Like every student pursuing a professional course in India, I too dreamt of going abroad for getting exposure to international education. United States, like majority Indians, was my first choice and more so because of the field I chose to study at the graduate level in India.
Once I finalised on US I started preparing for entrance exams like GRE and TOEFL. With good scores I applied in a few universities of my choice after carefully studying their history, academic culture and why international students choose them. The day I received the I-20 from Mercer University, Atlanta, I was on cloud nine. I had an idea about the university even before I was actually there as I had my senior from Bachelors, Thripthy Chandran, already in the programme.
Now I am in my second year of Ph.D in Pharmaceutical sciences at Mercer University. I had some very good experiences personally and professionally at Mercer and in US for the past one year. Mercer has three campuses located at Macon, Atlanta and Savannah.
I found here everything what all an international student expects. Seniors are always there to help us with many issues starting from airport pick up to help us with SSN (Social Security Number), bank accounts, getting a mobile connection, accommodation and coping up with the coursework and research.
We have fantastic facilities whether it's for academics like library, computer lab to help us with our studies or recreational facilities like the gymnasium and sports centre to refresh ourselves. One good thing about Mercer is that it offers graduate programme admission, straight after Bachelors in Pharmacy. In fact, I myself along with many of my other friends have come straight after our bachelors into Ph.D programme. Also the coursework at Mercer spans for two years and the average time taken to complete one's Ph.D ranges from four to five years.
Mercer also offers varied areas of research interest, with each lab working on a specialised research area. It is also located close to federal research bodies like Centre of Disease control (CDC) and Industries like Ciba vision, which facilitates collaborations in our research projects.As expected from any other US university, Mercer also has many international students with students coming from India, China and Nigeria. We have a big Indian community here and also being located in the city which has very huge Indian community, one can always feel at home. The other thing that needs mention and what people love about Atlanta is its pleasant climate. We enjoy stress free environment that helps to concentrate in our research and at the end of the day, we have loads of fun too.
Finally, I don't want to give false hopes that everything will work our way in the US. Initially, the family and friends back home are badly missed and getting adjusted to a totally different culture is also a bit difficult.
Moreover, we need to try our hands in varied fields like cooking and being more organised. We can feel the absence of the comfort factor that our mothers and fathers give back home.
But after first few months, when once we are in the league, we will start enjoying the life here and that's when we say to ourselves “No place else, I would rather be.” (This is Mercer's tagline!!!).
Lakshmi Prasanna Kolluru