Moving to a new city
X.D. Zhai '13
Pittsburgh, Pa., to Chicago, Ill.
X.D., a physics and engineering double major while at Swarthmore, works as an Operations Engineer at Telnyx, an online telecommunications company started by a fellow Swarthmorean. Still employed by Telnyx, X.D. is now finishing his master’s degree in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.
What advice would you give to recent graduates moving to a new city?
"I would try to find other Swatties in your area. Go to the alumni events because you never know who you might run into. I went to one and it changed my life. If there isn’t a Connections chapter, or many alumni in your area, join a club, volunteer, and try your best to meet some new people. When I graduated I wanted to work in finance. Before I left Swarthmore, I worked a lot with career services and used the alumni directory. One of the alums I spoke to ended up helping me get a finance job in Chicago. I realized pretty quickly that finance wasn’t the right career path and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I happened to go to a Chicago alumni Connections event and I met an alumnus that was starting his own online telecommunications business. One thing lead to another and now I’m working as an Operations Engineer at Telnyx."
What do you wish you had known before leaving and starting anew?
"Always have a Plan B. You need to plan your Plan B as though it were Plan A. Start preparing for the worst case scenario because you never know what can happen. In my case, I applied for the work visa lottery twice and was turned down both times. There are just so many more applications than the quota. To remain in the U.S. I knew I had to get back on a student visa. So, the year after I failed to get the visa, I applied again, but started practicing for the GRE and reconnecting with my professors. I looked at which graduate schools I might apply to and checked to see who had the best funding. When I didn’t get my visa the second year, I was prepared and ready to start graduate school. Even though it wasn’t the outcome I wanted at the time, it worked out. I now am about to graduate with my master’s in computer science. I’ve learned so much more about the trade. As international students, we have to be prepared for things to change. Immigration legislation may change tomorrow and we have to be ready for that."
Resources for settling in
Find alumni in your area
Swarthmore Connect, powered by EverTrue, is a mobile app for smartphone users to connect with fellow alumni in their geographic location. Additionally, you can use the Alumni Directory to look up classmates by area, post-secondary degree, or job title.
Mark your calendar
Every year, hundreds of young alumni from Swarthmore College move to new cities to pursue graduate degrees, new jobs, or just to resettle. Each fall, alumni groups host "Welcome to the City" events across the country and around the world. During these events Swarthmoreans welcome new residents, pass on valuable information about their new locale, and network with other members of the Swarthmore community.
Beyond Welcome to the City, there are regional clusters of alumni, parents, and friends called "Connections" who coordinate alumni gatherings. Programs may include social, cultural, and educational events, community service projects, and networking opportunities.
Update your information
Be sure to update your information with Swarthmore so we know which events are relevant to you. You can update your biographical and contact information in the Alumni Directory, by emailing email@example.com, or by calling 610-328-8435.