Estefania Castillo

I am a Mexican international student living in the border region of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. I reside in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico all my life, but I have attended school in El Paso, Texas since I was in elementary school. For the longest time, I had trouble trying to understand my own identities because being from Juarez and having studied in the United States all my life, it seemed like I had a lot of opposing identities that were not easily defined. I began to explore my Mexican culture and kept feeling like an outsider because I was so accustomed to American culture from my experiences at school, always leaving me somewhere in the middle. This is where I learned to embrace my identity as a highly Americanized transfronteriza Mexican female who crosses borders on a daily basis to pursue an education.

I was first introduced to UX as an undergraduate when I took a Rhetoric and Writing course titled “Writing and Computers.” This course was eye opening for me because it made me pay closer attention to the way the projects I produced and worked on would be utilized by users. For my senior practicum, it seemed only fitting that I use my experiences crossing borders and being an international student to create a meaningful UX project. I tracked my process applying to graduate programs as an international student through a personal blog. Here I tracked the information provided by websites, the information missing, the ease of use, among other things. When I began my masters in Rhetoric and Writing I was immediately drawn to UX classes and research and I realized my work with graduate school applications for international students was not complete.

For this project, I am continuing to explore the usability of graduate school applications for international students because this is something that I know will help other students wishing to continue their studies in higher education. During this experience, I have learned different useful UX research methods for my project from professors in the field as well as becoming part of a community of women of color in computing. I have conducted a landscape analysis on different graduate school websites in different parts of the country to try to see how websites are usable and how they could improve to help international students. From there, I decided to create a survey so that I can get user feedback regarding graduate school applications. The survey will help me get a better understanding of application usability directly from other international students. After, I will be conducting cognitive walkthroughs in order to work with users one on one as they navigate some of these websites, getting more detailed feedback. I believe I have made great progress with my project thanks to all the new methods and strategies I have learned, but most of all I will continue to do so because of the support I receive from everyone involved.