Student of the Month – Bakor Mohammed A

Like many CSI students, Mohammed Abdulrahman Bakor traveled around the globe prior to his joining the CSI Skokie family in 2015, but unique to Mohammed is his extensive experience in the international finance industry.

Mohammed was born in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but as a child, his family moved to South Hampton in the United Kingdom. As a teenager, Mohammed started working in the finance industry and gained extensive experience with investments, finance, and business development. Having freshly graduated high school, he took a position as a student employee with a banking firm, where he had the opportunity to rotate through the various departments in the firm. It was there that he discovered he most enjoyed working with investments.

With this passion in mind, Mohammed studied international finance with the Russell Group, a self-selected association of twenty-four public research universities, including Oxford University, Kings College, and the London School of Economics. In the course of his time with the Russell Group, Mohammed proved to be an immensely dedicated student, so much so that he was asked to join their doctoral program. Unfortunately, due to his father developing a serious illness, Mohammed had to return to Saudi Arabia and could not continue his studies.

Because Mohammed needed to stay near his family, he went to work for Saudi Fransi Capital, a leading financial services provider offering investment banking, asset management, debt, and equity research, headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His work in this company took him to many countries throughout the Middle East, Asia, and parts of Europe. This exposure to different countries and cultures has helped him develop as a person, and he has learned from every experience.

Eventually, Mohammed decided to branch out and start his own business, but during the early stages of this new venture, there were political changes in Saudi Arabia that caused him to put everything on hold. Specifically, the king passed away and one of the king’s sons was elevated to the throne. During this time of transition, many new business initiatives were put on hold as the government transitioned to the new leadership. At this time, Mohammed’s father passed away, and the changes his country and his family were undergoing led Mohammed to decide it was time to move to the United States. With that, Mohammed and his family packed their bags to move to Chicagoland so that they can pursue new opportunities for growth.

Mohammed’s has participated in various programs here at CSI, each of which helped enhance his background in the financial industry. Whether in the Customer Service Specialist Program, Administrative Assistant Professional Program, or the Sales and Marketing Program, Mohammed is an exemplary student who integrates his previous education and professions with his current experiences here at CSI and in the U.S. job market.

Through it all, his guiding belief is that experiential and monetary wealth should be used to improve the lives of others and he credits his successes in life not only to his own hard work, but also to his wife and three children, who bring him a great deal of joy. Without his wife, Samar Aljuhani by his side, he would not be the person he is today. And today, Mohammed is a welcome addition to the CSI Skokie family, where his faculty, advisors, and peers value his positive attitude and dedication to success.

Student of the Month–Juan Daniel Cardona Cuartas

Daniel Cardona is originally from Colombia. He learned about Computer Systems Institute (CSI) during his vacation to Boston three years ago. Daniel was looking to study and develop his skills through getting an education in the U.S. Daniel was looking forward to be immersed in an international student environment. CSI has provided him with not only the opportunity to learn about business skills, but also to learn from the friends that he’s made from all over the world.

Daniel is currently enrolled in the Hospitality program. He really enjoys being here because this program allows students the opportunity to learn and practice their skills at the same time. He thinks that this is really helpful considering that he can apply his knowledge acquired in the classroom to his externship. Daniel thinks that being able to participate in the externship program is an opportunity
that will help him with his career in his home country.

Daniel’s current job is a supervisor at a restaurant chain. He told me: “CSI has given me the necessary tools and skills to utilize my talents and engage myself in academic and practical work. I really appreciate CSI.”

Daniel is a very hard-working student, he is always the first one who comes to the classroom, and submits the assignments on time. Inside the classroom, he participates in the lecture and works with his classmates collaboratively; outside of the classroom, he is very outgoing and easy to get along with.

Daniel is very enthusiastic about photography. He participated in a photography contest at the beginning of this quarter. His professionalism was very impressive and outstanding.

