I was a rower back home. My high school in England,
Abingdon, was a really big rowing school. So I rowed from 13 to 18 –
and if you’re a top-string high school rower in England, you want to go
to America. That’s the place to be; the standard here is just incredible.
And I was fortunate enough to be accepted at Boston University.
I was a rower too, back in high school in Toronto. It was a
dream for a lot of athletes there to go to the United States for university
because the sports programs here are just at another level. So I made
that my personal goal – worked extra-hard, went on recruiting trips,
really put myself out there for coaches, took the SAT multiple times.
And eventually, at the last minute, I was accepted at Boston University.
At BU I majored in advertising and was fortunate enough to
get an internship at Corbett the summer after my junior year. Pharma
advertising wasn’t something we were really exposed to in school;
most of the classes are focused on consumer work. So I thought it
would be a great opportunity to expand my horizons.
As an international student, you have to ;nd a company
to sponsor you for work once you ;nish university if you want to stay
in the United States. So that in itself was a whole other mission, where
you have to go to a company, you have to sell yourself, show them
you’re worth investing in, and you have to convince the company that
they can take a leap of faith on you. Because we only have this one year
of work permitted after university on our student visas.
The summer internship at Corbett was a wonderful
experience. I really enjoyed the work, and the company really invested
in me. And at the end of the summer, they told me, “If this is something
you really like, we want to bring you back when you graduate.”
I was bussing to and from Boston to New York about 50
times for interviews. I would get here at 9:00 AM, would do three
interviews back-to-back and leave at night. Or I’d travel down for just
one interview, do the interview for an hour and then jump on the
bus right back. It’s about a four-hour bus ride each way, so it was a big
commitment to try to make this work. But just like I was when I was
trying to get to the university in the States, I was really driven to come
to New York and pretty relieved when it all worked out, when I got an
o;er from TBWA\WorldHealth.
So we both started at TBWA\WorldHealth on June 13th, 2016.
Coming out of college, you hope for a few things with your
;rst job – that you have a strong mentor and supervisor who can show
you the ropes and show you – guide you as a mentor. You want to have
a lot of young people that you can bond with and joke around with to
make work fun to come to every day. And you want to be at a company
that invests in you, beyond just being an employee but invest to make
you a better person. TBWA\WorldHealth has hit all of those. When I
;rst came, I couldn’t have asked for a better supervisor and mentor. His
name’s Je; and he’s – it’s been incredible. He wants to see me succeed
just as much as he wants to succeed himself and that passion has very
much rubbed o; on me.
Through college I did a few internships where I got to try
out di;erent types of advertising. At one of them we did a campaign
for Snapple, just trying to sell more drinks. Then I worked for a year for
the Travis Roy Foundation, which was a complete 180 from that. The
Travis Roy Foundation is a Boston charity that helps fund spinal cord
research and support spinal cord injury survivors. That was something
that really sparked my interest in health care advertising. And now I
work on Gilead’s hepatitis C drug, which is making a cure possible for
patients all around the world, and it’s – the output is so much more
rewarding, knowing that it’s actually having an impact on people. It
doesn’t seem as glamorous as making a Coca-Cola advert, but it’s much
more satisfying on a day-to-day basis. Everyone at work understands
that, which is why it’s so nice working with a team where everyone’s
passionate about the work that we’re putting out and why we’re doing
it rather than just doing it to make more money for the company. It’s a
really satisfying and rewarding thing.
Within the ;rst two months I wanted to have a face-to-face
conversation with every member of the leadership team. It was a lot
easier than I thought because they make themselves available even to
their most junior employees. They take time out of their day to make
sure you’re developing well, that you’re achieving your goals, your
career path is what you want it to be. That support from the leadership
de;nitely is felt throughout the agency; they clearly want to invest in
the culture that they’re building here.
