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'Studying in the US for 7 years shaped who I am today'
Aazhi Aadhan
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July 19, 2007

With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.

To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we've asked students who are already studying abroad to share their experiences.

Today, we share the story of Aazhi Aadhan, who studied at Old Dominion University in the US for seven years.

The year was 1997. I had just celebrated my 17th birthday with my family. I had also just finished my high-school, and was getting ready to start four years in a US university.

I was heading there to pursue my undergraduate degree, with encouragement from my parents. The fact that they had such trust in me left me nervous, yet extremely excited.

Largely, my experiences abroad were pleasant, to the extent that I stayed for seven years and earned my Master's degree from the same university.

At 17, the biggest drawbacks were getting used to a new country, culture, people and food. On top of all this, I had to juggle studies, homework, employment, assignments and exams.

The very thought of this might sound daunting. But if you are levelheaded and willing to ask questions, it will be the experience of a lifetime.

My life at university began with a great orientation programme for incoming international students. It was an intensive, one-week programme, designed to teach all the necessary things about life in America.

This was particularly useful for me. I wasn't used to the Grade Point Average (GPA) system and how exactly classes worked. Also, they us introduced to the university campus and the general way of life in the US.

Secondly, I was introduced to my advisor -- yet another great tool in the form of a person for all your needs. My university had this extra special program called the 'freshmen year experience' where we actually had to meet up with our advisor on a weekly basis for about an hour, one-on-one, just to talk.

We talked about getting used to classes, roommate troubles, food in the cafeteria and so on. My advisor was the person I would turn too, someone who I built a great rapport with and someone who was a mentor to me. This made my job of getting used to everything easier.

I also chose to live in an all-American dorm room. What better way to get 'de-virginized' (the exact phrase coined by my roommate) by American culture, than by actually living with them. My roommates and I became good friends; I was invited to all their family holidays and they were a great source of support for me.

Another interesting aspect of the American education system is its flexibility. Although I was getting a technical degree, my first two years comprised classes such as -- Theater, Music, Oceanography, Literature and Psychology. Some of these classes were absolutely new to me.

The purpose of doing it this way is to give the student an all-round view. It makes you understand that there are options outside a technical degree -- the choices were present in front you if you wanted to change your mind. These also happened to be some of the most interesting classes and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

The part-time job was a concept that was very new to me. I had never worked growing up; I believe it's a cultural thing. But I noticed that my peers had an additional responsibility to deal with, working part-time on campus.

So my freshman year, a friend of mine got me a job on-campus at our cafeteria. Dignity of labour is something that had a whole new meaning after I started making pizzas. Then I went to be computer lab consultant, where eventually I was named Team Leader.

All this might not sound easy, and most certainly, is not for everyone. The Indian way of college is completely different. Students don't have any of the other factors to deal, just studying and hanging out with friends.

But at the end of the day, I realise that those years made me a better person and made me cross paths with some very interesting people, including my professors, administrators and friends.

These friends have made a lasting impression on me. My time with them has given me the most amazing stories that I will always remember when I grow old and look back on this journey.

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!


~ Are you a student who is studying/ has studied abroad? What advice would you have for other students who may soon be pursuing studies in a foreign country? What are your experience as an international student? What were the things you wished you knew before you left home? Write to us at and we will feature your experiences right here.

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