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Estefania Barnuevo: From Ecuador to the US

interstride logo by Interstride
November 9, 2022

Where are you from? What higher-ed institutions have you attended?

Hello, my name is Estefania Barnuevo and I am from Ecuador. I did my undergraduate studies in International Business and Trade at the Universidad del Azuay, Cuenca, Ecuador. After my undergraduate degree, I worked for a year while applying to US universities to get my Master’s degree. I was enrolled at Northeastern University first for my graduate certificate in accounting and finance before transferring to Bentley University. Currently, I am pursuing my MBA with a concentration in Finance. I am also the president of a women’s organization, called GWLO (Graduate Women Leadership Organization).

Tell us about your current role!

I work at Bentley as a Graduate Student Ambassador. My job is pretty nice because I get to meet all incoming students and interact with them from a student perspective. I started working at the graduate admissions office in August 2019.

After my graduation, I will be joining Novartis Pharmaceuticals in East Hanover, NJ, under a financial role called FDP (Financial Development). I got this offer after I completed my internship during the summer of 2020. My job will be a leadership rotation, where I’ll be working in many financial areas of the company. I will also work for a year in Basel at the main company headquarters.

How did you navigate your education and experience to arrive at where you are today?

I come from a family that owns a business in Cuenca—my hometown. My grandfather founded Agrosad 55 years ago and since then, my mother’s family has been involved in the company. My mom was the CEO when I was a teenager, so she taught me how valuable it is to work, especially as a woman. She also taught me how to build my path and to achieve every goal I set in life. I have worked hard to get to where I am but always with the help of my family, I appreciate them because they taught me to persevere. I believe the experience of seeing my mother at the top helped me to set my goals high.

While studying, I worked at the family business, doing everything they needed me to do. The business is dedicated to providing agricultural goods to farmers so I was involved in international relations, working with vendors. After that, my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, which led me to become interested in the pharmaceutical world. I was not meant to be a doctor, but I still wanted to help people. After my internship at Novartis, I understood that I could still help people in other ways.

What’s the biggest challenge as an international student in the US?

As an international student, the biggest challenge I faced was loneliness. I came to the US by myself when I was 22, and from a family that was always together, I felt alone.

Another challenge I faced was making friends, which has never been an issue for me before, but I believe that everyone’s too busy here in the US. It is hard to meet new people but not impossible—you just need to try harder.

Finally, another challenge was jobs. I saw my friends suffering and struggling after graduation, but what I always say is to use the tools the university gives you. Network and attend events. It doesn’t matter if you seem intense. That is a good way to make other people notice you because the world is full of people, so you need to do something to stand out.

What was the most valuable resource to you as an international student in the US?

The most valuable resource for me is networking. Become a friend of career services and other staff. Professors will be the ones who recommend you—the ones who can speak about who you are and what you did during class. It is not only attending class, taking a seat, and listening. You also need to speak and act. I believe the most valuable resource is yourself because you are the one who will make things happen, always by the side of a good team and good friends.

What advice do you have for other international students?

The only advice I have is that nothing is impossible, and even in the days when everything looks bad, something good will come. I won’t lie—it’s hard to be an international student in the US. But I think it is worth it, if that is your dream. Since I was a kid I wanted to study abroad and work for a multinational company, so I started working on my dream.

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