Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Four Myths of Studying in USA

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(This blog post is written by Jennifer Kumar co-creator of two cross-cultural training programs: “Chasing the American Dream: From Take Off to Landing” a comprehensive pre-departure preparatory course for students planning to study in US and Living and Working in USA – an online multi-media cross-cultural course for those planning to live, work and study in America.)
It’s going to be easy to adjust- I already have a lot of Desi Friends and Relatives in US – they are doing ok.
We often don’t hear complaints from our relatives abroad. This is because they don’t want us to worry about them. They may mention cultural differences, but not the struggle they faced in adjusting to them. Living abroad is NOT living at home. One will face differences, challenges and adjustments. Remember this when abroad and be ready to be adaptable and flexible.

I’ll be able to get good grades in US. I was class topper in India.
Being a class topper in India is not the same as in USA because the teaching style is different. That means the expectations teachers will have from you in USA is different. Be ready to think independently and creatively on your feet. Be mentally prepared to challenge your fellow students and your teacher also- asking questions, showing off your knowledge and find ways to practically apply your knowledge. This will not be easy. It’s not always easy for Americans. But for Indians it can be more challenging as this requires on-your-feet problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, an ability to talk about your understanding in your own words and not always believing in everything you hear or read.
I can only get help from Indians because Americans and others won’t understand me.
For many Desis studying in USA this will be easy as many colleges have some desis studying there. Before always relying on Desis remember why you are studying abroad. One reason could be because you know you couldn’t get the experience you wanted in India. This is one reason anyone studies abroad – to experience something we can’t find at home. One way of experiencing something not found at home is to step outside your comfort zone. It’s surprising how Americans or other international students can help you understand the local ways of success in the classroom or social arena that a Desi may not be able to help you with because of not being an ‘outsider’ to you (or conversely, if American, an insider to the American culture and mindset). In addition, asking for help from classmates, dorm mates, professors, and various offices on campuses (these are free services paid for with your tuition money- take advantage of it!) can all offer you other unique perspectives that you wouldn’t find ‘at home’. Be brave. Be bold. You came abroad to experience something new and different. The majority of learning on any American campus is done socially and amongst your peers – not in books – take advantage of this great opportunity- get out and talk to people. Ask questions. Be curious.
I will lose my identity if I don’t hang out with Indians or if I hang out with Americans and get Americanized.
This is a fear I hear from a lot of foreigners in US and especially from Desis going to USA for work or studies. It’s a legitimate fear. Again, it’s best to identify why you are going abroad. If you truly want to experience something different – there is a big chance it will affect you. You will not be the exact same person you are today in a few years from now. This will happen even if you don’t leave India. You will grow, mature and change. Life does that to us. Being abroad magnifies this. Also, being abroad means you will have to learn to talk differently, behave differently and do things a bit differently to be successful as already mentioned in the other tips within this article. This will happen to you even if you never leave India- but move to another part of India. For instance, a Tamilian who moves to Delhi- or better yet let’s say, Pilani (Rajastan) may need to learn a new language, speak a different more localized version of English, learn local mannerisms, gain a taste for the local food, change to a local style of dressing, among other changes. One may argue that it’s still India and therefore no need to change the identity – but look at all the adjustments this Tamil person would need to make to fit in with the local Rajastanis and others at BITS Pilani. If you went away from home in India for college- you also came back slightly different. It did not make you less Tamil to pick up Rajasthani habits, or less Delhi-ite to pick up Bangalore habits, or less Keralite to pick up Gujarati habits- it only enhanced your personality, adaptability and success rate away from home. Refresh your memory with the skills you used to adapt to college life in India while adjusting to college life in US as those adjustments were also cross-cultural. You have a leg up on your American counterparts already in your adaptability quotient! You will not lose your identity-as you hadn’t lost it while going away for your graduation to a different part of India- you will enhance it with new coping skills that none of your friends back in India can boast of because of staying local (and cross-cultural adaptation skills look darn good on a resume!).
Thank you for reading.
Jennifer Kumar is a co-creator of two cross-cultural training programs: “Chasing the American Dream: From Take Off to Landing” a comprehensive pre-departure preparatory course for students planning to study in US and Living and Working in USA – an online multi-media cross-cultural course for those planning to live, work and study in America.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

India needs a servant, not a saheb or a Mem Sahiba. If the politicians
stop their interference in everything as their fathers' property, the Indian elite has the capability to lift country to such heights that these idiots can lift their heads up against anything on this globe. Will these morons do it is the big question? India has no dearth of talent. It only has dearth of political will.

God bless

September 14, 2011 9:47 PM  

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