What’s it like studying at the “Harvard of the Sky”? Bharathi Mohan talks about her experience

Most of us have a childhood dream of going into space. I was among the lucky ones who was able to pursue that dream and, I actually ended up in one of the most prestigious schools for Aerospace Engineering in the United States for my Master’s degree. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S., was established specially to teach the science, practice and business of aerospace, and hence called “The Harvard of the Sky” by the Times magazine.

When I received the admit letter, I was thrilled and excited beyond words. Visa, shopping, packing — all added to the thrill of going to a new country. I was anxious about the immigration procedures but what caught my attention at the airport and afterwards was the friendly “Hi, How are you?” with a pleasant smile from most of those around.

The Indian Student Association had arranged for a pick-up from the airport. After the jetlag wore out, I visited the vast and beautiful ERAU campus with which I immediately fell in love. I was asked to select the courses for the semester and as I wished to pursue a career in the aerospace design field, I selected the relevant courses. Since I was not particularly interested in research at that time, I opted for a non-thesis and was glad to hear that there was the flexibility of changing the options anytime before the second year.

Building synergy

The International Students Association (ISA) belonging to the university helps students like me. They introduced me to the culture of the country while helping me remain in touch with ours. The ISA made sure that all the important festivals of international students were remembered and acknowledged; there were also several group activities which helped bonding with other international students. They also arranged trips to several nearby places such as St. Augustine, Mt Dora and Kennedy Space Center.

The career expo conducted at ERAU is worth mentioning. Being a specialised university for aerospace, thousands of aerospace companies visit the expo. Some of the favourites were Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Airbus, airlines like the American, Delta, to name a few. The career services department works overtime and conducts workshops during this time to help students modify their resume and conduct mock interviews.

Working part-time as a Math tutor and as a student assistant in the Student Activities Department in the campus was an educative and learning experience. Living and studying in a foreign country is a wonderful experience not just for the excellent academics, but for the much needed exposure it provides and the independence it gives to learn and experience new things.

The journey was not all a breeze though; there were hardships — living away from family, long nights working on assignments and projects, managing finances, learning to cook, drive, getting accustomed to the life in a foreign country, but at the end of the day, biting into a bar of Hershey’s makes it all worth it!