Although Daniel is already a success, he is also very humble. He listens to other people’s opinions and is eager to improve himself. In addition, he is willing to help other students when they feel confused either in study or in life. His enthusiasm has impressed everyone in the classroom. We are thrilled to have Daniel as a student and look forward to his contribution to make CSI a great institution.

Walking on Snow, Dreaming of Sand

 As the snow crunches under foot on a snowy Chicago morning, Stefany De Abreu can’t help but to dream a little of the warm, sandy beaches in her native Venezuela. But these dreams are not just about warmer, sunnier days. Stefany is dreaming about the future of her sister’s swimwear company, Citera.

Stefany studied accounting in Venezuela and International Business Management in Canada before coming to Chicago. The city of broad shoulders, with a rich history in economics, finance, and commerce, was a natural choice for her American adventure. Her long-term dream is to become a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), but for now she wants to learn more about how to grow a company through finance. She loves the way that numbers tell a story about a company. They not only tell us about the past, but they allow us to predict the future.

Stefany learned about Computer Systems Institute (CSI) through friends studying at the school. They thought it might be the right fit for her, and they were right. She looked into the Business Career Program (BCP) and liked what she saw. It featured a range of topics that she wanted to learn about, including Finance, Accounting, and Microsoft Word and Excel. Most importantly, though, it provided a structured program to better understand the foundations of entrepreneurship in the United States.

Now, at the end of her third quarter at CSI, she feels that she has accomplished much of what she set out to do and more. She particularly appreciated the opportunity that her last course, Introduction to Small Business Management, gave her. In addition to her dream of working in finance, she eagerly wants to help her sister to grow her swimwear business. Her capstone project for the course pushed her to develop a clearer vision of what is necessary to expand the reach of Citera from Venezuela to the United States.

Citera is a swimwear company that specializes in high-quality, beautiful and comfortable women’s swimsuits in an assortment of sizes and styles to accommodate all varieties of body styles and shapes. This mission served Citera well as the company blossomed in Venezuela, and Stefany believes it will succeed in American as well with the right business plan. She wants to work with her sister to bring Citera to Miami, and from there, the rest of the beaches in the world.

Let’s remind Stefany that Chicago has beaches, too….but best not to go there in a bikini until the ice melts.

Our Journey – New England

Autumn in New England is well known for its beautiful foliage, crisp cool air, and mountain vistas located only a short drive from the city of Boston. The tipping of Earth on its axis and the changing of the sun’s light put a chill in the air and scarlet hues to the falling leaves. For many people who come to New England from other parts of the country and other parts of the world, Autumn is perhaps the best season to experience. For Jose “Roberto” Soares, moving to New England came with many opportunities and sacrifices along the way. His vision of building a life with his beautiful family took him first to Europe then to the U.S. which he now calls home away from home.

Roberto was born in Campinas, Sao Paulo which is home to three of the top universities in Brazil. After getting his degree, he acquired a job, got married and had a daughter. He then decided to move his young family- wife, Rosanna and daughter, Gabriella – from Sao Paulo to Italy. They settled in Milan, the fashion capital of the world. He held a position at the Consulate General of Brazil and at Banco do Brasil.

“The flame of adventure is always lit in this family…
our choice was to be close to Boston, in the wonderful state of Massachusetts.”

The family became Italian citizens and Roberto was beginning to feel settled-in to his new home. Roberto found the regions of Tuscany and Liguria to be his favorite places to bring his family, as they appreciated the scenic beauty of the amazing mountains, gorgeous blue waters and beaches. And then when Italy’s economy began to suffer and a recession loomed, Roberto knew it was time to once again move his family, this time to America. As he states, close friends who had settled in Massachusetts before Roberto and his family had so many wonderful things to say about New England. They were very impressed by the quality of life here, the region’s history and the great reputation that Massachusetts colleges and universities have nationally and globally.

