US alumni insights: Studying outside India can be an enriching experience in more ways than one. Students are exposed to diverse academic, social, personal and intellectual views that encourage them to learn, unlearn and reinvent themselves. Deciding upon studying in the US and going through the journey does have its ups and downs and requires determination to succeed. Through student case-studies, EducationUSA at the United States India Educational Foundation brings you two US alumni- Rachita Gulati and Sriharsha Masabathula who share their insights about the benefits of US higher education.

Rachita Gulati graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Masters in Information Systems in 2014 and works as a Business Intelligence Engineer for Monsanto in St. Louis, Missouri. Sriharsha Masabathula completed his undergraduate studies from Ohio Wesleyan University and is currently working with UNESCO in Myanmar. While Rachita was a graduate student and attended a large public university, Sriharsha pursued his undergraduate studies from a Liberal Arts and Sciences College in Ohio. Both these students represent two diverse experiences of the US higher education system.

Following are excerpts from the conversations with the two about their unique pathways and experiences in the United States.

Q1. What were the reasons that prompted you to choose the United States to pursue your higher education?

Rachita GulatiRachita Gulati: I wanted to pursue graduate studies in Management Information System in order to become conversant with the latest technologies in the field. I chose the US because of the flexibility of the education system; I could tailor the program according to my academic or professional goals in both Biology and Computer Science. United States allows students the opportunity to gain hands-on training in the form of CPT/OPT (Curriculum Practical Training and Optional Practical Training). I utilised this opportunity - thereby adding greater value and enhancing my employability.

Sriharsha MasabathulaSriharsha Masabathula: I was keen to pursue my undergraduate studies at the Liberal Arts and Sciences College, as I was looking to broaden my horizons and learn in a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural environment. Liberal-Arts & Sciences colleges like Ohio Wesleyan University in the US offered me a conducive environment to learn and grow professionally and personally. The small-class size, high-quality faculty, opportunities for research and extra-curricular activities motivated me to consider the generous financial assistance offered by Liberal Arts & Sciences Colleges in the US was also a major deciding factor. 

Q2. Describe your academic experience of studying at a US university

Rachita Gulati: Studying in the United States has been the best experience of my life in terms of quality of education it offered. Unlike Indian education, we were constantly encouraged to challenge ideas and present arguments. I was also exposed to advanced technology and current research in my discipline which has given me an edge in areas like Data Sciences and Analytics. I got the opportunity to work with Monsanto as an intern which helped me apply theoretical concepts to work. I was hired to work as their Business Intelligence Engineer at the end of my internship.


Sriharsha Masabathula: The flexibility of the curriculum allowed me to design an innovative course framework, wherein I specialised in Economics, and pursued courses from other disciplines that helped me look at Economics through different lenses. For instance, I minored in Philosophy, which allowed me to explore the theoretical underpinnings of Economics, and also took courses in Mathematics which helped developed my analytical skills. I also had the opportunity to explore courses such as Environmental Chemistry, Ethics and Music Literature which built my appreciation for other disciplines. The classroom experience helps build professionalism, as the academic rigor and high-expectations from students ensure that each lecture and assignment are geared to develop specific skills. I could interact with professors regularly, and seek help whenever required. Special emphasis is placed on innovation and creativity, which motivated me to explore different ways of looking at problems.


Q4. Describe how you grew as a scholar and a student while pursuing a program

Rachita Gulati: Along the two years of my graduate studies, each course involved some sort of assignments and projects. These assignments gave practical, on the job experience and some even had us working with companies directly. In the US, I had to refer to and analyze journal articles and books, consult professors and peers to tackle academic challenges. This approach to learning helped me hone my analytical skills and become an independent thinker.


Sriharsha Masabathula: Irrespective of the discipline one pursues, I believe that the American education system helps build certain key skills and traits which are required across the board for successful professional and personal lives. In particular, I was trained in academic and non-academic writing and making compelling and cohesive arguments. Moreover, the enabling environment, high-quality infrastructure coupled with the experience and expertise of professors allowed me to push my boundaries.


Q5. How did you see yourself growing as a person while attending a US school?

Rachita Gulati: Student life in the US was not limited to educational pursuits alone; I dedicated my time to student clubs and organizations like Enactus. I worked on a project aimed at empowerment of homeless women in Texas. Involvement in Enactus helped me learn the importance of dedicating my time towards social issues and understanding American culture. Such initiatives are respected and demonstrate personal and professional maturity in the American culture. Living in the US has also helped me become a more independent human being more capable of handling my personal, professional and financial self.


Sriharsha Masabathula: I had the opportunity to engage in various extra-curricular activities during my time at Ohio Wesleyan. I traveled to Alaska on a study-visit as part of a “Mathematical Modeling for Climate” course, where I studied modeling glacial changes and its impact on the global climate.  I was also awarded a “Theory to Practice” grant to travel to Japan with two fellow classmates to help the 2011 earthquake victims as volunteers. In addition, I made use of various other opportunities on and off-campus to attend leadership conferences, Model United Nations, and other academic seminars and events, which helped me apply classroom learning in the real-world.   


Most importantly, I realized that sky is the limit, and I have been able to carry forward that attitude into my life after college. Given the flexibility of the education system in the US, I was able to complete my undergraduate degree within 3 years with departmental honors in Economics (major), and a minor in Philosophy. The experience has transformed me into believing that one must aim high, and with hard work and persistence, anything is possible!


As told to Anubhooti Arora and Rupali Verma, EducationUSA Advisers at the United States India Educational Foundation, New Delhi


Pic credit: University of Texas at Dallas

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