A Masters degree abroad is never a cake walk for Indian students. There is one too many reasons for studying abroad. While few of the students pursue their Masters in the United States of America for a shot at earning in US dollars, some pursue their degree to bring back the knowledge and experience learnt to their home country.

The questions that I was repeating to myself just like every other student were: Do I have the academic qualifications to apply? Do I have adequate English to boost my confidence in a foreign land? Am I prepared to face a new culture and use my independence appropriately? Do I have enough money to support myself?

Culture shock

When I was ready with all the answers, I applied to the University of South Florida for my Masters in Biomedical Engineering. I chose this university since it was one of the nation's top public research universities. USF (as we call it) had a huge campus with numerous buildings in which a new student can easily be lost. On my first day at the university, I had a map of the campus but I had no clue as to where I was. A young American lady on her way into the building spotted me and came over to find out if I was lost. She directed me to the place I had to go and she even walked me to the campus shuttle stop which was apparently a mini bus where the students board for a free ride around the campus.

Education system

The education system was very different at first. We had to take only three courses per semester and do a lot of researching on each subject. The courses over the semesters are mostly electives except for a few core courses. The freedom of choosing the courses is given to the students. There were no final exams which determined the grades but a series of projects and assignments throughout the semester which gave our grade curve. Our study group was a multi-national group. We had a seven-storey library which was open till midnight every day and also had secure buildings which can be accessed only by students 24x7 for group study.

The exposure to the other country nationals and their culture was indeed an experience to talk about.

Being a research university, the lab settings and the equipments were absolutely magnificent. This paved way for many Research Assistant positions. These positions helped the international students by paying bi-weekly salary for the hours we have worked.

Growing up

Living abroad makes us realise that our mother's job at home is definitely not easy. We had an apartment rented out in the student's community.

We had to try our hand at cooking and cleaning. Gradually, we all became experts by the end of two years and we not only gained a Masters degree but also became a more mature and responsible adult.

I have come back to India now and work for a reputed hospital at Chennai with 13 courses of Biomedical Engineering from the USF under my belt.

Divya Balasubramanian

University of South Florida

http://www.usf.edu

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