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International Student Nico Gabriel Seeks to Help Others Through NOVA’S AAPI Connect Program

International Student Nico Gabriel Seeks to Help Others Through NOVA’S AAPI Connect Program

Nico Gabriel, a nontraditional, international student, loves to connect others, as a mentor for NOVA’s AAPI Connect and as a supporter of the college’s new Career Up program. He is working to achieve his dreams of working in the technology field, and he looks forward to being part of the major businesses that have come to the region.

Career Up is an exciting opportunity for first-generation college students like Nico. This opportunity is currently available for both new and continuing NOVA students, and will provide career exploration, career planning and life success skills. This opportunity is available to students who apply for Virginia Alternative State Aid (VASA) as part of the College’s ongoing efforts to view student success through an equitable lens. Upon completion of all program requirements, students will be awarded a $1,000 stipend on their NOVA account and a Career Up certificate.

Nico shares the story of his involvement in Career Up and AAPI Connect here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
I am 36 and I am an international student from the Philippines. I moved here with my family in about 2016. I am both a Career Up student and an AAPI Connect mentor.

When I am not studying, in my spare time, I love reading manga like One Piece and playing video games like Legends of Heroes.

What brought you to NOVA?
I live nearby. I passed NOVA all the time, and then one day I decided to enroll. It’s the best decision of my life. I have really enjoyed my time here at NOVA.

What are you studying or what do you plan to study at NOVA?
I am a cybersecurity major here at NOVA. I actually used to be an art student. I was enrolled as a university student in Manila at the College of Saint Benilde.

Tell us about your experience at NOVA (i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met)
So, I am excited to participate in the AAPI Connect program because I can give back to students what NOVA gave to me, which was a space to be accepted. We are a new program and, right now, I am a peer mentor for AAPI Connect. I and my colleagues guide and assist freshman students. I really enjoy it.

As an international student, I am limited in job prospects for now, so I appreciate that AAPI Connect has given me an opportunity to work here at NOVA. I like that I work with my colleague Cindy Tran, who is also a Career Up student and in AAPI Connect.

What can you tell us about your Career Up experience?
This program has been so informative and beneficial. Jeannette Bilgera and Brent Via are great presenters on the program.

The one thing I really think benefited me about the program was when they had us talk to career counselors in person. By the time I had a meeting with Vicki White, my counselor, she really helped me a lot in terms of polishing my resume, as well as giving me great interview advice. She really went above and beyond, I felt.

Career Up really helped me review my career trajectory and helped me assess the recommended jobs and salaries that a student like me can be a part of after finishing at NOVA. This program has helped me a lot in figuring my pathway in cybersecurity. I can’t wait for what the future holds. The program has really helped me cement my aspirations as a cybersecurity student.

I would tell new students that Career Up will help you a lot as it will really help you set up your goals and future plans. For new students, Career Up is opening sign-ups again and I would encourage students to start. The resources they provide to look for jobs and spotlight job postings is amazing.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
I would tell them that it is going to be the best decision. There are a lot of opportunities here that they can take advantage of to help them with their future.

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
I am planning to really pursue my cybersecurity degree and attend a four-year college after NOVA. I want to work at AWS or the newly opened TikTok office that may come here.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.