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International Student Lands Internship at Facebook, Inc.

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS –NOVEMBER 1, 2013 – Most students dream of the perfect summer internship: that it will be a great learning experience where they work with smart, interesting people, that it will be in a productive yet fun environment located in a delightful location, and that it will be a paid internship.

Ali-Amir Aldan, a sophomore physics major at The University of Texas at Brownsville, hit the jackpot with his summer internship at Facebook in Menlo Park, California.

Sophomore physics student Ali-Amir Aldan.Sophomore physics student Ali-Amir Aldan.

Aldan, an international student from Almaty, Kazakhstan, arrived in Brownsville in January 2012. A member of Kazakhstan’s national competitive programming team, he selected UTB upon recommendation from his coach to work with Dr. Malik Rakhmanov, Assistant Professor of physics at the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, who is originally from Kazakhstan.

Aldan’s participation on his country’s national competitive programming team put him in a position to be spotted by Facebook, and the company contacted him for the summer internship.

At Facebook, Aldan joined about 500 other interns, where he was assigned to the Ads Ranking Experimentation Platform team, that was charged with refactoring the codebase and build a more useable framework that other teams could use.

“The incredible thing about Facebook is that everyone is always ready to help you – just ask and they will try to explain,” Aldan said. “Team spirit is very important at Facebook. I learned a lot there, and gained a lot of communication and social skills.”

Every Friday, Mark Zuckerberg, the chairman and chief executive of Facebook, Inc., would hold a company-wide Q&A. Some employees would sit in the auditorium, but Aldan said most employees just watched from their notebooks at their workplaces.

“He gave us talks about the plans of Facebook and answered questions live,” Aldan said. “At Facebook, Mark is just a regular guy. He often goes to the company ‘hackathons,’ where he looks at what people are building, and he is very open. I guess, because of that it feels like he is one of the engineers.”

Aldan said the Menlo Park area with its “almost perfect weather” was beautiful. The summer interns were provided corporate housing, “a large and luxurious apartment,” in Mountain View, less than a 20-minute ride from the Facebook campus via the company-provided shuttle busses.

Another perk of working at Facebook included use of the campus buildings’ many micro-kitchens stocked with free healthy snacks, organic juices and teas. A particularly big perk was access, along with all of Facebook’s approximately 5,000 employees, to the fresh and well-prepared complimentary meals in one of the several campus cafeterias.

After three months in California, Facebook flew Aldan home for a one-week visit before returning – this trip on his own dime – to Brownsville and UTB, where he is paying for his tuition this semester with his earnings from Facebook. He likes to check in with his mother in Almaty, 7,641 miles from Brownsville, once a week via Skype. His mother has several advanced degrees, as does his father, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. His older brother is in Almaty studying languages.

Aldan speaks English, which he studied in middle and high school, Russian, Kazakh and Turkish; he picked up the latter while attending a Kazakh-Turkish boarding high school for two years. He said he believes his Russian is much better than his English.

“But I’m working on changing that!” Aldan said.

For more information on international student opportunities at UTB, contact the Office of Global Engagement at 956-882-7092 or global.engagement@utb.edu.

 

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