A Home Away From Home
Building Bridges to Toledo
9,863 miles from Toledo, OH
12 hours time change
Adventures in Engineering
A Globe-Trotting Engineer in the Heart of the American Mid-West
From a young age, Ms. Theresia loved to travel, a passion she nurtured over the years and carried into adulthood. Taking challenging courses in her youth and eventually winning a full ride scholarship from the Indonesian Government to attend graduate school in the States (a remarkable feat given that less than 6% of all international students get aide from their government), she has merged her passion for travel with her love for learning.
Now, thousands of miles from her home base in Indonesia, she has not only developed her career, but also found time to continue to travel and see more of the United States than many of its native residents ever will! Interested to learn more about Indonesia, studying in a foreign country, navigating graduate school, government applications and work, and traveling the globe? Go no further! Read on to learn more about Ms. Theresia’s fascinating life!
Studying in the USA: The Rise of Global Education
The Rise of Global Education
Every year, thousands of students across the globe dream of coming to the United States to study. Whether enticed by economic opportunity, the chance for a respected degree, or the hope of gaining citizenship after graduation, the US leads the world as the top destination for international students (1).
In 2017, 1.1 million (24%) of the 4.6 million international students enrolled worldwide were hosted in the US, followed by the United Kingdom (11%) and China (10%). While the US share of international students did drop from 28% in 2001 to 24% in 2017, the number of international students overall more than doubled in the 2001-2017 time period (1).
Researchers speculate that the rising cost of US higher education, delays and denials for student visas, new immigration policies, and increased competition from other countries may have contributed to the slowed growth rate for international enrollment in the US. However, its quality educational system, welcoming culture and relatively open labor market still provide a strong incentive to come (1).
Fast Facts – Examining the Trends
Starting in 2003, the US Department of Homeland Security implemented a program, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to collect, maintain and manage information about foreign students and exchange visitors to the US. Using this data, the Institute of International Education (IIE) and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, complied an overview of what international students in the US look today (2). What follows is a brief synopsis of their findings. For more in-depth coverage, tables and charts, check out the Migration Policy Website to learn more.
Country of Origin
What do these students look like? They are a diverse group. From 2016-2017, the largest number came from China (32.5%), followed by India (17.3%), South Korea (5.4%) and Saudi Arabia (4.9%). India’s growth well outpaced that of the other countries, with a 12% increase from 2016 to 2017, as compared to a 7% increase for the China. Increases in students coming from both of these countries strongly contributed to the rising total number of international US students.
The origin-country composition of international students has also changed over time. Prior to the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 (which removed national-origin quotas) Canada, Taiwan, India, and several other European and Latin American Countries led the way, sending the most students to the US. In contrast, 2017 saw the highest number of students coming from China, India, and South Korea.
Geographic Distribution and Schools of Choice
So where do they go? International students are more evenly spread out across the country than the overall US foreign-born population. For example, while California is home to around 15% of international students, over 24% of the total immigrant population resides there. After California, New York (11%), Texas (7.9%) and Massachusetts (5.8%) have the largest percent of international students. Ohio ranked 8th overall with 3.6%, and Michigan was close behind, 9th overall, with 3.2%.
In terms of schools, New York University has led the way since 2014, and had over 17,300 students enrolled there in 2017. Eight schools, including NYU, USC, Columbia, Northeastern, ASU, the University of Illinois, UCLA and Purdue, all enrolled 10,000 students or more in 2017.
Fields of Study
Engineering is by far the most popular field, with 21% of students enrolled in those programs, followed by Business and Management (19%), Math and Computer Science (15%), Social Sciences/Other Fields of Study (8%) and Physical/Life Sciences (7%).
Interestingly, students from different countries also tend to pursue different majors. While just 16% of students from Japan and 20% from the UK and Germany chose majors in STEM fields, those from India (80%), Iran (79%), Nepal (65%) and Kuwait (64%) overwhelmingly focused on those areas.
While international enrollment continued to rise for all academic levels in the 2016-17 period (with the exception being for non-degree students), the largest number of students were enrolled in Undergraduate programs, closely followed by Graduate Students, reversing a 10-year trend where Undergraduate student enrolment fell below average. A small number also came to the US for Optional Practical Training, and this number has likewise seen steady increases in recent years as well.
