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It All Works Out...

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Being from a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, India, I was always well-acquainted with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Coming to the United States as a student took this experience to a global level. And with the United States being the motherland of inventions — where new technologies are invented and implemented — I thought getting academic experience here would give me an excellent learning opportunity. So that’s why I chose to come here.

My father has been a true inspiration for my career interest. He has been working with the Mumbai police, and it is from his experiences in managing a huge amount of critical data that I have realized the lacunas in the system as well as the importance of handling this stupendous amount of data for making critical business decisions. After digging a lot and researching for the courses offered, I felt information technology and management was one of the best degrees offered in this domain. A strong educational background in information technology gave me an opportunity to work with one of the multinational giants in the IT industry, where I developed my technical skills. A master’s course at UT Dallas gave me a platform to not only hone my technical knowledge but also develop my managerial skills. I had an unbeatable combination!

But the journey started almost a year before I came to the U.S. It involved many things, like studying for the GRE and TOEFL, taking the exams, searching for colleges and digging through the courses offered in those colleges, managing financial loans, searching for accommodation in the U.S. and much more while handling current job responsibilities.

When I was looking for a suitable program, I looked at course content as well as for a university name well known in the industry. Both would help me establish my credentials. The University of Texas at Dallas was an obvious choice! The University’s reputation, in-depth curriculum and highly qualified faculty would make the graduate program in information technology and management play a crucial part in augmenting my growth.

After going through the strenuous process of applications, visa interview, educational loan formalities and travel planning, finally the day came! I had a myriad of emotions when I had to leave my family and friends for an altogether different life … a strange place with new people and loads of new things. Lots of exciting and anxious emotions rushed through my mind. I was happy but a little scared, excited but anxious and ecstatic at the same time, heavy-hearted about leaving my folks and my place. I knew I was traveling halfway around the world to a dreamy place to pursue my passion. And this feeling really alleviated all the negative feelings in my mind.

After an amazing and tiring journey of almost 24 hours, I finally landed in the U.S. And the very first and worth-mentioning thing I observed in this country was everyone was smiling at me. People were very warm, friendly and welcoming. That really made my exhausting journey very relieving.

After landing at the airport, I was picked up by folks from the Indian Students Association. I was constantly in touch with them right from India, and they really helped me in many ways right from picking me up from the airport, helping me with my luggage, finding an accommodation to getting a phone and an Internet connection as well. The strange land was not strange to me anymore…. I had a family away from my family.

On the first day of college, I had an orientation where I was introduced to campus, student services and student organizations, on-campus activities, American traditions, food and much more. There I came to realize how disciplined and punctual people in the U.S. are. Everything here is very organized and easily accessible. I was really mesmerized by the way things work here. People really value time here — their own time and others’ time too.

Later, I got in touch with the International Student Services Office (ISSO), an extremely important student service for every international student coming to the U.S. The ISSO had organized a separate orientation for international students at which we were made aware of all the necessary and important formalities each international student has to observe. Any visa or immigration-related query was resolved by the extremely friendly staff.

After the orientation, they had many fun events for us too, which helped us not only network with people from different cultures and backgrounds but also find new international friends. In the initial week of college, we got a lot of free goodies and free food (perks of being a student ) at different fun activity booths on campus. I have enjoyed the wide selection of clubs, student associations and honor societies, and the overall abundance of fun activities held for the students. I would proudly say: Every day here is different; I never get bored.

Most international students experience culture shock soon after landing in the U.S. Socially, I was OK, but I did undergo a cultural shock academically. Studying techniques used here are very different than back home. Things were no longer spoon-fed; here they believe in individual and independent studies. A greater emphasis is put on on the approach to solving problems rather than getting the right answer. There is a very famous saying that goes something like, “Education is what others do to you while learning is what you do to yourself.” This is precisely the motto of the U.S. education system. People and professors are “resources” that you utilize to understand and make the knowledge you attain usable. I would suggest getting in touch with your professors to gain the maximum knowledge you can.

Finally, I would want to say to the prospective students planning to visit the U.S.: My friends, coming to the U.S. is an altogether life-transforming and self-rediscovering experience! It changes your outlook towards the world and your perspective towards learning. You will start appreciating the beauty of why things are the way they are. You will meet some amazing people, make friends with them for lifetime. You will see some real scientists. You will be closer to some of the real innovators and thinkers. My advice: Don't restrict yourself to just your course work or people from the same background or food/ events from the same culture. Look beyond and expand your horizons. Try getting the most out of things that you can and enjoy your life to the fullest. Be open and understand what people are trying to achieve; you will be amazed when you learn what they are up to! And don't be scared or doubtful about your abilities — you will get help for all your needs. Remember… it all works out!

Pradnya Nigade

Pradnya is an experienced IT professional and current ITM graduate student at UT Dallas. She is passionate about business analytics and plans to expand her career in that path. An extrovert and avid traveler, she also is a professional dancer and enjoys performing in stage shows. Read more articles

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