Mosaic Stories

    Teresa Lanuza

    In 2011, Teresa Lanuza left her home country of Nicaragua to come to the United States to pursue her college education. After doing some research on universities, Teresa decided that Saint Louis University (SLU) was the best fit for everything she was looking for in a college experience, and she received a scholarship to support her undergraduate studies. Having never visited the Midwestern United States before, she enthusiastically ventured to the new city of St. Louis to start her journey as an international student studying electrical engineering.

    All of Teresa’s family members back home were engineers, so she cannot exactly pinpoint when she decided she wanted to pursue that career path as well. “I really enjoy engineering because it’s fun to be able to see how things that you work on actually become functional,” she explains.

    Soon after her arrival at SLU, Teresa began working at the international services office, a job that ultimately shaped her undergraduate experience and perspective. The office serves all international students, working to register them into the school system, keep track of visa logistics, and assisting with administrative needs. As an international student herself, she is grateful for the experience to learn relevant skills and information. “I learned a lot about immigration and international student logistics,” she explains. “Also, I became really close with all of the people working in the office.”

    In the fall of her senior year, Teresa attended the SLU career fair, an opportunity for her to network and learn about potential employment opportunities with multiple companies. She happened upon a consulting engineering firm that piqued her interested. After conversing with their representatives, she discovered that they were looking to hire electrical engineers to work with power and electricity systems. Given Teresa’s interests and senior design project focus on studying utility power systems, as well as her demonstrated interest in the company, she was invited to interview for the position.

    As an international student, Teresa’s concern always resided in the question of American citizenship. “It’s frustrating to apply for jobs as an international student, especially with online applications” she explains. “I could not even get an internship because of the limitation that I was not American, so I could not prove I could stay in the U.S. after graduation.” Teresa emphasizes that with the job search, it is imperative to network, and meet with people in person to explain your situation. “It helps to actually meet and talk with potential employers,” she says, “as it is easier to work with them or have them connect you to others who can help you.”

    Teresa’s interview experience was positive and promising. She felt well prepared, had good conversations, and was ready to explain her situation as an international student who could still work for at least a year on her OPT visa. Fortunately, the company was already experienced in this process, as they previously hired another international employee. Her lack of American citizenship was not an issue, and she was soon offered a position.

    Teresa’s experience working as an electrical engineer has been a great experience thus far. “I love it, and I’m learning so much,” she says. “They have a lot of young people, but also really experienced employees who want to throw all their knowledge at me.”

    Teresa met Betsy Cohen, the Executive Director of the Mosaic Project, when they were both participants in a panel at SLU providing information and insight to international students. Given Teresa’s successful experiences and wonderful perspective, Betsy then invited her to share her story at a Mosaic Project Steering Committee meeting in July 2015. Since then, Teresa has been an avid supporter of the Mosaic Project, as she feels it is such a helpful organization with an abundance of resources to provide to international students and immigrants in St. Louis. “I talk to all the international people I know about the Mosaic Project,” she says, “and I am now signed up as a Mosaic Ambassador!”

    As for living in St. Louis, Teresa has come to love the region, and all of the opportunities that it has to offer. “There’s so much to do here, you just have to look for it,” she says. “There are a lot of opportunities here especially for people looking to work in the STEM fields.” She also raves about the culinary scene in the region: “I love the fact that you can get food from anywhere else,’s great!”

    In regards to her ethnic roots, now that she is done with college and has more time to explore, she is eager to start to discovering more about the Hispanic community in St. Louis that is on the rise. Overall, though, she is grateful to be a part of such a welcoming and multicultural community full of all different kinds of people from whom she can learn. “The people I’ve met are great, and being in St. Louis has allowed me to get to know people from all over the world,” she says. “Open yourself up to learn from others’ cultures - it helps you understand everyone around you. Living here has positively impacted the way I looks at American culture, and I have learned a lot about myself as well.”