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US studies: 'You're a better person by the end!'
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August 22, 2007

Aadhan Aazhi, former US student, writes to us:

"Before I left, I would never imagined spending seven years at a US university in my wildest dreams. But at just 17 years old, I had the opportunity of a life time and I made absolute use of it.

Growing up during my college years in America instilled a great sense of responsibility, gave me the ability to be independent and filled my life with excitement. I consider those my very important years -- years that have shaped me who I am today. I wouldn't trade it for anything!"

Aadhan earned both his undergraduate degree and his Master's degree in the US; he now works for a MNC in Chennai. On August 8, he took time out of his busy day to chat with Get Ahead users about studying abroad.

For those of you who missed the chat, here's part one of the transcript:

Shah asked, Hello sir, I am goin to the us this fall. is there anything to keep in mind when packing for my US unviersity?

Aadhan answers, 
I would suggest packing lightly. Concentrate on carrying books that your course would require, since books can be expensive back in the States. You get everything else like -- utensils, groceries etc, so I wouldn't be too worried about those.

usha asked, hello aadhan. Wish to know if it is very difficult for conservative people to adjust to us environment

Aadhan answers, 
Not necessarily. Just dont have any pre-conceived notions, be open. There are a lot of conservative folks out there as well. It's just perspective on what your understanding of conservative is. Doubt if it would be an issue at all.

nandini asked, Sir, did u face racism during the course of studies? if so, how to react to it?

Aadhan answers, 
Luckily, I have never had to face any real trouble with racism. The only exception to that, would be immediately after 9/11, when I was strolling in the mall, couple of guys yelled out "go back to your country, you arab!" I just ignored it and continued to walk, pretending not to hear them. All universities are well protected by campus police, are they are very particular about safety of international students and will not tolerate any racist behaviour.

Gnan asked, hey adnan...are there any top notch univs who accept admssions without GRE?

Aadhan answers, 
GRE is a standardised test, and I doubt there are any universities that would forego go that as part of their requirement and still be classified as "top notch."

Shrikanth asked, Hi!!! I am a Chemical Engineer Planning to do MS in Environmental engineering. Can u just tell me something about how good my specialisation would help in the current situation?

Aadhan answers, 
Environmental Engineering is a great field. I have a cousin who did his Master's in Environmental and he used to work with a firm in New York called Metcalf & Eddy. So it certainly sounds like a promising field!

sengupta asked, Did you find Indian food difficult to find or to come by? DId you prepare your own food? Is it difficult to live without domestic help?

Aadhan answers, 
Indian food is easily available, in restaurants or from grocery stores where you can buy ready to eat stuff. I lived with a few room-mates who were also from India and we used to take turns and cook on a daily basis. It is certainly easy to live without domestic help. That has to be part of your learning experience, what we take for granted here will take a new meaning when you do it on your own. Am sure you will come out a better person by the end of it!

Yahoo asked, How is george mason University in Virginia ?

Aadhan answers, 
I have had several friends who studied in George Mason university, with it proximity to Northern Virginia and Washington DC, am sure its bustling with activities and also there are a lot of companies around the area. And also a heavy Indian population, if you are particular!

r asked, Hello Aadhan... hope u wont ignore this question... what is the rationale behind REDIFF inviting you to reply all the newcomes going to US... How do u justify or explain this.. May be many have this doubt before putting questions to you.. Nothing personal... just a question.. Good luck at ur work...

Aadhan answers, 
Simple logic, I went to the US when I was 17, got my undergrad from the US and continued to get my Master's there. So I would think I have first hand information readily available.

Shantanu asked, How is it possible to earn and learn at the same time in US ? (If no scholarship is available as such)

Aadhan answers, 
On-campus jobs are available, which will help you get through your monthly living expenses without any problem. You are allowed to work 20 hours. And during the summer and winter breaks you can also work off-campus by getting a Curricular practical training with a company and get hands on experience and also the pay is relatively more compared to regular on-campus.

astro asked, What is the approximate electricity and internet bill each month that would incur for 1-2 bhk apartment in a city like Durham and in a more expensive city like New York? What would be the miscellaneous expenses except apartment rent and tuition fees and how much would they approximate be?

Aadhan answers, 
I lived in a two bedroom apartment with three other students. Our monthly expenses were about 500-600 dollars (about Rs 20,000) which includes rent, electricity and food. I lived in Virginia, which is not too far from Durham, North Carolina. Internet facility should be readily available in your university, even otherwise it's relatively inexpensive to get a wirelss connection for your own apartment and split the cost with your room-mates. Miscellaneous expenses, really depends on your style of living, movies, eating out, buying stuff, travelling can all come under that!

sameera asked, hi aadhan, im moving atalanta, georgia state, i just wanted to know how safe in women life in US

Aadhan answers, 
Safety should really not be too much of a concern, the universities public safety department takes great steps to ensure the safety of the students. If you have to stay late in your department to work on something, you can use the 'escort' service where a student cop will escort you to your apartment. But in general you should be aware of important phone numbers and travel in group at least till you get used to the new environment!

Sanjayv asked, Also, i was wondering, what sort of pocket money would you say in the right amount for each month. would 300 dollars american be too much for a 19 year old?

Aadhan answers, 
Honestly I won't be able to make a judgement call on Vanderbilt university. I am assuming you have done enough research on the university to know all the facts before you have decided. Spending money/month, really depends on each individual. For basic needs stay and food per month, average would be $500 (Rs 20,000) from my experience!

  Part II: Tomorrow

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