Let’s be realistic. We have all dreamt of travelling to our dream university, sitting in colossal classrooms, and even setting up a dorm room! But have you ever wondered what life would look like after attaining your degree?
What most students fail to understand is that attaining a foreign degree is not the end of living abroad. In fact, it is just the beginning. Your time in an international university may be a rollercoaster, and it may be the first time living away from your family. But this seemingly-daunting experience is fairly straightforward, when compared to life after graduation.
Poornima F S, a graduate from California State University, shares her experience of attaining a foreign education. “Being accepted into CSU was a dream come true. I had already envisioned my first day in the university, and I felt ecstatic as I was living my biggest dream. But I hadn’t really considered the possibilities after attaining my Master’s degree. Weeks passed by and I realized that it was imperative that I had a solid plan about my future. I spoke to several alumni and understood the hardships post-graduation.”
She elaborated, “Most Indian institutes follow the practice of ‘Campus Placements’ wherein companies recruit students directly from the college campus. But this is uncommon in the US. From hunting for job openings to fixing an interview date, each student must fill job applications, patiently wait for a follow-up call, and compete with numerous others for that one coveted position. And the circumstances are different for International students, because of the involvement of visa conversion from a student visa to a worker visa. And this is a tedious task for both the job applicant and the company.”
“I studied in CSU on an education loan, and I was to repay my loan within the next 5-10 years. That meant that part of my income would be paid to the bank for at least 5 years, leaving me with a fraction of my salary for expenses. The starting salary was high compared to the average starting package in India, but the general prices and rent are also higher. Managing my finances was challenging during the first two months of employment, but I am slowly getting the hang of it. My parents do not manage my expenditures anymore, and independently monitoring my expenses has been a learning experience for me.”
When asked about visa, she replied, “Acquiring any kind of visa has become challenging in the past couple of years, especially an H1B visa. Fortunately, I opted for the OPT (optional practical training) before applying for H1B. This allows me to gain experience in the technological field for a year, with only an F1 visa. The OPT also allows a 17 month OPT extension for students in STEM fields. Meanwhile, I can apply for a H1B visa and look for a more permanent job. It is advisable to opt for the OPT program because it simplifies the transition from an F1 visa to a H1B visa.”
Working at Amazon with five months of work experience, she smiles when asked about her newly-begun professional life. “Overall, the work life is strict and sophisticated. A 9 am meeting meant everyone should be present by 8:45 am. Initially, I’d arrive at 8:55 am and receive unimpressed glares from my colleagues. Everyone arrives prepared and gets straight to work the minute the meeting has ended. But weekends are meant for recreation and social service. The company organizes a ton of activities, some including our families. There is never a dull moment here and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”