Looking for a first job has never been an easy feat; countless hours writing cover letters, gaining new skills, and perfecting resumes. Now, imagine doing all that while in the midst of a deadly pandemic and economic recession.
Eleonora Matina, an advertising alumna (COM ‘20) from Italy, not only had to overcome these obstacles, but she also had to do it as an international student.
Now, a few months after landing a position as a Global and Multilingual Research Analyst at the integrated marketing agency W2O (now Real Chemistry), Eleonora reflects on her time at BU, her job hunting experience, and the effects the pandemic and her immigration status had on it.
Eleonora transferred to Boston University at the beginning of her junior year after completing two years at Georgia College, a small university south of Atlanta, and one year as an exchange student in North Dakota.
“I was tired of [living] in a small town; it was time to live in a big city and gain real work experience,” Eleonora said. “I wanted to receive a strong education and get a deeper knowledge of advertising and PR. BU was the perfect choice.”
During her time at COM, Eleonora took full advantage of the resources offered to international students by participating in different clubs, such as the Marketing and Ad Club, and out-of-campus internships through Curriculum Practical Training (CPT). But, what really stirred her in the right direction, especially during the interview process, were the university’s competitive communication classes.
“The class that taught me the most and helped me land my current job was the mass communication research class I took with Professor Danehy,” Eleonora said. “It gave me a deep understanding of what research was and how to analyze data. It was essential for the position I wanted.”
Although COM’s resources allowed her to become a competent and prepared candidate, being an international student quickly became more of a burden than a blessing.
“Being an international student was the biggest challenge I had to surmount,” Eleonora said. “No one wants to sponsor you. Employers change their mind and are unwilling to give you a chance when they find out you are foreign.”
After filling out “more applications than [she] could count,” Eleonora found through the BU Handshake the perfect job at the perfect time – an agency position that required knowledge of the Italian language and culture.
“W2O was so interested and excited to have found a candidate that not only spoke the language but also had experience with the culture,” Eleonora said. “But, unfortunately, once again, I had found a company that wasn’t willing to sponsor me or accept OPT. Things luckily changed during the week of my final interview round when my boyfriend proposed to me.”
Because of this, W2O decided to accept Eleonora’s OPT, a 1-year visa for international students graduating from American universities, with the knowledge that after her yearly commitment, she will be able to find sponsorship by other means.
“During my job hunt, being an international student was both an advantage and disadvantage,” Eleonora said. “It was an advantage being able to show I had the first-hand experience necessary for the position, but even after OPT, employers were not willing to give [me] a chance.”
Being an international student, though, has also helped Eleonora successfully transition in her role by making her job much more manageable. In fact, as a global multilingual research analyst, Eleonora uses different software to gather and analyze healthcare-related data, specifically in Italian, that will help other account teams pitch future campaigns to clients.
“Although it depends on the task, I read into the Italian culture, understand the disease space, and point clients in the right direction,” Eleonora said. “Knowing the culture makes my work much more straightforward. My background in advertising also allows me to understand further how I can specifically aid each account team.”
Eleonora’s work at W2O has also introduced her to a field she had never thought of, but she has fallen in love with since starting the position– healthcare communications.
“It’s a purposeful job,” Eleonora said. “It’s very cool and rewarding to work for a company that helps people get solutions for their health problems. I like to be always informed and knowledgeable about health-related issues, even if it doesn’t help my paranoia.”
COM has also helped Eleonora become a better public speaker and a prepared communicator ready to face client-related disappointments and failures proactively.
“I’m glad my professors pushed me to do more and better,” Eleonora said. “Now that I am in the real world dealing with paying clients, I know how to learn from the hard lessons and letdowns.”
Drawing from her own experience looking for a job in the midst of a pandemic, Eleonora recommends international students to use their skills to their benefit and not ignore positions associated with their home country.
“Look for companies that are interested in candidates that have a diverse background,” she said. “Market the experience and knowledge you’ve gained living abroad to your advantage. And don’t bring up your immigration status in the interview process until the last round.”
Michelle Alberini, Staff Writer
Born and raised in Reggio Emilia, Italy, a small city famous for its wine and cheese, Michelle Alberini is a first-year graduate student in the public relations program at the College of Communication. Prior to BU, Michelle received her bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies from Post University. There, she first matured a passion for storytelling and strategic communication, which she’s now excited to advance through her work at The COMmunicator. In her free time, Michelle likes to read (especially Harry Potter), watch true-crimes documentaries, and call her family back home.