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Posted 07 January 2013 - 11:44 AM
Posted 09 January 2013 - 12:28 PM
Seeing that no one has jumped in yet, I'll throw in my 2 cents, as someone coming in from a similar place.
I'm from Israel, which has a few indie sized mobile game studios, where I am unlikely to find my dream job as a concept artist.
I figured that being an international student was a good way to get the skills I would need to stand out and to expand my network.
4 years later, and I definitely have better skills and know people in the industry, but have had no luck finding a sponsor for a work permit.
Your situation, as a programmer, may be different, depending on how needed your skills may be.
Before committing for 2 more years and who knows how much money in a Masters degree, I would suggest you go to a GDC, preferably with something, like a demo, to show.
The sessions could be informative, but the parties, where people mingle, talk and swap business cards is where you can really find out where you are standing and some ideas of what direction to take.
I haven't been to GDC China, so I can't speak of it.
GDC in San Francisco is the largest one by far so you would have the biggest exposure, but is the most expensive one when you consider you will need to apply for a visa, pay for flights and stay at one of the most expensive areas in the US for about a week if you want to catch the whole show.
GDC Online in Austin is smaller, and would still have the associated flying and visa costs, but it's a shorter convention at a less expensive city, and there's a better vibe to the parties as they are less exclusive. Despite the name, the convention will have people coming in from AAA studios.
GDC Europe was probably asier time finding someone willing to sponsor you. You will also have access to Gamescom, the biggest trade fair for interactive entertainment, which will put you in contact with even more people in the industry, and also the opportunity to play the newest games, and who can complain at that? (Pro tip: go to the business area first and ask for VIP passes to bypass some hour long lines.)
There are also other conventions and events happening all the time, and you never know where you might find someone looking for the skills you have. (Or so I hear, from people with jobs )