around the U.S.?
I have! Over Thanksgiving breaks, spring break, and some long weekends.
What were some of your favorite places, or where would you like to go?
The United States has some amazing places to visit, so choosing a favorite is incredibly hard. Alaska was one of my favorites. There are so many flowers, and the weather is gorgeous. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do. I also had the opportunity of visiting the island of Kauai in Hawaii. I loved this place because of the music, the connection to an ancient culture and breathtaking sights, such as Waimea Canyon.
I’m also particularly fond of road trips because I love jamming to music with friends in the car. One of my favorite trips was when three of my best friends and I drove up to Savannah, Georgia. The city was so walkable and full of art and ghost stories!
What is one of your favorite memories from your time as a student?
I have so many! But one of my favorite moments was my first International Festival at Florida Tech. I learned to dance salsa, merengue, and bachata with the Latin American Student Association. I met a lot of friends there and put together a choreography for the festival. The day of, we danced in front of everyone in our student union. I still look at the photos and videos of that day. I loved it so much that I participated in the dance for the following three years, as well.
Describe your experience in three words.
Friends, challenges, growth.
What would you tell students who are considering studying in the USA?
Coming to the U.S. to pursue a degree can be an incredibly rewarding experience that will put you out of your comfort zone and make you grow in ways you cannot begin to imagine. The U.S. provides you with an opportunity to learn your career at the forefront of technological advances, making you an incredibly valuable professional worldwide.
Moreover, experiencing new cultures away from home is a perfect pathway to developing skills and a mindset that not only set you apart as a professional but also as a human. You will learn about empathy, human connection, and self-sufficiency. Yes, at times it will feel lonely, and you may question if you’ve made the right choice. But remember that there are a ton of students just like you out there, waiting to make some friends and share their culture. If you make use of your resources, such as student organizations, clubs, and university activities, I’m sure you’ll come across so many of them.
Finally, I will leave you with a piece of advice that I wish I had been given before coming to study abroad: Plan ahead. The reality is that it can be harder for an international student to find a job after graduation. You are allowed to work 1–3 years after you graduate if you are eligible for an OPT permit. It’s important that you are aware of this constraint and that you are able to effectively communicate it with potential employers.
Similarly, make sure you start finding the employers that are willing to provide visa sponsorship after your graduation. Attend university events early on, and make sure you are meeting these employers and having those conversations with them about the process. On the other hand, if your plan is to immediately start working in another country, still look for those connections and search for companies that operate across multiple countries. It’s never too early to start considering where you will want to start working.
Make sure you give it proper thought and attend professional and career events throughout your degree. And if you ever have questions about any of these things, reach out to your international student services office. They are some of the most helpful people you will meet.
You are so brave for considering studying abroad! I am sure you’ll set yourself up for success. Good luck with your studies. You’ve got this!
Check Out These Schools
Start your U.S. adventure with Study in the USA
Learn About U.S. education financing, housing, and more
campusSIMS helps international students get connected with mobile phone service in the US. Through campusSIMS’ exclusive partner Mint Mobile, students can sign up and get their US phone number while in their home country, and have mobile phone servic...
Nomad Credit helps international students search for and compare education loan (student loan) options, including options for students with a US cosigner or those pursuing a graduate degree. The Nomad team will personally help you with your education...
Follow your dreams with the TOEFL iBT® test, which has helped millions of students study abroad.
Learn about American culture and education direct from our experts at Study in the USA. Read more