Famed physicist and chemist Marie Curie once said, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” Hodges University student Steffanny Golding is only months away from completing her master’s degree in accounting. While it hasn’t been an easy journey for this international student, her desire and perseverance has enabled her to overcome numerous obstacles on her path to success.
“When I finish my master’s degree in accounting, I will be able to proudly represent my country, Venezuela, as well as Hodges University, here in the United States,” Golding said.
A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Golding’s desire to pursue higher education was met with strong encouragement from her parents. Expressing an interest in business, she enrolled at the Universidad De Oriente in Maturin, Monagas, Venezuela, at 16 years old. From 2006 to 2011, she studied business administration and earned a bachelor’s degree.
As the economical, societal and governmental situations in Venezuela grew more uncertain, her family decided to move to the United States for better opportunities; however, the family did not move all at once. Moving by herself in 2011, Golding lived with her cousins in Lehigh Acres, Florida, for three months. Unfamiliar with her surroundings, it was difficult for her being away from her family.
“I always lived with my parents, so when I moved to the U.S. alone, everything changed,” she said.
Possessing only a basic understanding of English, Golding’s ability to communicate with native English speakers proved difficult, which, in turn, made other aspects of living in a new country equally as hard, such as driving a car.
Before arriving in the U.S., Golding’s cousin recommended she look into Hodges’ English as a Second Language (ESL) program as a way to build upon her knowledge of the English language. Knowing she needed to do it in order to pursue additional educational opportunities, she applied for a student visa before enrolling as an international student at Hodges in fall 2011.
Learning grammar, listening and writing, her determination and strong work ethic helped her to succeed in the certificate program. Feeling prepared for the next step, she credited her professors’ encouragement and support, saying, “While in the ESL program, it gave me the motivation to continue my education. It really prepared me for the management program, especially because of all the writing.”
Already equipped with a business administration background, Golding decided to continue her educational pursuits by enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Management program at Hodges; however, she needed to take a few additional steps before officially enrolling.
“In order to receive a student visa, you must be a full-time student, so after I finished the ESL program, I had to return to Venezuela and reapply,” she explained.
Enrolling in summer 2013, Golding admits the program was much harder than she anticipated, yet it provided her with a great experience, especially having the opportunity to learn from program chair Dr. Dolores Batiato.
Although Batiato’s teaching style was straightforward, Golding received much encouragement and support from her, saying, “I was worrying a lot, especially about my country and the fact that I had very little financial help in paying for school. While she wanted us [her students] to do the work, she understood my concerns and always encouraged me when I felt I couldn’t complete the work.”
However, as much as the support from her professors helped, Golding continued to worry about her financial situation. Receiving some assistance from her father in Venezuela, she applied for an employment authorization card based on economic hardship, which allows international students, who are full-time and have completed one full year of schooling, to work for one year. Accepting a job at Waterman Broadcasting Corporation, she worked as an accounting clerk for seven months, which played a role in her decision to pursue accounting.
Taking her experience at Waterman Broadcasting, along with the tools gained in the management program, she enrolled in the Master of Accountancy degree program in winter 2016.
“In accounting, you have to really understand why things are done the way they are. Dr. [Miguel] Rivera really works to make sure his students understand the essence of accounting and the importance and responsibility that being an accountant imply,” she said.
Aspiring to work for an accounting firm and one day open her own business, Golding understands the necessity to meet certain expectations set forth by her professors. “Since accounting and many of the terms associated with the field can be difficult to comprehend, Dr. Rivera finds ways to help everyone understand,” she said. “And Professor [Rick] Durant, he stresses the importance of cost information and analysis used for planning, controlling and decision making, so we can make the best managerial decision.”
When she isn’t studying, Golding is assisting her professors with different projects and tutoring accounting students in the library. With the help of Career Services and Lourdes Araujo, Hodges’ counseling and disability support manager, she prepared a resume with the hope of becoming an accounting tutor.
“I thank the Dean at the Johson School of Business for helping me when I was desperate. She gave me the opportunity and the path to work in Hodges.”
While looking forward to graduation, there are limitations she faces with regard to her status in the United States and employment opportunities; however, she is hoping to obtain authorization to work by applying for Optional Practice Training, in addition to continuously studying for certification as a possible certified internal auditor (CIA) and work for a local accounting firm. At some point, she hopes to open her own business, maybe a restaurant or dance studio – only time will tell.
For now, she remains optimistic and appreciative of her time at Hodges and the opportunities presented to her as an international student. “I want to thank all of my teachers in the ESL program, management program and accounting program, especially Dr. Batiatio and Dr. Rivera, for teaching me with professionalism and dedication, and guiding me on the right path to achieve and be persistent in my career and professional goals.”
Knowing the situation her native country is facing at this time, she reminds herself that she has been given a great opportunity in the United States saying, “I feel so proud to be Venezuelan and a Latin woman. My dream and goal is to complete my education the best way, as well as find the right people who will allow me to obtain permission to work in an important accounting firm here in the United States. My fight has been extremely hard and scary; however, I am continuing to study with the intention of guaranteeing my future and giving my professional knowledge to society and the United States.”