When I started at the College of Fine and Applied Arts in my freshman year, I had no idea where the next four years would take me. I did know two things. One, I was good at art. Two, I wanted a practical job. Maybe design was a likely option for me? In my courses, I was introduced to the idea of empathic design for everyday solutions, which is a user-centered design approach that attends to users’ feelings toward a product. I really connected to this, and never really questioned my path again. I pursued a BFA in Industrial Design where we research, analyze, prototype, user test and develop manufacturing processes for the development of new products.

I also really connected with my classmates in Fine and Applied Arts. We are like a family, because we share a deep passion and excitement for the arts. It is wonderful to walk through art shows put on at the Link Gallery and Krannert Art Museum together. We have watched each other grow over our years together and we still we message on Facebook or LinkedIn to this day. We are each carving our own paths in artistic careers and, together, we provide a supportive network of friends to help each other through.

After graduation, I was interested in finding an Industrial Design job in Europe. Through family networks, I connected with the CEO of ILG Technologies, a company which writes software for the law profession Bar Exam. Initially, I was offered a position to come to Ankara, Turkey for a 3-month position supporting some UIUX Design work. Since then, I have received a job offer to extend my position for an additional two years here in Ankara, serving as the main UIUX Designer, contributing to a team with a graphic designer and a front-end developer. It is a very inspiring organization to work in. The organizational structure is very flat – where everyone’s ideas and contributions are valued equally. And, I greatly appreciate the mentoring from my boss, who shares stories and insights from his own international career journey.

To students back at Illinois, I encourage you to be persistent in finding your own niche – the path where you feel your fit best. Create your own standards for success and seek out meaningful friendships with people who will be there for you as much as you are for them. Seek activities and friendships that bring value to your life.