Co-op and OPT experience of two international students

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In this post we share the co-op and OPT experience of two international students, Uche and Jennifer, who recently graduated from Cincinnati State.

Many thanks to Bryan Wright for the Q&A and the summary shared here.

We hope that you find their advice, from connecting with co-op advisors to attending campus employment related workshops, helpful.

Some key takeaways from the interview with Uche and Jennifer:

  1. Preparation for co-op and internship opportunities:
  • Start early on the preparation for employment and completion of paperwork; plan ahead
  • Stay in touch with and build a relationship with co-op advisors for support
  • Regularly attend campus workshops and classes related to employment and professional practice
  • Try to engage in campus employment
  1. The importance of co-op:
  • Opportunity to apply what is learned in the classroom
  • Establishes a record of employment in the US; helps build your resume
  1. Key reminders as you prepare for co-op/internships:
  • Your unique background- global experiences and linguistic abilities- is an asset
  • Plan ahead and start connecting early to resources
  • Regularly practice talking about and showcasing your strengths

Both students obtained co-op employment during their studies and OPT after graduation. Uche Naya Nwayorbuije came to Cincinnati State and majored in Business Management. She participated in co-op on two occasions working at the Horseshoe Casino and then at Upright Communications. For her OPT employment this past year, Uche worked at Fifth Third Bank. Jennifer Castaneda came to Cincinnati State to study Web & Multimedia Design. While in her program, she gained co-op employment at Cinmar, Inc. and now works there while on OPT.


The students were asked to respond to some questions about their experiences and were eager to help support other international students preparing for co-op and internship opportunities. As, Jennifer Castaneda said, “Co-op is the start up of our professional growth, so we have to make it count”. Uche Nwayorbuije echoes the importance of co-op by reminding fellow students of the importance of co-op experience to help establish a record of employment in the US. Most importantly, remember that, as an international student your various experiences, unique perspectives, and linguistic skills are assets that you bring to potential employers. As Uche said, “It is important to see your unique background as strength and an opportunity to bring a new perspective to an organization. Be confident, show an eagerness to learn and be always prepared to exceed expectations”.


Interview Questions and Responses:

  1. Please tell us briefly, your name, where you are from, your major, and what you studied in college if you have college experience prior to attending Cincinnati State.

 I am Uche Naya Nwayorbuije, from Nigeria. I majored in Business Management at Cincinnati State. Prior to coming to Cincinnati State my parents wanted me to be a doctor and I went to the University of Nigeria for year and just could not commit to the course load. I came to Cincinnati State with no college degree and loved the intimate educating style and excelled there.

I’m Jennifer Castaneda from Guatemala. My major is Web & Multimedia Design.

 2. Please tell us about the importance of Co-op (CPT) as it relates to your academic and professional studies.

Uche: Co-op’s are a great avenue to practice what you have learned in class as well as give the unparalleled gift of work experience which gives your resume a local reference.

Jennifer: Co-op is not only a requirement for graduating, but it’s more importantly an experience. When at a co-op job, you not only learn about your major but also about what the work environment is like, you learn how to work with other people, and throughout this time you’re a learner, which is something you really need to take advantage of.  Co-op is the start up of our professional growth, so we have to make it count.

 3. What resources were most helpful in preparing for and finding a co-op (CPT)? Where are you working?

Uche: My Co-op advisor Mr. Adam Waites was amazing. We developed a good rapport, he knew my strengths, and sent me on only 2 interviews. I got a job quickly. The co-op class was extremely helpful in building the skills required for successful interview. Also being a Student Ambassador (a position in the Admissions Office working with potential students) was a great experience.

 Jennifer: For my co-op I worked at Cinmar (Frontgate/Grandin Road). First of all, it is very important to work and stay in touch with your Co-op Advisor. Career Prep is a class that everyone needs to take for preparing, you learn all the steps you need to take to prepare for and find a co-op job, while also getting to know you co-op advisor.


  1. If you are on OPT, where are you working? What resources were most helpful in preparing for and obtaining employment for OPT?


Uche: I just completed my OPT at Fifth Third Bank. I started out as a temp through the recruitment agency Adecco and then got absorbed into the bank.


Jennifer: I am on OPT. I continue to work at Cinmar, they kept me right after I finished my co-op job with them.  In many ways the process for OPT is much like the process for Co-op. The difference here is that you don’t work with a co-op advisor anymore; you work with the International Students Affair office.


  1. What advice do you have for other international students interested in CPT and OPT?


Uche: It is important to see your unique background as strength and an opportunity to bring a new perspective to an organization. Be confident, show an eagerness to learn and be always prepared to exceed expectations.


Jennifer: My main advice is, plan ahead of time, fill out and turn paperwork in on time. Not procrastinating when preparing for CPT and OPT makes it all much easier.


  1. What are the key areas that students should focus on to gain employment in the US?


Uche: Confidence- know your strengths; learn to sell yourself with honesty and vibrancy. Show a willingness to learn. You may have to start from the bottom or a less deserving position, my advice from experience is to work hard while proving your worth and striving to grow.