NEXSTEP has helped thousands of students from all over the world achieve experiences related to their education and careers since 2008. Hands-on learning through real-world participation helps a student map out their career more concretely. You never know what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and how you see yourself growing until you’ve actually gone out into the field and gotten your hands dirty.
We’ve heard back from many of our students on how their experiential learnings have helped them achieve their goals.
Recently, we got the chance to speak with a NEXSTEP alumnus, Nabila Khokhar, and discuss how she’s been able to build on her internship when it comes to her current career. Nabila joined the Tech Innovation Discovery in Singapore program in the summer of 2018. She is now a reporting analyst for the consulting firm Korn Ferry and is also a prominent social media influencer on TikTok. At the time of writing, she has 47,400 followers.
Describing her experience, Nabila says, “I took that leap of faith, I went to Singapore for two weeks. And, number one, I fell in love with a lot of the businesses there, the mindsets. Our study program was basically about entrepreneurship. So, we met not only the Googles and the Microsofts, and all that kind of stuff. But we met these people who were starting off from nothing.” She continues to describe meeting entrepreneurs who had left six-figure jobs and who had failed in starting their businesses before but who were learning and remaining persistent.
Nabila earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Financial Management Services from Western Sydney University and is currently pursuing her MBA in Business Analytics. Naturally, she sees herself as an “in-the-books type of person.” But she says that her experience with NEXSTEP, “was the kickstart of me taking these trips on my own, me actually becoming independent, and me feeling like a woman and not just a girl. […] I’m Indian, and my family is very protective of me. This was the first time I took a trip by myself, and I handled everything by myself. […] Overall, mentally, emotionally, physically, it just changed me completely. It changed my mindset. And I think that’s the biggest thing for me, that I can travel, I can do these things.”
After more than two years of pandemic restrictions, international travel and foreign internships and study programs are opening up again. Nabila sees experiences like these as worthwhile because “In order to actually expand our mindsets, we need to speak to people. And we need to listen to their stories, and we need to understand how they got to the place that we went to. I think when we spoke to those entrepreneurs, and we listened to the failures and the achievements, […] it made it real. That you can fail but still achieve while you’re failing. But you wouldn’t know that if you’re just sitting behind a computer and just reading.”
Because of COVID, “a lot of students got deprived of that experience,” Nabila explains. “I wish that those students who did get deprived of it get something to get that kind of social interaction. back.”
We’ve kept up with Nabila since her study program. Posted back in 2019, NEXSTEP’s spoke with Nabila for the Future Leaders podcast. Since then, her social media career has totally blown up. After the episode was released, Nabila started speaking at Western Sydney University as an ambassador, encouraging others to go on these internships and study programs. Then, she says, “I officially became what they call a ‘social media person.’ I joined TikTok in 2020 and I started doing mental health awareness and just kind of finding myself. It was a year that I found myself. Something about me is that I’m Indian and I’m Punjabi. […] There’s a huge gap in regards to mental health awareness, especially for men in my society. So I took one and two, put them together on social media. And in the year 2021, I grew my following to about 50,000. And it all started with NEXSTEP. Literally, it all started in 2018 with that podcast episode.”
That podcast episode really kicked off Nabila’s life as an influencer. “Because I was the first one in our [NEXSTEP placement] group to do that series, Western Sydney University contacted me, and I started doing actual seminars and talks to future students and talking about my journey. I did two or three talks with them until 2019-ish. Then my confidence was growing. […] 2020, I started social media without knowing it. And I just started vibing and being myself.”
On gaining over 50,000 followers, “what I did was I used data and analytics and the algorithm of TikTok to build my following. And because I personally gained experience, I got my current job because of that. Because I didn’t just wait around to get experience in data and analytics. I created it myself. That’s how I got my current job.”
For current students, Nabila has a few pieces of advice. “Sometimes, having just theoretical [learning] is just not enough,” Nabila divulges, “I’m currently doing an MBA in business analytics. […] I can sit here and tell you, without a doubt in my mind, that the little intricacies that I’ve learned just from just using the stuff on social media, from the stuff that I’m doing in my job right now, you don’t get to teach that in a classroom. […] I think that just actually experiencing things is so much better than just reading about it because you are developing other skills. You’re learning what you need to learn, but you’re also developing communication skills. You’re also developing how to actually be with certain people because, at the end of the day, you’re not going to get along with everybody. So, you’re developing the soft skills as well as the hard skills when you do actual experience rather than just theory.”
“You don’t get to have these kinds of experiences on a daily basis,” She says, “So why would you not take that tiny risk of just going and actually experiencing and speaking to people that are actually really doing it, rather than just reading about it? […]It changed my life. Complete 180. I would 150% recommend it.”
Take that leap of faith. You won’t regret it.”