The hardest part of higher education is almost always paying for tuition, and that holds true for international students as well. Because most US scholarships focus predominantly on domestic applicants, 66% of international students receive the majority of their funding from outside of the US. Of that two-thirds, 60% received help from friends and family, and 34% through their employment, U.S. university/government aid and other sources. Only 6% comes from foreign government aid.
Given the large and growing international student population, and the fact that most of their funding comes from outside the US, these students have a significant impact on the US economy. The National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA) estimates that from 2016 to 2017, international students contributed more than $37 billion to the US economy, and created or sustained more than 450,000 jobs.
Transition into the Labor Force
So what happens to these students after they graduate, and what is the long-term impact of their journey to the US for higher education? Unfortunately, due to the relative lack of longitudinal data, not much is known about their impact on the US labor market, and the overall economic benefit to the US.
A report by Brookings Institution in 2014 found that 45% of foreign graduate students were able to extend their visas to work in the same metropolitan areas as their college or university. However, Giovanni Peri’s 2016 analysis suggested that while the college-to-employment transition rate for foreign born students is around 92%, for non F-1 visa holders (the average college student), it is -4%. In other words, for every 100 F-1 students educated in a state, Peri estimated that none will still be working in that state after five years (3).
He argues that finding a way to help these students stay and work in the US could result in a huge economic boom, especially as over half major in the lucrative and rapidly growing STEM fields. In fact, he estimates that the states with the most F-1 visa holders stand to gain more than $8.3 billion in wages and $283 million in taxes (3).
N of 1
While many of these students may struggle to find a way to stay after graduation, some find not only successful careers, but a new home away from home. Despite all the challenges and obstacles facing her, Maurren Theresia was determined to develop her career and find economic success in the land of the free and home of the brave. Her perseverance paid off. She now has a thriving career at NCI and has embraced every opportunity to travel and enjoy her new home away from home in the States.
- Zong, J., & Batalova, J. (2018, May 9). International students in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/international-students-united-states
- IIE. (2017). A quick look at global mobility trends. Retrieved from Washington, DC. website: https://www.iie.org/Research-and-Insights/Project-Atlas/Explore-Data/Current-Infographics.
- Peri, G. (2016, April 18). Opportunity lost: The economic benefit of retaining foreign-born students in local economies. Retrieved from https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/publication/opportunity-lost-economic-benefit-retaining-foreign-born-students-local-economies
A World of Travel
Not only has Maurren traveled the globe, she has also visited more of the United States than most of its citizens will in a lifetime. Click out the map below to see where she has gone, and what she has done!
Check our Maurren on Social Media for more amazing photos!
Why the University of Michigan (and not another school)?
I choose the University of Michigan because it had a very good reputation and solid accreditation. I was also inspired by my undergrad professor (mentor) that graduated from MSU. I applied to both MSU and U of M and then asked for his advice. I was actually accepted into MSU first; the dean of the civil engineering department at MSU was a very good friend of my professor, so he wanted to be my direct advisor (perhaps because he saw that my letter of recommendation came from his old friend). But after U of M accepted me, my professor suggested that I go there because he thought that it had a better reputation.
What documentation do you have to complete for the US Government to come over?
Tons. Visa applications of course, proof of financial support from my scholarship, criminal records, passports, family card, etc. It was easier because I was fully supported by the Indonesian government and came to the US as a student. It is much more difficult if you just want to visit the US for a vacation, and even worse if you want to come over to work.
What were some of the biggest challenges of being a foreign graduate student in the US?
Finding a job of course, because most companies don’t want to sponsor foreign students after the OPT period ends. They also fear that the student will work for a short time then go back to their home country. Because of this, I am incredibly grateful that NCI was willing to give me this job opportunity and trust that I would be loyal. I hope I can work for NCI for many years to come.
What do you like most/least about living in the US?
I like that there are so many great places in the US to travel to, how rich and great the country is, and the variety between the different states. I don’t like the winter, being very far away from home, and the lack of Indonesian foods (in Toledo or Ann Arbor).
Do you want to stay here after you get your PE, or return to Indonesia? Why?