Rosanna and Roberto’s daughter, Gabriella, is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International Business and is fluent in Portuguese, English, Italian and Spanish. Roberto has been enrolled at Computer Systems Institute’s Worcester campus for over two years and is currently enrolled in the Business Career Program. He has also made many friends and enjoys learning about American culture. There are so many choices for someone looking to advance their education. “I am so fortunate to have found Computer Systems Institute, the quality of their programs, the support the instructors and staff, I am so impressed. I am planning to find a business opportunity that I can leverage my background and continue to gain real world experience.”

“New England has been a great place to experience this time in our lives,” states Roberto. New England is home to many great poets, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson who reportedly coined the phrase, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” For a family who began their journey back in Brazil, they would agree with Mr. Emerson.

Friendship Across Continents

Many students feel torn between pursuing their dreams in America and leaving their beloved families behind in their home countries. Of course, nothing will replace the bond students have with their families overseas. Nonetheless, Tian-Ying Meng, fondly known as Apple, and Olesya Timofeeva, two CSI students, have built a friendship that they treasure and take great pride in as if they have found a long-lost sister. When words of their new friendship traveled back to their homelands, their families tearfully rejoiced.

Tianying and Olesya met at CSI in the BCP program they both attended. Ever since they have been in the same class for both BCP and SKB programs. They helped each other, encouraged each other, cared for each other while ill, and were there for each other during difficult times. Their friendship has blossomed as they have achieved academic success and have remained top students in all classes they have attended as well as thrive in their Externships.

Before enrolling at CSI, Apple and Olesya grew up on different continents – Asia and Europe. Apple was from China, majored in literature at college and worked as a journalist and editor-in-chief at a TV station. Olesya was from Russia and had 10 years’ working experience as manager of the foreign economics department, SDT-Impex representation of Martimex a.s. in Moscow.

Despite busy work schedules, they are among the first to come and the last to leave their classrooms, ensuring they will not leave today’s work for tomorrow. They always submit projects ahead of time and always produce quality work with sound perceptions and insightful points, readily applying what they learned to their externships.

While they are from different countries, they share many commonalities and affinities – in their own words: “We have big dreams, the audacity to challenges difficulties, and the determination to give our best for whatever we choose to pursue.” They are grateful that CSI has provided a platform for them to meet, growing together academically and personally, becoming friends and sisters across continents.

Their life in the US is more balanced and enjoyable because they are close friends. While striving to be the best overall students at CSI, they use their leisure time to share experiences and expand on their dreams while they dine in restaurants and sip coffee in coffee shops. CSI makes possible everything from academia to work to life for international students and bridges all three unique dynamics into one exceptional, unique experience.

In the future, the two international sisters may be separated by distance, attend different schools, work on different jobs, or even return to their native countries. Still, when asked how long they will remain friends, they responded that the friendship will last forever because a sister is part of the family.

“We have been friends for years since we joined CSI. The solid relationship at CSI is one of the best things we gained in the United States. We speak different languages and come from different cultures, but we share a lot in terms of family values, life attitudes, and pursuit of excellence, which enable us to understand, connect and communicate well like sisters. We know our friendship will last forever – we just know it.”

Shine and let others Shine

Marta Cebula impresses everyone as a young lady full of energy and positivity. Her face glows with a bright smile, may it be a warm, sunny day in May or a snowy, gloomy day in January in Chicago. No matter the weather, she shines.

She walks into the classroom, always wearing a smile. She is not picky about where to sit in the classroom and sits at the first available spot. With complete engagement, she attends every class, always participating, sharing thoughts, asking questions, submitting assignments timely, and getting top grades. Regardless where she sits, she shines.

Marta was a physical education major in her home country of Poland. Despite the fact all her families are in Poland, Marta was delighted to be able to continue her career in the United States. The courses in Customer Service program at CSI opened her up for opportunities to apply her expertise to helping others thorough physical education. She shined with hope.

Opportunity came when Marta became part of Fusion Recplex Burbank Parke District family for her externship. “I discovered that place – thanks to my friend. I always liked to participate in different recreational activities, and I embraced the opportunity dearly and seriously,” Marta shared.

