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Steven Arjonilla, 26, was born in Los Alamitos, California. He attended the University of California, Irvine, earning a BA in international studies with a minor in business management. While there he studied at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, focusing on European foreign affairs and Spanish. After graduation he taught in Bologna, Italy. This summer, while studying for a masters in global management at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix, Arizona, he interned for the US State Department in Rome, in the general service office at the US Embassy.

Why Thunderbird?

Because of its strong reputation in international business. Also, Thunderbird’s alumni network extends to all parts of the globe. My heritage is Mexican and, unlike many Americans, I want to travel and collaborate with different cultures. I also think it is good to embrace globalisation.

What did you hope to achieve by doing this programme?

To increase my cultural sensitivity, foreign language and global management skills in order to prepare myself for an international career. Moreover, to develop a global mindset.

Did you set out to build good contacts?

With Thunderbird’s international student body and 40,000-plus alumni I hope to continue to build on my international professional network. I plan to find my next employer through my growing network. I now have friends everywhere from Eritrea to Vietnam.

Did you hope to get a new job?

Yes, I hope to start my career in international strategy consulting or with the state department as a Foreign Service officer. As an intern with the State Department at the US Embassy in Rome, I have had a taste of what life and a career are like as a diplomat.

Did you hope to set up a business?

I aspire to one day set up my own business, but not as soon as I finish at Thunderbird. I would like to get my feet wet and learn from other experienced professionals first.

Did you hope to sharpen your brain?

With any challenge one sharpens one’s brain. Studying at Thunderbird has been a challenging adventure and has made me more open-minded, culturally sensitive and a critical thinker.

Did you worry about taking time out from work?

Yes. The course fees are $75,000. The thing that worried me about taking time out from work was not earning an income to support myself. To pay for tuition and living expenses I had to take out some student loans. I hope that the financial sacrifices I am putting myself through will end up paying off in the future. My biggest fear is that I am investing all this money and my job might be unrelated. I don’t want to just settle because I need the income. I want to do something I am passionate about.

Did you worry the course might strain relations with your friends and family?

Actually, moving to Phoenix was a relief for my friends and family since previously I was living in Bologna, Italy. However, I did have to leave behind all of my friends in Italy. It is difficult to maintain relationships across the world, but it is important to try. I split up from my girlfriend of three years after deciding to move to Arizona. I was also worried about living in Phoenix, having been used to big cities. But I like the area I live in – it’s calmer and more residential than others I’ve been in. Everyone lives close by and we are close-knit.

Did you gain anything unexpected from the course?

The [level of] encouragement and support from the faculty and staff were unexpected. The class sizes are relatively small and so they get to know your interests and ambitions.

What would you do differently if you were to do the course again?

I would spend more time searching and applying for jobs than worrying about my next exam. I am here at Thunderbird to launch my future career and, unfortunately, I have been focusing too much on other commitments.

Any tips for others contemplating such a course?

Figure out what you want to do before your first day of class and speak to your career adviser. Create a strategy to get hired for the career you want and stick to that strategy, no matter what. Success is when opportunity meets preparation.

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