Our Stories

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

International student gains new confidence at Vanderbilt

Andrea Valladares
Assistant Director of Annual Fund Marketing, Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt Master of Marketing 2023

At age 18, Andrea Valladares moved from Honduras to the U.S., on her own, to pursue an education. Initially, she aspired to be an engineer. But she found that her real passion resided in creativity, which led her to marketing and graphic design—“the perfect combination,” she says, “of both the analytical/strategic and creative sides of my brain.”

After completing her degree at Nashville’s Trevecca Nazarene University, Andrea wanted to dive deeper into the field while exploring more dimensions of marketing. She decided to pursue a Master of Marketing at Vanderbilt. “I love the city,” she says, “and my support system was already here, so I knew I would only keep thriving in Nashville.”

Even for someone who had already been through the experience of enrolling in school in the U.S. after arriving from another country, “culture shock is very real for international students, and really for most minorities,” Andrea says. The closeness and supportiveness of the community she found at Vanderbilt made her feel welcome. “Throughout the year, I had to get out of my comfort zone, but the personal scale of the school helps with interacting with different people in your program and other programs. I made an awesome group of friends, and they were intentional in understanding the challenges that come with being an international student.”

Vanderbilt’s International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) Office helped her with another of those challenges: reapplying for the Optical Practical Training (OPT) status that would allow her to continue to work in the U.S. Her ISSS advisor, she says, “basically held my hand throughout the process, and we were able to file and process the application in record time.”

Besides equipping her with new knowledge and skills—and an extensive professional network—the program gave Andrea a heightened sense of confidence as she embarked on a marketing career. “I deal with imposter syndrome,” she says, “and throughout the program, I was able to understand my strengths better. Just being around other talented people who believe in me and see the talents in me has built my confidence to become a future leader.”

Fun Fact: Andrea, who describes herself as “a sucker for TV shows and good storytelling,” estimates she has binge-watched more than 100 shows.

“Being around other talented people who believe in me and see the talents in me has built my confidence to become a future leader.”