Stay here. I was uncertain in making the decision before, but now I am sure because God has opened so many doors that lead to me to staying in the US. At some point in my life, maybe when I turn 50, I want to go back to Indonesia and teach civil engineering at the university (in Indonesia, Master’s graduates can teach undergrads). However, at the moment, I am happy to be working at NCI and think that Toledo is a good place to settle long-term.
The Ambitious Adventurer
Sharp, smart, savvy and incredibly humble, Maurren has quickly proven an invaluable asset to the NCI team. But how did she get here? Check out our Q&A session below to learn more about Maurren and her journey from Bali to Michigan and now Toledo, Ohio!
What are your interests/hobbies?
Watching movies & TV shows, working out, walking at the beach, and travelling.
Did your desire to become an engineer stem from or compliment any of these hobbies?
Probably. I am not sure, but when I travel to big cities, technology, skyscrapers, and bridges interest me and make me dream big and want to build them one day. However, in general, I actually prefer travelling somewhere natural and not man-made.
What is your family like?
I am the youngest of four children. My oldest sibling, my brother Victor, is 20 years older than I am, so my oldest niece is now a college student. My sister Monica is the second-born child and she’s married and has 2 beautiful daughters; one of them is my favorite person in life. My third sibling, who is also the closest to me in age, is my brother Michael. I have a big family and we are all very close to one another. We also all share the same hobby – travelling.
When did you first want to become an engineer? Was there a mentor that inspired you?
I decided that I wanted to be an engineer when I was about to graduate from high school. Unlike in the States, in Indonesia, when you graduate from high school, you are expected to have already chosen your major for College and Graduate School studies. At first I considered architecture, but I felt that architecture had a greater focus on creative design (rather than technical skills) and was therefore something I could learn outside of formal education. Civil Engineering required more technical skill and was not something I could learn on my own, so that became my major of focus. I would say my mentor is my undergraduate professor at Udayana University in Bali. He is the one who always pushed me to do more outside of my comfort zone, and also the one who inspired me to go to the US.
What are some of your favorite projects?
I enjoyed the Slab Bridge project we did in Beavercreek on Old Mill Lane because I started from scratch and was able to take what I had learned on prior projects, and apply it toward expertly completing this one. I also really enjoy one of our current jobs, an MDOT bridge rehab, because it keeps me very busy. I like being busy.
Do you have any advice for people considering engineering as a career?
The field of Engineering encompasses a wide range of different jobs; civil engineering itself has 5 different sub-disciplines! I like that it offers so many options, which gives you more opportunities and less limitations on your career path. It is challenging in so many ways but also give you satisfaction when you conquer the challenges. My advice is to keep on learning, pick your battle, know and decide what you want, and go for it because engineers are in demanded in this era. The more engineers, the merrier!
What is your favorite thing about your job? Least favorite?
I love that every project teaches me different lessons and piques my interest in different ways. My least favorite aspect of my job is when I have to wait for client review and follow ups because I don’t like waiting.
Where are you originally from, and how did you end up in Toledo?
I am originally from Bali, Indonesia. I moved to the States in 2017 to get my Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Michigan. I connected with NCI at the 2018 UM Career fair and applied to be a bridge engineer, was offered a job, accepted, and moved to Toledo to join the NCI office there.
Why did you want to come to the US to get your Masters?
Since junior high school, I have always wanted to obtain a higher education. At a young age, I was given the opportunity to travel to different countries through a company which funded student exchanges, cultural learning, etc., for a select group of the best students. I was not able to study abroad during my time as an undergraduate student because there were no study abroad scholarships available. I held on to my dream for 3.5 years and finished my undergraduate degree in Bali. After I graduated, I continued to pursue my dream to get a Masters in Civil Engineering by applying for a scholarship. I won and received a full-ride scholarship from the Ministry of Finance in Indonesia, which did not require me to work for them after I finished my studies. It was a very inclusive and undemanding scholarship. I chose the US because I was strongly influenced by US culture growing up through movies and TV shows. I am also a big fan of the Brooklyn Bridge, and have a huge poster of it on my bedroom wall in Bali. However, the biggest reason I wanted to go to the States is because I knew the US programs had outstanding curriculums for their engineering programs. As much as possible, I wanted to experience US culture, and gain knowledge and skills that I was not able to get in Indonesia.
