What Studying Abroad taught me about life

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My journey to international exposure started in the year 2007.  Having secured admission to the University of IllinoisUrbana Champaign (UIUC) for my MS in Finance, it was the first international exposure that I experienced. Understandably, stepping out of my nest for the first time and embarking upon this maiden journey taught me much more than just the fundamentals of finance. In hindsight, it became an experience and the year that overhauled my perspective of life.

Just like any other student who opts for study abroad, I also faced the initial hitch and anxiety of being completely by myself. Fear and pressure of competition and performance coupled with a tough roommate almost made me quit UIUC in my first semester and I wanted to catch the next flight home.

But in retrospection I think my decision to stay back at UIUC was one of the best decisions that I took in life.  It is easy to guess that the cultural shock, the life style shock and the b-school pressure made my few initial months very tough at UIUC and made me more matured as well as ready to face the challenges that life posed for me.  Gradually, as I started to settle down in the place (of course friends played a big role in it); I started catching up on the US fever and homesickness faded away . I started loving everything about campus life whether it was burning the midnight oil till four am in the morning working in a mad rush to complete the assignments, or walking in sub-zero temperatures in the wee hours of morning to attend a class in statistics. Studying abroad and on my own made me like eating frozen foods, finishing my laundry and dishes on my own and made me self-reliant. I now started to feel at one with the US culture. The beauty about studying in US and I think which may hold true for other countries (or to say, about studying abroad) is that it teaches us humiliation, independence and self confidence. The exposure that you get of being on your own breaks your ego and you start respecting even the most menial of jobs like cleaning your bathroom, which I believe is few Indians would do it when they stay in India. Trust me, doing this there also gives u a sense of pride!

The US life, rather the US student life is something which I miss, even today and if given a choice, I would love to go back and re-live that life again. Three things that made my studying in US worthwhile are:

1. The unique manner of imparting knowledge to students by employing case studies wherever possible

I think one of the best things about studying in the U.S. A. is that no matter what course you take, there is only way to learn – CASE STUDIES. The beauty of a case study is that it really imparts  a very practical approach to learning. And to top it up, one of the courses that I undertook dealt with portfolio management where we as a class actually managed one of our professor’s client’s portfolio. The shares in his portfolio were divided amongst the class and each group had to research the stock and offer a buy/sell call on that stock along with a detailed presentation justifying the same. I think this won’t  happen anytime soon in India. You may have mock portfolios, mock trading in universities but with real money , I doubt it will ever happen

2. The world-class infrastructure in US universities.  There is no doubt that the way in which universities are designed in the US are just phenomenal. The kind of class rooms, libraries, research labs that they construct makes sure that we have no reason to not perform and study well.  The only thing that you have to worry is the amount of dedication and inclination that you have towards studies. At UIUC, we had Bloomberg terminals, which a lot of broking houses in India are still not equipped with, and we as students were allowed to take the tutorials and get ourselves Bloomberg Certified. I believe that US the universities prepare you for a corporate life and they make sure they equip you with all that you may ever need from the day one the course starts.

3. The warmth and helpful nature of the international council for Students

No matter how well you gel in the USA, there will always be moments where you tend to feel like an immigrant, for instance- at the time of placements where most of the companies that come to campus are looking for a US citizen or a US green card holder, or at the time of securing your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card processed for Optional Practical Training (OPT)/ Curricular Practical Training (CPT). What really helps is the international students council. AT UIUC I had a wonderful experience with the international council. They were very supportive not only during my EAD processing but also went out of the way to help me arrange documents that I needed during my H1 visa processing and helped as well as guided me even when I got my first traffic ticket in US.

Narrated By: Swechha Jain