Saturday, July 25, 2009

A to Z of Graduate Study in US

International students who come here for graduate studies find themselves in a totally different environment than they are used to back in their home country. Here is a comprehensive list of what you need to know when you come for graduate studies in US.
Assignment: Once a semester starts, a graduate student shall be doing at least one assignment a week. Most of the assignments may not be that easy as your undergraduate assignments back in your home country. Again if one starts working on it just the day before the submission, one may not finish it in time. For most of the courses, assignment plays a big role in the overall grades.
Bike: Bike or the bicycle is most probably going to be your mode of transportation during your study days in US. It is the cheapest and the fastest vehicle available for a graduate student to go from one point to another.
Credit Card: Your best friend in times of economic stress during your graduate studies. At least once during your studies you may be forced to use the credit card. Always remember one thing – if you don’t use it wisely it would land you in trouble forever.
Dollar: The scarce commodity in the hand of a graduate student. Always try to make both ends meet with whatever you have.
Exams: An integral part of the courses you take. Professors will be testing your practical knowledge rather than your theoretical knowledge as you are used to India. Initially you may find it tough but within few weeks you will get used to the system.
Fast Food: At least once in a week you shall be eating from either Burger King or Taco Bell or McDonalds – the reasons – you are too lazy to cook or you don’t have time to go home for lunch; whatever be the reasons the result of eating from these fast foods will show up on your body in a year or so as you start gaining lots of weight.
Google: Your life as a graduate student revolves around Google. Google has answers for many of your problems J
Hourly Job: The first thing a graduate student starts looking for once he/she lands in US – some are lucky to get an hourly job that can pay for the day to day expenses.
Internship: Getting an internship is the dream of any gradate student. In addition to a good pay, an internship offers real time experience that will be very helpful in the job search after your graduation.
Jobless: When you come to do your graduate studies be prepared for the worst case – not getting any job during the extended period of your studies. The key here is not to loose hope and keep searching.
Kitchen: Never ever cooked in your life time? OK, things are about to change. You will be cooking food on your own or else you cannot survive on the money you make as a student.
Laundry: You wash your own clothes in the laundry machines in the apartment. It might be a new experience for a few.
Manage: Very important factor to succeed. You may have to do so many things (study, hourly job, cooking etc) at the same time and one has to be a good “manager” to succeed in all those.
Night Out: You may have experiences of “Night Out” during your undergraduate studies. But now be prepared for many more “Night Outs” especially during the last few days of the semester.
OPT: OPT or Optional Practical Training is the work permit with which you can work without a visa for a year for all graduates and for 29 months for some graduates (graduates of STEM). OPT process has become complex over years and you will be talking a lot about it starting few months before your graduation.
Party: Graduate study is not all about studies, it is also about parties. Friday and Saturday nights are meant for partying and you are going to have a lot of fun during these parties.
Quality: Whatever it be – studies, hourly jobs or exams or assignments it is the quality of the work that matters. Always strive to produce quality work and rest assured that you will be coming out with flying colors.
Room Mates: Don’t even think of staying in an apartment on your own when you come here for graduate studies. You may have to share a room with one or two or three others depending on the location of the school and your financial conditions.
Soda: You start drinking soda more than water. In some shops it is cheaper than buying drinking water.
Travel: Spring and summer break (total of 4 months) are for travel. You have lots of places to visit in the US and this is the right time to go. A nice way to spend time away from school and studies.
USCIS: US Citizen and Immigration Services or USCIS is the agency where you need to send all your documents for processing your visa and other immigration papers. You will be hearing a lot about this during your study days in US.
Visa: You will be force to think/talk about this almost every day you are in US. The F1 visa status places a lot of restrictions on students and you will be reminded of your visa status during your entire stay in US.
Walmart: One stop shop for all your shopping needs. You get almost all the stuff you need and more importantly at a very low price.
Yardstick: You should be keeping a yardstick for yourself all through your studies and see that you achieve those yardsticks. If you cannot, you should look back and see why you could not meet them.
Zest: The most important thing – the zest or enthusiasm to accept the challenges you face during the graduate studies and zest to overcome it. If you have that zeal everything else will fall in place.

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Blogger Jennifer said...

This is a really good post. I have recently created a series of videos for Int'l Students to adjust to life in America. I am curious, can I have permission to reprint this article in full on three of my blogs with link back to your site? If so, contact me at jenkumar at
Thanks a million!

July 25, 2009 1:20 PM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

Internship - dream; next point is not abt jobs, enuf of dreams, lets talk reality.
Jobless - reality;

Brijesh, neat work juxtaposing what a student might dream about and what could happen.

July 25, 2009 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Siva said...

Very nice and creative one.

July 25, 2009 5:28 PM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 25, 2009 5:35 PM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

forgot to mention. Probably this is the most important point that most students don't realize when coming here. More than India, it is much more important to Network in this country to get a job or internship or even a part-time job in school. There is this notion that everything in America is meritorious and if you are good at something you would get what you want. It certainly is not the case. The key here is to be in the right place at the right time (and it helps to know the right people).

July 25, 2009 5:36 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I agree with Karthikayan. I grew up in this country with that same notion- it doesn't matter who you are (family background, connections, networks, etc) but what you can do. Maybe what you can do holds more water in US than other countries, but still it's who you know too. If you know the right people, rub shoulders and get invited to the right meetings/parties, you may have more a 'leg up' than other candidates. It's a delicate balance and often political.

July 25, 2009 5:43 PM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Thanks for linking my post.

Nice point about Networking. One of the points I missed. I agree fully with you. It is all about networking in this country.


July 25, 2009 5:46 PM  
Blogger thiru said...

good thinking..Nair

July 25, 2009 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intersting post Brijesh. very relevant one especially with credit cards, Roommates, cooking and rommmates' cooking.. :).. I have some funny experience of my own.. :P..


July 25, 2009 7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nair, my drinking list at ASU A-Z
A- Anything with Alchohol.
B- Budweiser didnt like it though
C- Captain Morgan
D- daiquiri
E- Electric Screwdriver
F- Fat tire
G- guinness
H- Heiniken
I- Indian Pale Ale (4 Peaks)
J- Jack Daniels
K- Kingfisher
L- Long Island Ice tea
M- Malibu (not the temple)
N- Negra Modelo
O- Orange Juice and Rum
P- Patron
Q- Quickie
R- Rum (Anything which said RUM was game)
S- Schiva's Regal(i know its starts with a C. then if your too paranoid this its Sake bomber)
T- Tequila (shot)
U- Uno bar in tempe is expensive
V- Vermouth
W- Whiskey Cobbler
Y- Yuengling
Z- Zinfindale

Nair i know u wouldnt like this.. but still had to do it..

July 27, 2009 7:47 PM  
Blogger Abhilash Pillai said...

Brijesh... Jennifer referred me to your blog and said to have the comment passed to you for the post on A to Z of graduate study in US.

You have really done a good work. I hope it will help the students to pursue a career in USA very easily.

July 29, 2009 6:41 PM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

That was very funny.

Abhilash Pillai,
Happy to see that students like you are benefited by this post.

July 30, 2009 1:57 AM  

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