Is it hard to apply and get accepted as an international student?
Yes and No. No because I was fully funded by the Indonesian government, and many universities are aware of the scholarship and know that it has a good reputation for the awardees that they send. I had to go through a large number of qualifying exams to be awarded the scholarship, and schools are aware of this and understand the high standards which must be reached by its recipients. Yes because when you get accepted, you have to adapt as quickly as possible to the study culture, the environment (weather for sure), friends, professors, curriculum, foods, etc. I was also no longer a big fish in a small pond, but now a big fish in a big pond. I had to raise my bar, work harder, and study harder because the people I met in graduate school were the best students from their countries too.
Eat Like Maurren
As a global traveler, Maurren has tried it all! Check out some of her favorites from her travels below. Have you tried any of these neat finds yet?
What is it? A cocktail invented in 1975 named after an Afghan Hound, Bushwack. While it has many variations, the original drink contains Vodka, Kahlua, Dark Crème de Cacao, Coco Lopez (cream of coconut), a splash of Triple sec and milk, along with nutmeg and tastes like a creamy, chocolate piña colada.
Where to Find it
St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands)
What is it? A meat dish made from raw ground meat (fish, beef or horsemeat). It is usually served with onions, capers, pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings, often presented to the diner separately, to be added to taste. It is often served with a raw egg yolk, and often on rye bread.
Where to Find it
Bacon Maple Doughnut
What is it? Raised yeast doughnut with maple frosting and bacon on top. What began as the creating of the Voodoo Doughnut and the desire to return the lexicon to the correct spelling of D.O.U.G.H.N.U.T. has turned into a deep fried revolution.
Where to Find it
Voodoo Doughnuts (multiple locations)
Indonesia & Travel
Amazing Adventures at Home and Abroad!
Travel Around the World
Maurren has traveled to 9 countries, including Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, the USA and South Korea.
Travel Across the USA
Her current count is 22 US States/Territories visited, and she has no plans of stopping!
While Maurren loves to travel the globe, she is still passionate about her home country and loves to share her culture, as well as cook amazing foods from home!
Everything You Wanted to Know
Biggest difference between Indonesia and the US
Weather. It is summer 24/7 all year long, and very humid. We only have 2 seasons – rain and dry.
Indonesians drive on the left side of the road, so the driver’s seat is on the right. Driving is completely opposite of what is done in the US.
Time zones are definitely opposite. Indonesia has 3 different time zones, GMT +7, +8, and +9. Bali is in GMT +8 which makes it 13 hours different from Toledo (GMT -5) during winter.
It is very rare to find Indonesian food in the US, especially in Midwest. Many Indonesians go to the West Coast to live, so there are more Indonesian restaurants there. Some also live in Philadelphia and there are some well known Indonesia restaurants there as well.
It is hard to cook Indonesian food here in the US because we use spices that grow in tropical weather. And I miss tropical fruits (fresh young coconut and ripe papaya).
In Indonesia, we really value experiences, so if I graduated from a great university with my Master’s degree but had no hands on experience, it would be hard for me to start a career in Indonesia. Companies there would rather hire college drop-outs with lots of experience, than hire Masters graduates with no experience at all.
Downside of Engineering in Indonesia
The negative side is messy work, unsafe construction, and lack of responsibility. There are professional licenses, but they are not necessary and not the main requirement to practice or to get an engineering job in Indonesia.
Positives of Engineering in Indonesia
In Indonesia, after you graduate from a university, you can easily work and build without licenses. There are no strict regulations about licenses for engineers in Indonesia which has both positive and negative effects. The positive side is that fresh graduates can easily find a job or open a consultant/construction business based on trust and reliability between the client and consultant.
At the moment, the biggest influence is Korean music. Indonesian movies are great and many of them went international on Netflix. Some Indonesian actors also play in Hollywood movies such as Fast and Furious, Mile 22, and The Raid. Indonesia singer Agnes Mo made a single featuring Chris Brown. Joey Alexander, a pianist from Bali, Indonesia, won Best Jazz Instrumental Artist in 2018 and he is pretty well known worldwide.
We celebrate 16 public holidays, including 5 different religious holidays every year. This includes around 10-15 personal days for employees. In Bali, there are more public holidays because the Hindu religion has more religious celebrations.
