By Kuralay Maratova
Two years ago, I made one decision that changed my life. I left everything behind in my home country of Kazakhastan, crossed the ocean and stepped on American land to pursue my master’s degree in accounting at DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. At the time, I was scared. I felt lost and out of place. While the master’s degree program itself is not easy, travelling to a foreign country and studying in a different language was challenging on a whole other level.
When I first came here, I felt a huge gap between myself and American society. My name, values and lifestyle were different and are still different. During my first year at Kellstadt, I always introduced myself as Anna. I believed it would be easier for people to pronounce and remember, that it was more common and American. I was surprised when my classmates told me that my real name is beautiful. I appreciated how they worked hard to pronounce it correctly and remember it, and how they were so curious to learn about my culture.
DePaul showed me that the best way to be is to be who you are. So, my name is Kuralay, and I am from Kazakhstan. Today I am a new graduate with my master’s degree in accounting, I am finishing my internship as an accountant in a prestigious investment bank in the heart of Chicago and I am getting ready to take the CPA exam. I am also looking forward to starting my full-time job (as all international students in the U.S., I get temporary full-time work authorization upon completion of my degree). I promised myself that nobody will ever see “Anna” again – not in LinkedIn and not on a résumé. Because DePaul taught me to not only do my best but to be my best.
One challenge I overcame thanks to the support I received at Kellstadt was finding an internship. The Kellstadt Graduate School of Business sits in the center of Chicago’s downtown, surrounded by a variety of national and international businesses. It’s easy for a graduate student with excellent grades to find opportunities here, but for an international student, it’s not as easy because there are a lot of government rules and documents you must comply with, especially if it is your first job in the U.S. At the time, I didn’t know about half of them.
My academic advisor in Kellstadt and the International Student Services Office at DePaul helped me understand all these important processes, including how not to violate the terms of my visa, and helped me create a personalized academic plan. Of course, I wasn’t the only international student at DePaul, so they understood my unique challenges and knew how to handle any issues I faced.
Even though I worked before in my home country, the job application process, the résumé format and the interview experience are all different in the U.S. I went through about 20 different interviews before I finally visited the Kellstadt Career Management Center. They helped me enhance my résumé and interview skills, and I was able to secure my first internship in the U.S. Even now, during the pandemic, they continue to help and support me in getting a full-time job after graduation.
These two years were tough, but I made it through thanks to the help and support I received at DePaul. As graduate students, most of us know what we want to do, where we want to work and where we see ourselves in 10 years. That’s why we are here in the U.S., pursuing our education and employment opportunities. And I know that even if I decide to change my path some day and go back to Kazakhstan, DePaul has given me a solid educational foundation to help me succeed in my career.
I believe 90% of your success depends on what you do for yourself. For new international graduate students who are already admitted or only thinking about studying at DePaul, my advice to you is to participate in the events and extracurricular activities the university has to offer, work on campus and find internships, make new friends, learn new cultures and study hard. If you do these things, the whole world will be open to you.
Kuralay Maratova graduated from the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business with a master’s degree in accounting in 2020, after earning her bachelor’s degree in economics at KIMEP University in Kazakhstan. Before moving to the U.S. to attend DePaul in 2018, she worked as a business analyst in Kazakhstan. Today, she is an accountant at Blaige & Co in Chicago, after having interned there for almost a year.