After graduating from the LLM program, she decided to apply for a year-long Optional Practical Training (OPT) position with the private law firm, McKinney and Namei, a trusted Cincinnati Law Firm specializing in Immigration Law. Pursuing this new opportunity felt more intrinsically aligned with her values than ever before.
“Something has changed in me—being on this side [public interest] of the law,” she said. “If you are not doing something that you love, you are not doing your best. I'm just trying to follow that path, where I am helping others and I'm happy.”
Recently, Valentina boarded a flight back to Cincinnati after celebrating her graduation with family and friends back home. But this time, the flight was filled with hope and anticipation for the work awaiting her at McKinney and Namei.
Today, a typical day for Valentina starts with a short bus ride to downtown Cincinnati for work, followed by a day of meetings with asylum seekers and immigrants fearing deportation, and usually wraps by 4 PM. This schedule comes with newfound leisure time, often spent reading at her favorite local coffee shop, running errands, or meeting up with friends, some whom she refers to as her “adoptive family.” This is in stark contrast to the early wake-ups and late nights she had back home that left little time to enjoy a meal or hangout with friends.
“Staying at the office every night until 9:00 PM, that’s not the life I want,” she said. “I'm in a place that allows me to work, help people, and at the same time have a life.”
Before attending UC Law’s LLM program, others might have looked at Valentina as the law student who had everything going for her. But letting go of the path she thought she was supposed to take led her to a life filled with purpose, rather than mere accolades.
“You don't have to be the best in everything. You don't have to be participating in everything just to check boxes,” she said. “You have to do what makes you happy, and actually build the life you want.”
“The LLM was an amazing year of my life, I grew as a person,” she continued. “This experience has helped me a lot with myself. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.”