26 hours including 2 hours transit is the fastest flight to Detroit, Michigan. The native language of Bali is Balinese, however, most people speak Indonesian in addition to a number of other native languages which vary across Indonesia.
Indonesians like to shop, eat, hang out, and spend time with their family. Tourism, art and culture are very popular in Indonesia and are also well known around the world.
Have a Question?
What would you like to know?
Bitten by the Travel Bug
In addition to her passion for higher education, bridges and engineering, Maurren loves to travel. Read on to learn more about what piqued her interest, and some of the amazing places she has visited.
What was your favorite trip/place visited?
Brooklyn Bridge. It was a dream come true. Followed by Yellowstone and Mackinaw Island.
What was your least favorite trip/place visited?
San Francisco, LA, and Malaysia.
Who do you travel with?
Mostly with friends. Japan and Singapore was with an organization. Some of the trips were with family.
How have you traveled?
Overseas by plane. Train or walking around big cities. Car/roadtrip around the US (somewhere near). I like going by train and car. I don’t like planes, but plane makes everything faster and easier.
Why were you interested in traveling around the USA?
Traveling was my hobby before coming to the USA, and a lot of places on my bucket list were in the states, so living in the USA provided a great opportunity to travel and see them.
What have you see in the USA?
- Arizona – Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam
- California – Yosemite, San Francisco, LA, Santa Monica, Route 66, Hollywood Hall of Fame, Golden Gate Bridge
- Colorado – Denver
- District of Columbia – Washington, DC, the White House, the Indonesian Embassy, The Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial Park
- Florida – Miami, Jacksonville, South Beach, Orlando, Disney World
- Georgia – Atlanta, Batavia (Indonesian Restaurant)
- Illinois – Chicago (Millennium Park, Willis Tower, Skydeck Chicago)
- Indiana – Elkhart
- Kentucky – Noah’s Ark, Creation Museum
- Massachusetts – Boston, Freedom Trail, MIT, Harvard, Museum of Fine Arts
- Michigan – Mackinaw Island, Upper Peninsula, Frankenmuth, Detroit, Ski Diving in Michigan, and many other cities.
- Nevada – Las Vegas
- New York – Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, 9/11 Memorial & Museum | World Trade Center, Art Museums, Rockefeller Plaza
- Ohio – Watched the Toledo Symphony, 4th of July in Promedica Park
- Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Light Festival, Carnegie Mellon University, Bridges (I rode the Duquense Incline which overlooks all the bridges in Pittsburgh. My hotel, the Wyndham, was also right next to Point State Park so I was able to see the Three Sisters Bridge from my hotel room)
- Puerto Rico – Old San Juan, Castillo San Cristobal (fortress)
- South Dakota – Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse
- Tennessee – Nashville, Honky Tonk, Country Music Hall of Fame, Chattanooga, Ruby Falls
- Texas – San Antonio, Austin, The Alamo, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum
- US Virgin Islands – Caribbean cruise to St. Marten, St. Thomas (Mountain Top, Magens Bay, Sapphire Beach), Bahamas (Downtown Nassau and Cabbage Beach)
- Utah – Salt Lake City, Temple Square (Mormon temple)
- Wyoming – Yellowstone, Sheridan Cowboy Town, Jackson (during solar eclipse), Grand Tetons
Where have you traveled outside the USA?
- Ontario – Toronto, Niagara Falls
- Quebec – Quebec city, Old Town, Montreal
- Japan – Tokyo, Kumamoto, Miraikan, Flight Academy in Kumamoto, I did a homestay in a Japanese family (now my foster parents), Kumamoto Castle, Onsen
- Malaysia – Twin Tower, Genting Casino
- Singapore – Marina Bay Sands
- Thailand – Bangkok, Temples, Asiatique Broadway
- Australia – Sidney, Opera House, Gold Coast, beaches, Brisbane, Canberra Parliament House
- South Korea – Seoul, Myeongdong, Jjimjilbangjim (public bath house)
Engineering in Style
Think Maurren’s adventures are spectacular? NCI has four offices filled with amazing employees, all with unique stories to tell. Learn more about our outstanding team in the Employee Spotlights below.
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