When she first went to Fusion, she was stricken by how helpful and friendly everyone was. That delighted her as a student studying customer service. She took her job seriously, enjoyed her experience at the recreation facility and continued growing professionally, while bringing her enthusiasm and thoughtfulness to both her colleagues and customers.

Not long after Marta started the externship, the facility manager approached and asked her if she was interested in becoming an employee of Fusion Recplex. Marta was thrilled: “That was one of the happiest days in my life!” She shined with joy.

As Marta reflected and shared her stories of helping customers through her passion and expertise, she recalled the time when she signed up for the customer service program at CSI and commented: “I am very grateful for CSI as its course work and externship options provided the valuable tools and prepared me to grow – CSI made my dream come true.”

Her instructor and fellow students enjoy her as an outstanding student, her supervisor appreciates her as an exemplary employee, and her customers love her as a customer service professional with care, love, passion and expertise. She touches everyone with warmth and enthusiasm and her glowing smile.

Marta shines and she lets others shine with her!

Meet Snizhana Kolesnyk

Snizhana Kolesnyk
Please meet Snizhana Kolesnyk from Kyiv, Ukraine. Snizhana lives on beautiful Cape Cod in the town of Yarmouth. She is also a student at Computer Systems Institute (CSI) Allston, MA having started in July, 2018. For those of you who do not know where Cape Cod is in relation to Allston, please take a look at your google maps. You will probably say at least two things: it really looks beautiful there (it is!) and wow, that is a long way from Boston (it is!) It takes a little over six hours a day for the roundtrip to and from Cape Cod and CSI. Snizhana travels by bus and then subway. Snizhana says “but hey, we all invest time and effort in our education. J It is worth it to me to live on Cape Cod by the Atlantic Ocean. It is also worth it to me to travel this far to CSI. After all, I came all the way from Ukraine!” Also note that despite the formidable commute, Snizhana has achieved 100% attendance for several quarters.

She has traveled quite a lot, not only in the USA, having visited Florida, New York (her dream was to first visit Miami and then Manhattan; that’s what initially brought her to the U.S.), California, Nevada and Illinois, but also around the world. She has been to Austria, Poland, Georgia, Montenegro, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Turkey and India.

She says that Boston is one of the best cities from what she’s seen! It has beautiful architecture and a smart composition of buildings and parks that allow you to always find shade in the summer and visit nice places in winter. She always enjoys her time at school, but the bonus part is spending a day in Boston after classes. She’s toured the Museum of Fine Arts already, but the list of must-see places has expanded to include the Museum of Science, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

She holds a Master’s degree in Management from Ukraine, and the Business Career Program she is currently enrolled in fits perfectly with her future business plans in Ukraine. She likes to keep her plans simple and attainable, so after graduation she’d like to work and travel in the USA for about a year, and then go back to Europe and open a coffee shop with fresh pastries in downtown Kyiv. She feels her time in the USA and at CSI is laying the groundwork to successfully undertake this venture.

It was during her visit to Boston that she became aware of CSI through mutual friends. She visited the Allston campus and immediately felt that being a student here would be beneficial in helping her achieve her business and career goals. She also liked the community atmosphere at the CSI Allston campus and really loved the Allston neighborhood, which is very diverse, urban and culturally varied.

Her CSI instructors like Mel and Sheryl to name a few make the lessons informative and interesting, so she really enjoys the courses. She states that we have a lot of interactions in class that get students involved and thinking, and they always bring up important, relevant and practical things and make everything easy to understand. She is really enjoying her time at CSI, in Boston, and in the USA.

She further states the courses in the BCP program that are very applicable to her future business plans include Principles of Sales and Marketing, Applied Business Concepts, Customer Service, Financial Services, Computer Applications 1 and 2, Intro to Small Business Management. She says she would not come all the way from Cape Cod if there was little to nothing to gain from the courses. On the contrary, she looks forward to coming to CSI, because she sees the value in the courses mentioned above related to opening and operating a small business. A big value-added benefit of CSI’s BCP program is the opportunity for an OPT. She fully intends to do this to apply the skills she is learning, and to get a better idea of how businesses run in the USA. She feels this will be invaluable in getting her business in Kyiv up and running. Snizhana is thrilled to continue her education and gain invaluable experience at CSI as she looks forward to her future.

