Diana Vicezar PZ ’24 realized there wasn’t enough assistance for international students navigating the internship search process when, in conversations with a friend, she realized she wasn’t alone in laboring to navigate the internship process.
The struggle for Vicezar’s friend to obtain an H1B sponsorship was mentally taxing.
“She became almost depressed when she found out that the company she previously worked for would not sponsor her,” Vicezar said. As a result, the friend had to quit her job and leave the U.S. earlier than intended.
One conversation led Vicezar to seek out more, in the hopes of gauging just how widespread frustration with the internship search process was among other international students.
After conducting conversations with dozens of international students at the 5Cs, she was reassured that there was a pressing need for a solution to exist.
“People whom I talked to said ‘[finding a job as an international student] is going to give you a headache’ and ‘there are not many resources, [so] you are basically on your own,’” Vicezar said.
Launched in late February, Vicezar’s newly minted career platform, Mapis, offers free services to assist international students during the internship process — an experience that comes with additional barriers for those studying in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa.
At the forefront of its mission is to serve as a guiding “map” for “international students,” Vicezar said, hence the name Mapis.
“People who I have never met in my life are using the platform and telling me that it is very useful and it means the world to me.”
As international students seek internships or apply for jobs, they have the additional burden of keeping in mind their Curriculum Practical Training requirement, which is an authorization that grants international students permission to temporarily work in the US vis-a-vis their chosen field of study.
For many international students, the process becomes more complicated after graduation if they wish to work in the U.S. For that, they have 12 months to legally work while still being on their student visa through Optional Practical Training. Beyond that, students can only legally live and work in the U.S. if their companies sponsor their H1B work visa.
In creating Mapis, Vicezar aimed to help other international students maneuver the sponsorship acquisition process, using her past experiences looking for internships to mitigate the obstacles that might crop up in the process. To address the lack of a consolidated resource bank centered around international student needs, Vicezar said Mapis provides a variety of advising sessions on top of scouting out international student friendly job opportunities.
Before a work opportunity finds its way to Mapis users, Vicezar reaches out directly to the recruiters to verify if the position is available for international students. Since she started the project, Vicezar said she has accumulated a list of 87 “IS-Friendly” employers with a record of supporting international students.
Ranging from cover letter and resume training to “General Advising Sessions,” Mapis serves as a space where partnering consultants guide users through the steps to obtain internships or jobs alongside offering career path advice and network strategies.
According to Vicezar, the hundred or so “new and exciting” job postings offered to Mapis members each week cover a wide scope, including tech companies, political entities, media and communication outlets, science and research opportunities to those in business and finance.
When she announced via LinkedIn that she would conduct a beta trial of the website last semester, the post went viral.
“People who I have never met in my life are using the platform and telling me that it is very useful and it means the world to me,” she said.
While she is exhilarated about how well-received Mapis has been so far, she’s already looking to next steps and hopes to “make Mapis even bigger in the future.”
Marcos Lavarello PZ ’25, a current beta version participant with career interests in product management, said searching for internships has been made much easier since Mapis exclusively focuses on opportunities for international students. He can now “focus on actually finding an internship [he] likes,” he said.
Vitor Siqueira PZ ’24 and Richard Ampah PZ ’25 are two of the six Mapis ambassadors whose work focuses on promoting the program in the international student community.
Siqueira said he believes in the value of Mapis, adding it “has the potential to become one of the world’s biggest career platforms in the future.”
As an active social media user, Siqueira uses his personal channels to advertise for Mapis workshops and events. “Being an ambassador is my way to help the community,” Siqueiria said. “[The work] is a reward deep inside and a way to grow with the platform.”
Ampah added that he sees potential in Mapis to “become the LinkedIn or Handshake for international students” beyond just the 5C community.
Moving forward, Vicezar’s team plans to launch more features including the “mentorship database” which would connect international students with alumni. The second round of beta testing will launch in March or April, Vicezar said.