Ashish Dakarapu from India: Studying for a Master's Degree in Computer Science at Western Illinois University
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
As we all know, the United States is a land of opportunities. It is a dream of every foreign student to study here and experience the world-class quality education. It is a very common dream of Indian students to study in the United States. I am among those who came here to fulfill my childhood dreams.
Why did you choose Western Illinois University?
When I was first thinking of doing a master’s degree, I enquired about the course work which gave me a positive opinion about my branch (computer science). I received positive feedback about the university. I was also told about the cost of living, which is very affordable for students and the free public transportation. Western Illinois University (WIU) is also ranked as the Best Mid-Western University by Princeton Review.
What do you like best?
I really like the course work here compared to other universities, which rank similar to Western Illinois University. The cultural activities that WIU conducts got my attention and I was happy that I could share my culture here. I also feel that the international students are really well taken care of in all aspects.
What do you miss most?
I miss my family a lot and my home food. I also miss my friends and my native place.
What was your biggest surprise?
My biggest surprise here was about the culture change, drastic changes in the weather and food habits. I also realized I am gaining a lot more practical knowledge than I expected.
... your biggest disappointment?
I was expecting the public transport system to be the same as I was used to in India. Although Macomb does have a free bus system that goes around campus and town, it is not exactly what I was expecting.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
In India, English is taught as a second language. I have a good command of English for this reason and did not have any major difficulties. Learning a new accent was a little challenging, but something I learned quickly.
My family supported me for my finances in the beginning. Later, I was able to get a job on campus and managed to take care of my expenses.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
The education system was different from ours; The grading scale is different. Every assignment or exam adds a percentage to the final grade, which doesn’t happen in India.
What are your activities?
We have an active Indian Student Organization (ISO) and I am an active ISO member and participate in all the events. Also, we have many international student clubs who organize events regularly. As I love dance, I keep myself busy in participating in these events and grab all the opportunities to perform every single time.
How easy or difficult was making friends?
People here are very sweet and kind. They are always ready to help the international students. It was easy for me to make many friends as I go to lot of international gatherings. I also go to a church on campus, the Campus Students for Christ, where I get to meet a lot of international students and make friends.
How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I want to go back to my country after gaining some professional experience after graduation. My plan is to set up a software industry and help in the development of my country. Having my master’s degree from Western Illinois University has given me a strong educational foundation and will set me up to be successful in my goals.
What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?
I want them to know that studying in the United States is not as hard as they might expect. They just need to work hard. There are challenges in everything, but once those are overcome the results will be fruitful. There might be sudden changes in terms of culture, getting used to the accent, food habits and working habits. I would encourage them to be ready for these changes and enjoy their time here. That’s the key to happiness.
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