A Dominican in Chicago

 Working on one’s resume can be a difficult task, especially for those with a foreign background. Biencar Luciano, from the Dominican Republic, is not the exception. “Whenever somebody looks at my resume, they ask me how I can have such a wide background in two different fields: finance and teaching. Education is a foundation that can be applied in any domain of expertise. The success of a good financial professional depends on their ability to communicate their analysis and ensure the departments they are supporting have understood the complex financial information they have worked on. This requires comprehending how people absorb information, retain it, and what drives them to act on it”.

It all started when she was 11 years old and joined a financial cooperative in her “barrio,” a humble neighborhood in the second city of the country, Santiago. Early on she saw in the people around her the will to strive, to hold onto the smallest opportunity they could find. The cooperative members would meet once a week and discuss topics, such as: money management, self-esteem, leadership, and so on.   A few years later, she became the president of the division for kids and teenagers for two consecutive terms. She helped to establish similar groups in other barrios.

“The people in these barrios inspired me. They all had something in common: they believed. They believed that they could have a better future, even if they had to fight twice as hard”.

Biencar’s parents always advised her and her siblings to be mindful of how lucky they were to have food on the table. Words that she did not really understand until the crisis of 2004 hit her family and her mother went bankrupt with her jewelry business.
“Those things that we took for granted before were not there anymore. Every penny counted to make ends meet. We never complained but embraced the change”.
Once in college, Biencar joined Un Techo – RD, a nonprofit thanks to which she would discover the reality of some Dominicans who were living in extreme poverty conditions. Hundreds of young volunteers would go to some of the most undeveloped towns in the Dominican Republic and spend days building and painting the houses of these families. They would eat together, sleep on the floor of some community centers, bathe wherever they could find some water and open the eyes to a truth that is not shared on social media.
“I am very grateful of the families that opened up their homes and hearts to us. They were so kind, joyful, generous, and thankful in such harsh conditions. It was just beautiful”.

While going to college for her finance degree, she got a job as an English and Computer teacher. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and decided to work full time in the area that she always knew was her passion. After working in an accounting advisory capacity for several industries, she was hired to run the finance department of a small international export company (400 employees).

However, her journey as a teacher was not over yet. Some years later, eager to go abroad and discover new opportunities, Biencar contacted over 14 American universities, applied to five different scholarships, and spent all her savings in tests and fees. She finally got a scholarship to complete a master’s in Education in the United States. Within a few weeks she had to pack her belongings, hop on a plane for the first time, and arrive right before New Year’s Eve to discover subzero weather. “I came in winter time and that is all I brought to the U.S.: one suitcase of summer clothes and $700. I left behind my family, friends, career, a business and a nonprofit that I had co-founded, and my comfort zone. I was not afraid — out of ignorance rather than courage. I had no idea of the challenge waiting ahead of me”.

Dominican in Chicago Eventually, she graduated with a GPA of 4.0 and got a job in Chicago Public Schools, working mostly with immigrant kids. Biencar successfully passed the CPA exams while completing the Business Career Program in Computer Systems Institute. CSI gave her the opportunity to understand all those terms that she had learned before, now in an American setting. When asked about what she plans to do in the future, she replies: “I really miss finance and I am looking forward to going back to my field. I would love to mentor other Dominicans, as well. Whatever I do, I will always be inspired by the image that many Dominican women have projected throughout the history. And I hope that I can always represent our ethics and core values”.

Meet Nirmal Arcot

Nearly 30 million households tuned in to watch this year’s Oscar Awards Ceremony, solidifying it as the most watched non-sporting event in the country.

One person who watched with keen interest is CSI student Nirmal Arcot, who prior to Oscar Night, spent an entire day watching all of the nominees for Best Picture. Who, you may ask, could watch 6 movies in one day? Well, if you have a profound love of movies and are an aspiring filmmaker yourself, 6 movies does not seem like a lot. So, where did Nirmal’s love of film come from?