We’d really been working through this system for a whole
year with the help of the agency to make sure that we would be
ready to submit our H1B applications in April, and then hopefully get
the visa to continue to work. Then, it’s a busy Friday afternoon and
we get called into the o;ce and they’re basically saying overnight
the whole situation has changed with two weeks to go before the
application goes in, and you’re probably going to have to leave the
country. It came out of nowhere. We thought we’d done everything
right. We thought we’d jumped through every legal hoop for the past
two or three years to make sure we’d be in the right position, and then
suddenly everything just changes overnight. It was just a shock.
Going back to high school and you – when we set these
goals, I want to get to the States, I want to, if I just put my head down,
grind, work at it, work at being a better athlete, it will happen and that’s
it. Then at university, the next goal was, okay, I need to get my grades
up, I need to go and interview at some of the networking events,
if I want to stay here in this country. So that means I’m going to do
everything I can to put myself out there for people to see, for jobs, for
recruiters, and we did it and it worked again and we ended up here at
this great place that’s way better than I could’ve ever wished for and
If we don’t get the visas, then I honestly don’t know what I’m
going to do. I’ve been in America for ;ve years, my parents have moved
several times since I’ve left ;ve years ago so I don’t really have any base.
I don’t have a home I can go back to. For the last few summers, we’ve
stayed in America to be doing internships instead of going home,
we stayed, put ourselves in this position. So if I go back, it’s going to
be like starting from the absolute bottom of where we wanted to be,
compared to a highly sought institution we work for, where we really
feel like we’re succeeding.
The United States is this hub of education and industry
growth, it’s the pinnacle of where people want to be for a lot of
di;erent reasons in terms of business and culture. A lot of students
come here from all over the world to experience that and live the
American dream, to be a part of this bigger thing that just isn’t available
anywhere else in the world. When you have students that come
here and love it and get educated here and establish themselves as
Americans and build their life here through university and internships
to jobs, and then have that all of a sudden ripped away is – well, unfair
isn’t even the right word to describe it because you’re destroying all the
work and all the promises that I thought this country was about.
I’ve had a social security number since I was a freshman.
I worked on campus, I taught rowing, I was a part-time coach to
American kids who wanted to try it out. Through the ;ve years that
we’ve been here, we’ve been actively involved in the community every
day. Sometimes it can sound like as an international student coming
over, you get in your little bubble on campus and you hang out with
the other internationals and you do your four years and you leave. But
that just – I don’t think that was the experience we had. We were very
involved in the life of the community.
It’s not like we’re coming here and not becoming active
citizens or not contributing to the culture and the community. We’re
coming in as driven, hardworking, young professionals who want to
make a change, who want to get involved in the community, who
are working and just really trying to make this country and this place
special, and the reason why we came is because we know that’s
The frustrating thing is we feel like it’s been a mutually
bene;cial situation. Like we’ve been able to come and become a part
of the bigger community and really jump in whether it’s internships or
sports or anything, we feel like that we have really embedded our life
into America, but also America has invested in us. We’ve gone through
four years of really high level education that has been provided
through an American university. We’ve done internships, we’ve
worked for companies that we’ve been able to be a part of and they’ve
invested in us.
You come here at the beginning of freshman year at
university and you’re coming to a whole new country, you’re this
18-year-old kid who is now just a completely di;erent person. It’s been
;ve years now and I look at this – my town back home and I look at
where everyone is and it’s just – I’m so beyond removed that this is
home. The person I was when I left ;ve years ago is not the person
I am now, and the person I am now is American, a New Yorker who
considers this place and the people I work with here like my family.
I’ve been here for ;ve years, all my friends, my really close
friends from college especially through sports, you make some really
close bonds. People you want to have – you want to be close to for the
rest of your life. Then coming in to a company that has really invested
in you. The frustrating thing is it feels like we’re being taken away from
our home. Maybe it’s hard for people to understand that, having had
conversations with people. “Oh well, it doesn’t matter. You can go back
to England. England’s a good country. Your family’s there.” But for me
it feels like – I love my parents, I totally do, and I love my extended
family, but America is my home now and all my friends are here, my
home. Our apartment in Brooklyn is what I consider home rather than
my family from back in England. The really saddening thing is that it
literally feels like we’re being kicked out of our home.
Austin Bald and John Carter are account executives at TBWA\WorldHealth.