Ishan Shah from India: Studying Finance at the University of Illinois at Chicago
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I wanted to study in United States since I was 13-years-old. Of course, it was a matter of reputation, but I also wanted to go to a university that truly challenged me and made me grow in ways beyond just academics.
Why did you choose the University of Illinois at Chicago?
I wanted to go to a university near a major city. And it was also important for me to be near a financial hub. Earlier, I had visited U.S. several times with my family. And on my visit to Chicago, I fell in love with the city. I found that the people were the warmest, and the weather the coldest. And the deep dish pizza cemented Chicago as my top choice.
What do you like best?
I believe the diversity that University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) embraces has been extremely valuable. Coming as an international student, adjusting to the American life was a dramatic change from what I was used to. But at UIC, there were a lot of resources to help students make that change, and the diversity ended up you always finding a place to fit it.
What do you miss most?
I miss the festival of Navratri the most. However, UIC often hosts an annual Navratri festival as well.
What was your biggest surprise?
The biggest surprise I faced when I came to U.S. was finally realizing the fact that the independence that distance from my family brought me also levied several responsibilities on me.
... your biggest disappointment?
As an international student, you are not permitted by the government to work in your first year. And after that, you have certain other restrictions for work as well.
How have you handled:
Since I spent two years in India before coming to U.S., I had my finances for the entire four years planned out already. My parents were majorly supportive, hence financially I did not have major problems.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
Adjusting to the American system did take time for me to get used to. I had been educated in a system were discussion was not a major part of the curriculum. However, in American institutions, they encourage in-class debates and discussions of ideas. I initially was shy, but over time I grew to embrace and love this teaching methodology, and ended up leading the pack.
What are your activities?
I have been a part of UIC Business Scholars Program, was a part of Finance Investment Group, Collegiate Association of Business Scholars, and chess club in my freshman and sophomore year. I also interned with Credit Suisse Mumbai in my freshman summer break, and also spent nine weeks at London School of Economics this summer.
How easy or difficult was making friends?
I guess it is as difficult as any other place. When you have people you share similar interests with, it’s easy to make friends. But it’s especially easier at UIC because you will often find other students with similar interests due to such a diverse student population.
How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
Currently, my plan after graduation is to pursue Masters of Financial Analysis at London Business School and after which I plan to work for a consulting firm. After gaining valuable work experience, I would hopefully like to pursue a PhD focusing of studying the use and development of financial instruments for developing economies to fund social programs.
What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?
The one piece of advice I would like to give to anyone who wishes to pursue a similar path is don’t doubt yourself. America is a country which is extremely warm and open to everyone. When you embrace its values, and respect your peers, the fruits that you will bear from your efforts will be the sweetest. But don’t doubt yourself on whether you can make it or not. Because this is a place that will instantly become your home. So much so that you’ll be sad leaving even for summer breaks.
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