Jopwell U Ambassador Highlight Series: Sainna Christian

Estimated reading time ~ 5 min
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Sainna Christian

We want to make your school-to-career process a little easier and we know that some of the best advice comes from your fellow college students. That’s why we’ve tapped our Jopwell U Ambassadors for a little help in this department.

Jopwell U Ambassadors are our team of all-star undergrads who help us spread the word about Jopwell on campuses nationwide. They also help us learn more about students’ needs so we can provide you with the most relevant resources possible. Instead of having you wonder who these behind-the-scenes connectors are, learn more about them in our #JUAHighlightSeries!

Get to know our ambassador, Sainna Christian and learn about her experience at an HBCU as an international student. She talks about how some early career exploration in high school led her to pursue a degree in Business Administration.

Interested in learning more about the Ambassador program? Visit our page here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself! (What are your passion points, why did you chose your major, what extracurriculars are you a part of, etc.,)

My interest in pursuing a business degree was sparked in high school when we had to decide between science or business subjects for the CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) exams. We took this at the end of our high school journey and I decided to pursue a Business major just because that is the only area I was exposed to/ had knowledge about.

When I am not engulfed in school assignments or leadership responsibilities, you can find me sharing women empowerment quotes on Twitter or Instagram. I am generally jumping from watching videos from Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie about feminism, re-reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, engaging my friends in spirited discussions about gender equality, or scouring the TEDTalk app for new videos. While I don’t know how my career will unfold, I am 100% certain that it will entail me inspiring women to realize their fullest potential.

What has your college experience at an HBCU as an international student?

My college experience has served as an introduction to the American culture. I believe that the latter was made a little easier considering that I had previously completed a year of college at the University of the West Indies, Mona in Jamaica. However, there were subtle nuances that took some getting used to, for instance, remembering the spelling for color (not colour) or something as big as adjusting to different classroom dynamics.

I have enjoyed every aspect of the experience, however, as I’ve come to realize that the HBCU culture is marked by unwavering support from everyone, which is exactly what an international student needs. My HBCU boasts a family vibe and I have enjoyed the small environment since it allows me to foster closer, more meaningful relationships.

What factors went into you selecting LeMoyne-Owen College as your alma mater?

I was connected to LeMoyne-Owen College through New Seasons Youth Program, a non-profit based in Atlanta, GA. Its primary purpose is to connect students from Africa and the Caribbean to HBCUs in the USA. I generally say that my decision to attend LeMoyne-Owen College has been two-fold: the connection I made from the New Seasons Youth Program and being offered a full academic scholarship.

How do you think early engagement programs have helped you make your decision on what opportunities are right for you?

Early engagement opportunities are the reasons why I developed an interest in the financial services industry and landed my sophomore internship.

Coming into college, I was interested in getting an Accounting degree, working towards my CPA and working at a Big Four Accounting firm. Through early engagement programs at financial institutions, I was exposed to the different opportunities available and sparked personal interests. Along with introducing me to a different side of the business, it also opened up space for me to network with professionals and allowed me to forge strong friendships with other student attendees. I would recommend that, for these reasons and more, others try as best as possible to attend a few of these programs.

What was the application process for these internships like for you? Any advice you’d give to other students looking to pursue similar opportunities?

Each application takes deliberate thought and attention to detail. I have heard “no” as many times as I’ve heard “yes” and both have taught me to be patient. With every essay that I’ve been asked to write, interview that I’ve been asked to participate in, and revision to my resume has come to a sense of growth and resilience.

My biggest advice would be to always focus on what makes you unique. There are hundreds of other students who meet the criteria so what can you write or say to make yourself stand out? For me, that is my background from a developing country, although largely seen as a tourist attraction, that invites the reader/interviewer into my story and shows them a part of me that may not be reflected in my resume. As cliche as it sounds: identify your story, refine it, and speak about it with clarity and conviction.

What sort of lessons and connections did you take away from your internship experience?

The key lesson was learning how to not shrink my personal abilities because I felt I did not belong on Wall Street. As a student from a country with different cultures, attending a small HBCU, imposter syndrome came over.

There was one particular day that I was set on quitting but was convinced by my mentors. The organic mentoring relationships that I was able to build assisted me in finding my voice and sense of belonging. It is critical to find people who look like you and share similar life experiences. Once I started to interact with people who were committed to helping me identify my strengths it became a smoother, more valuable experience. In fact, a common message I heard from all my mentors was that my background and the things which made me different were the exact things that made my input worth listening to.

My biggest mistake was thinking that I couldn’t do it. Please don’t make that mistake too. You can absolutely do it. You just can’t do it alone.

How has your role as a JUA changed your perspective of the university-to-career process? How do you feel it has/could impact your peers?

My role as a JUA has reinforced an important concept for me: the importance of relationship building and management. This concept is one that is necessary for us to hone in all aspects of our lives, but most especially at this stage when we are transitioning from university to career. I strengthen my relationship-building skills when I invite students to the professional development events for Jopwell and the relationship management side when I continue to interact with these students and have them continuously share their progress with me.

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