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Study US: 'I will be leaving in one month'
Aparna Patel
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July 20, 2007

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

To document this process, we've asked students who are leaving to share their thoughts and concerns.

Today, we present the story of Aparna Patel, who is going to the United States to study Political Economy.

My name is Aparna Patel and I'm leaving for Grinnell College in the United States. I grew up in Bombay for the first 18 years of my life before moving to Dubai two years ago.

Grinnell is located in the state of Iowa, which has a small population and is known for farming. I've only been to the US once, and that too, New York City. So this change will be enormous -- going to a farming state after living in Bombay and Dubai!

I've decided on the US for two main reasons.

Number one, I want to see a new part of the world and meet people with backgrounds different from mine. Grinnell is known for its diverse student population, so I know that I will meet all types of people.

Number two, I want to study politics and political economy. In India and the UAE, the career options and university options for this field are very limited. Everyone looks at me like I have two heads when I mention my plans.

Right now, I'm mostly concerned with getting packed and trying to meet people at my university through the internet. Thankfully, Grinnell has a programme where alumni, faculty and students can network socially in cyberspace. I've signed up for an account and I've sent a few e-mails, though I have gotten many responses.

From talking to other people, I've learned how necessary it is to do this type of work before leaving. I want to know the head of my department, my advisor and my roommate before even landing.

If I had to describe my current status, I'd say that I'm nervous but excited.

I'm nervous because I know how my life will change forever from this experience. I've been rather sheltered and spoiled during my youth. I'm an only child and my father treats me like a true princess. Now, there will be no domestic help, no hot food on the table and I'll have to keep my accounts in order.

Also, I'm not a shy person, but I'm not sure how I will react to my American classmates. Iowa is a 'George W Bush', so even if my classmates accept me, I'm fearful that people from outside the college will insult me for being from the 'Middle East'.

I don't know my roommate yet, only her name. She's from California and her surname is 'Hernadez', so she will probably be Latin-American. I hope she likes chilly food! I just hope that I can understand her, because I've never met anyone with that ethnic background.

I chose a non-international roommate because I believe the best way to experience the US is to meet and live with the people. If I wanted to be with a Naira or a Simran [Images], I could have gone back to Bombay.

Still, I hope to meet all the international students, particularly any from Bombay, because it would be nice to reminisce with someone if I get lonely. I left India two years ago, so I've dealt with homesickness. This time, I'll be more excited than homesickness, which wasn't the case when my family shifted to Dubai.

Food is a concern, because my family basically eats Jain preparations. Sometimes, with friends, I eat non-Jain food, but at home we rarely do this. Now, I'm going to a country known for hamburgers and potato chips. I don't enjoy Western food, only the occasional risotto or soup. Will I survive?

I'm excited because I'm about to do something that doesn't even seem possible to me! As I said, I've been pampered for twenty years. Now, I'm off to fend for myself and try to make it in a new country.

Also, Grinnell is a great university and it is known for the amount of students who receive PhD degrees. One day, I hope to earn a PhD and work for the United Nations or for the government of India. Grinnell seems like the best way to make my dream a reality.

My flight is on August 21, so I'll be leaving in one month. Saying good-bye to my family and my home is going to be difficult, but I'm ready for this challenge.

I keep saying this to my father, who seems to be very upset as the date approaches. I say, 'Dad, you wanted this for me! Everything you've ever taught me has made me who I am today. I'll make you proud.' Then, we both start crying, but in a happy way.

I do not have many friends in Dubai, so I won't miss them. I try to go back to India every few months, but living in Iowa will make it impossible. Therefore, I might not see my Bombay friends again for a few years. But, life is bittersweet. I'm going to pursue my PhD, and that's the greatest gift I could ever imagine.

I believe my experience in the US will give me a new perspective on Americans and on the world in general. I hope to use this knowledge to improve India.


~ 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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