“When I was in the 5th grade, I used to go to the theater with my Dad to see regional Indian movies. Those were fun to watch. They have comedy, action, everything. So, there is my favorite hero, and my Dad said we were there to see his latest movie. When we arrived, the posters were different, so I asked if this was his movie. When the movie began, I saw it was different. It was an American movie. So during the interval, I was crying because I didn’t want to see that movie. But eventually, the more I watched it, the more I liked it.”

Once exposed to this new style of movies, Nirmal dove into them with a passion. And, given his inquisitive nature, he needed to know the secret to creating such magic. He now watches so many movies, mainly for the purpose of studying them.

“I go to the movie theater every 3 days and on the other days, I watch two or three movies from all countries: Chinese for action, Japanese for anime, European for art. I study the style. I study the acting….these are my teachers.”

Normal arrived in Chicago in 2017, but his coming to this country was not by chance; this was the plan all along.

“To make it in film, you have to make it here in the United States. But school was expensive, so I got a Bachelor’s in Photography and I hope to make it into a Master’s program in Filmmaking.”

How has his experience at CSI helped him fuel his passion?

“All the instructors are very friendly and very supportive of my passion and I have collaborated with them on my short film (Adjunct Instructor, Aghavni Hovakimyan provided the music for one of his films). I am very thankful for them projecting (promoting) what I do.”

What does the future hold for Nirmal?

Who knows, we may one day wait with anticipation to hear these words: “And the Oscar for Best Director goes to…Nirmal Arcot!”

Looking to the Future

Boston, a world-renowned destination, welcomes many students who dream of studying in the U.S. Within a mile radius of the Back Bay section of Boston, there are about 250,000 college students studying and working toward making their dream a reality.

In addition to being known for its colleges and universities, Boston is also famous for its top research hospitals, ranked among the best in the United States.

For Honduran sisters Besy and Silvia Sanabria, settling down in Central Massachusetts provided them access to excellent medical care as well as the wonderful opportunity to study at Computer Systems Institute, Worcester Campus. Worcester is a short commute just west of Boston, easily travelled on the Mass Pike.

Silvia and Besy grew up in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a factory city in Central America known for producing clothing and automobiles. When Silvia was one year old, the family experienced a tragedy when their home burned to the ground. Silvia was severely burned and required ongoing medical attention. Her treatments continued over the next 21 years. A group of doctors and nurses from Honduras who had been treating Silvia recommended she come to Massachusetts. They believed she would benefit greatly from the care offered at the Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Silvia applied for a humanitarian visa and was granted entrance to the United States. She was able to bring someone to help her on her journey and that someone was her sister, Besy. Today, we are happy to report that Silvia’s healing process has been significant and she is enjoying her life with her husband and a four-month old son, Ian.

Silvia’s need for medical treatments brought her to the U.S. and opened a new opportunity for her, to advance her education. Besy and Silvia are both enrolled in the Business Career Program at CSI and both have embraced the opportunity to learn about business. Their long term goal is to become business owners. Both of them arrive on campus with an attitude aimed at success and a passion for the day’s lessons.

The sisters’ strong work ethic was instilled by their parents. Store owners back in Honduras, their parents, married for 45 years, have supported their daughters and continue to speak daily by phone. I sat down with the sisters on a recent winter afternoon and we talked about living in New England. I asked them what took the most getting used to about living here. They agree that learning the subway system, the language, and the weather have all been a bit challenging.

I asked Silvia and Besy what they like to do when they were not in school or studying. They both said they love to travel. They have visited New Jersey and New York City. They enjoyed seeing the tall buildings and the shops as well as the vast array of ethnically diverse foods. I concluded our talk with one last question: “Where in the U.S. would you like to visit that you have not been?” Both responded “Disney World, Florida.” How appropriate that the travel destination for two young women whose dreams are being realized would be the magical land of dreams come true.