Hi! I am Komal “Komz” Muthyalu. I am Indian but I grew up in Dubai. I grew up in an Indian community in Dubai so I never felt like I was away from India. I also went to an Indian school in Dubai for a while until middle school. I dropped out after that and was home-schooled all throughout high school. I realized I didn’t like being in school and learning things I was not interested in. I felt that there was a faster way of completing high school and going to college. So, my parents and I thought the best decision was to home-school me so I could focus on the subjects that I loved. This not only helped me have more time for my family and myself, but also participate in more community related and organizational work.
One of my childhood friends approached me about starting an environmental organization and I immediately jumped into the opportunity with her. I was able to work in the mornings when she was in school and attend events, meetings, etc. when most kids my age would have to dedicate their entire day to their education. I was the Head of Operations and the opportunity eventually felt like a full-time job. We were the most active youth group in the UAE and were eventually recognized by the United Nations. We had over 100 members internationally and presented in front of thousands of students in the UAE.
My family and I have visited the U.S. many times. The first time I came to the U.S. was in 2007 when I was 8-years-old, and I absolutely fell in love with California. According to my parents, I didn’t like New York because I thought it was extremely crowded. Ever since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to come to the U.S. for my further education.
In 2015, it was finally time for me to start looking into universities and discovering programs that I loved. I have always been fascinated with technology and media. And so, I thought the right choice for me was engineering. I came across Columbia University’s Combined Plan Engineering Program with liberal arts colleges. I applied to eight liberal arts schools that offered that program and was rejected by one. My family could not afford to pay for my education so my ultimate decision was also dependent on the scholarships and financial aid that I was offered.
One school offered me a full tuition scholarship, however, the University of Redlands was able to meet my complete financial need in addition to tuition. And the best part? It’s in California. California was definitely my top choice; however, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to afford coming to school here. The University of Redlands made that more than possible for me. I was able to visit the school before I made my final decision and it felt like an easy decision once I came to this campus and met the people. I was very well taken care of during the entire weekend that I was here.
I loved my first semester at this university and I learnt a lot about myself too. I realized that I didn’t enjoy engineering. I wanted to work in the tech and media industry but from a more business standpoint. This seemed like a pretty specific interest and I didn’t know if I was able to do that here. That’s when I heard about the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, a program offered at the university. The program lets students create their own major, take classes in any department they want, and also contract the classes they take to tailor it to their educational desires. The name of my major is “Digital Transformation and Business Strategy.” The focus is mainly on marketing, digital media, and entertainment. I don’t think there is any other program in the entire country where I could study exactly what I want in the way that I want to.
Right now, I am half way through my junior year and there are so many things at this university I have been able to do since my time here. Most of freshman year, I worked at the Pride Center where we did work related to LGBTQIA+ or queer issues on campus. Most of the work included setting up events catered to the community and creating learning spaces for everyone. I tutored economics for a semester and also worked as the Head of Web Development at the Johnston Radio station (completely run by students). I am currently a peer advisor for a class called Incredible India, where I get to hear what students have to say about my culture. I basically help incoming freshman understand the credit system and help them register for classes.
I volunteered to be an international student orientation leader my sophomore and junior years and was able to meet wonderful international students from all over the world. I was always interested in working with/for international students. When I came in as freshman, I didn't feel like there were many of us at all. And from then, I knew I wanted to change that. Our numbers have almost doubled since then. I actively reached out to the International Admissions Counselor to see if I could help him in any way. I volunteered at the center for Campus Diversity and Inclusion. During my sophomore year, I was offered a job as a Global Programs Assistant at the Office of International Students and Scholars. I was extremely excited because this was exactly what I wanted to do.
I am now a part of a lot of organizations and have a wonderful group of friends that I call family. I am studying what I want to study and I have the job that I always wanted. My entire experience at this university has been amazing and I am looking forward to going into my next semester soon.
Komal Muthyalu is an Indian student from Dubai studying Digital Transformation and Business Strategy at University of Redlands.