'Why I came to Concordia ... from Belize'

Student Carlos Zetina talks academics, multiculturalism and cycling
March 29, 2018
By Cecilia Keating

Carlos Zetina’s tips for success? Meet new people, take advantage of training opportunities, and get involved in campus activities. Carlos Zetina’s tips for success? Meet new people, take advantage of training opportunities, and get involved!

"Why I came to Concordia" is a new series profiling international students. Check out the stories of students from France and from the United Arab Emirates!

Carlos Zetina is a PhD student in Industrial Engineering. Born and raised in Belize, he worked in Mexico City for several years before coming to Concordia in the fall of 2014.

Zetina received a full tuition waiver and $10,000 a year for the first three years of his PhD through the Graduate Student Support Program (GSSP). 

Additionally, he receives funding from both of his supervisors: Ivan Contreras, associate professor in Concordia’s Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering, and Jean-François Cordeau, professor in the Department of Logistics and Operations Management at HEC Montréal.

Zetina won two financial awards for his research from CIRRELT (Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur les reseaux d'entreprise, la logistique et le transport), and an Accelerator Award through the School of Graduate Studies.

‘It’s easy to feel comfortable as an international student’

Why did you choose Concordia?

I had been working at a consulting company in Mexico City for two years when I decided it was finally time to apply for a PhD program. A professor at my former university told me that one of his  previous students, Ivan Contreras, had recently gotten a position at Concordia, and that he could give him a good referral for me.

Contreras was generous enough to accept me as a student, so we filed the paperwork. A few months later, I was admitted with a full scholarship.

What are your favourite things about Montreal?

First, the academics. Many of the top researchers in operations research are either here or visit often. There are great opportunities to exchange ideas with some of the great minds in the field without having to fly all over the world.

Second, multiculturalism. One of the things I enjoy most about Montreal is its people. One hundred per cent of the people I have met are at least bilingual and have been open to sharing experiences about their culture and food. It's easy to feel comfortable as an international student here because there are so many, especially at Concordia. 

And finally, biking. One of the best things about Montreal is its biking culture. My wife and I found it truly amazing that you can literally go to work by bike without much of a hassle or feeling you might get run over or yelled at along the way.

What do you hope to gain from your degree?

I've already gained a lot. Apart from the technical knowledge, I've also learned intermediate French through GradProSkills’ conversational French classes and the GSA's beginner's French courses.

I’ve also gained presentation skills from GradProSkills workshops and our department's seminar course, and leadership skills from the organizations I've been involved in.

Having a PhD from Concordia is becoming more and more valuable each year. Our university keeps climbing the rankings, and with the new strategic plan I'm sure it will only become more valuable. 

What are you involved in outside of class, and why? How would you describe the experience?

I co-founded the Montreal Operations Research Student Chapter for students and practitioners in our field. We have been featured in several operations research bulletins and student magazines, and we won an award of merit from the U.S. Society of Operations Research in our inaugural year.

I'm also involved in TORCH (The Operations Research Challenge), a one-day contest for high-school students. We held the first competition in 2017 and are hoping for a larger group of 100 participants this coming March.

I'm also a part of my department's Graduate Student Committee. I really enjoyed starting the department's PhD mentorship program, where first-year doctoral students select mentors from a list of senior PhD candidates. 

My involvement in all three organizations has helped me develop my leadership and people skills. I have also significantly expanded my network, both social and professional, which in itself is something very valuable.

What are your top three pieces of advice for Concordia international students?

  1. Try to meet people from other cultures. In my experience, the extra effort of communicating in another language or having awkward culture clash moments are more than worth it. Socializing with people from other cultures is a truly enriching experience and Concordia is a great place to do it.

  2. Attend the different activities offered by Concordia organizations. For example, GradProSkills and the Technology Sandbox offer several workshops that help develop valuable skills for the workplace.  

  3. Get involved. There are many student associations at Concordia and there's likely one that relates to what you're passionate about. Be a part of these associations, whether as a member or as an organizer. Both are valuable experiences. 

Find out more about Concordia admissions for international students.

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