Studying abroad: The Reality

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A huge college building, with a lawn in front
Studying abroad

Hello everyone, this is your typical run off the mill desi who has just very recently jumped through his set of hoops to graduate from a master’s course. Now I’m  working at one of the Big-fours and yes getting the much coveted H1b visa as well. If you are someone who is in their 3rd or final year of college, especially engineering, this is for you, listen up!  

I finished my bachelor’s in computer science from one of the best colleges in Mumbai. Post which I worked for a year at a startup. Then set off for pursuing master’s course at one of the more ‘average’ colleges in the United States, in 2014.

Final year: The apt time to start preparing for studying abroad

So let’s get to the meatier part. If you are in your final year of undergrad, you are in a sweet spot. You have plenty of time to do your research on the choice of courses and colleges to choose from, as well as getting a few domestic job offers as a backup.

This is important for many obvious reasons, but most critically, here’s something a lot of seniors won’t tell you: working in India isn’t that bad. If you are in your final year, time management is going to be a bit tricky. You may not be able to go abroad immediately after you graduate. I will get to the importance of timing in a bit.

So let’s say you have given your GRE and TOEFL, shortlisted a few colleges and are now deciding which ones to apply to for studying abroad. Short answer: apply to all of them. Especially if you are an average student as I was, it really helps to fire wide. But it is wise to consider the following while choosing your colleges:

  • The popularity of the course and college.
  • The support given during placements.
  • And for some, a community of kin.

    From personal experience, studying abroad in a bad college does cause problems while looking for jobs. Also, the kind of environment you surround yourself with during those years affects a lot of things. You will have friends who try to make the best of the new found freedom and would indulge more in the partying opportunities. That really comes at a price, both monetarily and academically.
Once you begin studying abroad:

Try getting as many research/project opportunities as possible, even if they don’t offer any stipend. Do not, in any way be enticed to take up off campus jobs which are not legal. They are a direct opportunity for your employers to exploit you by making you work too many hours and paying you peanuts. Not worth the time lost, that was needed to do what you actually came to do: study.

A student studying on his laptop and writing notes in a notepad
Make the most of it

Also keep an eye open for internships, co-ops and job fairs. Also, avoid job consultancies like plague. They are again another institution aimed at exploiting people desperate for jobs. You will be best served when looking for e-verified companies, i.e. companies that are eligible to file for H1 visas for their employees. Best practice is to invest the final semester in sharpening your skills that are essential for the job. Trust me, you will be surprised by the level of skill and preparedness that you will be competing against over here. I had learned this the hard way. If you have made it up to this point in your career, you’ve almost got the hang of everything that you need to know.

Why to not study abroad?

Now I’d like to cover some of the reasons for not studying abroad. I’ll tell you a few things that most of the seniors don’t tell you and those Facebook pictures do not show. Life here is going to be hard. First of all, if you are any older than 25, drop the plan right away. You will be studying for two years, and spending the next two years trying to earn back the education expense. That means you’ll be lucky if you’ve made any actual savings by the time you are close to 30.  

For the rest of you, it’s probably not a smooth road either. You will be spending hours at the laundromat, grocery shopping, struggling to cook a decent meal, eating leftovers for weeks and scrounging to save the last penny and having a hell of a time trying to manage academics.

If you survive that, you’ll end up missing home like crazy. I don’t mean just missing the family, but rather your whole way of life. No more spending festivals and birthdays with your family and friends. No more time to watch TV or play sports.No more Indian junk food at whim. It gets worse for some, and better for others. Those long distance calls to friends and family are hardly of any help.

While I’m not trying to discourage you, I have to say this since we all found it the hard way, that life here isn’t what it’s made out to be. No one who travels here admits that.

So, with this information in mind, you need to make decisions that make the best of the time and money that will be involved in making this journey of studying abroad.

I would love to know and assist you all with the decisions you make. So please comment down here, so I can help you guys out!


 

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