Dreams come true: A look at what it’s like to live on the world’s top campuses
After all the hard work, the applications and the essays, students discuss life at some of the most prestigious universities in the world.Updated: Aug 23, 2017 20:32 IST
Parth Mehta, 20, says he had been aiming for Harvard since he was a child. Karan Kothari, 28, gave up a senior executive position to prepare for London’s Imperial College. Top universities are what ambition-fuelled dreams are made of. But what is it like when you finally get there? We spoke to a few students who are currently overseas, living their dream, for details.
‘DON’T EXPECT A JOB TO FALL IN YOUR LAP’
Samoti Mazumdar, 26
Pursuing a Masters of Business in Sports Management from Deakin University, Melbourne
Working in a sports management company back home, I realised that Melbourne was emerging as the sporting hub and started zeroing in on options only to find out that the world’s third best was Deakin. Australia also offers an automatic work permit for two years after your course. When I got here, the first few months were confusing and overwhelming — but exciting. Unlike in India, there’s no spoonfeeding here. For every assignment, one needs to do truckloads of reading and research. During the course, being an Indian is not so much of a problem. When you’re looking for a job, though, people seem to expect more from foreigners.
‘THE HARDEST PART WILL BE LEAVING THIS CAMPUS AFTER ALL I HAVE EXPERIENCED’
Pursuing a joint concentration in Physics and Computer Science with a secondary in Statistics at Harvard
I was in Class 4 when I first saw my father wearing a Harvard University T-shirt. He told me he’d be overjoyed if I ever managed a successful application, and I never forgot that.
When the time came, I applied to Stanford, UCLA, MIT and Georgia Tech, but the memory of that T-shirt’s stayed with me.
When I got through, I was elated. I will never forget the feeling I had when I first walked into the majestic Annenberg Hall, where meals are served.
I saw a documentary there in which a girl’s brain was scanned to study which parts are activated by a math problem. At Annenberg, I met that girl and we had a lovely conversation about the experiment and her love for math. These are the kind of surprises you get .
It is after all Harvard! An institution that is older than the United States Constitution.
I have undergone a massive academic and personal transformation. The hardest part is accepting that all this will soon end.
‘WE’RE ENCOURAGED TO DEBATE EVEN WAYS OF DOING MATH!’
Pursuing a Master’s in Finance from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
If there was one place I wanted a degree from, it was MIT. Here, they emphasise learning by doing and this is especially helpful when studying finance.
Initially, you realise that there are people who seem to know as much as the professors but people like them are there to inspire the rest of the class to raise their game.
Most Ivy League schools are liberal and don’t stereotype Indians. So it’s best to use the opportunity to network with the brightest in the world.
One drawback is that you don’t have the luxury of making too many mistakes. On the upside, you are encouraged to challenge opinions and debate ways of doing even math! Looking at problems from different angles, challenging myself to develop a wider range of skill sets are some of the most important things I will take away from MIT.
‘YOU STUDY FOR KNOWLEDGE HERE, NOT NUMBERS’
Mahalakshmi Hari, 26
Pursuing a Masters in Automation and Robotics from Technische Universitat, Dortmund, Germany
What better place than Germany for automation and robotics! When I was pursuing my Bachelors degree back home, I knew I had to start early to fulfil this dream. My preparations included attending seminars, taking German language courses and figuring out early on which specific subject I wanted to pursue. Germany worked for me because of the curricula and lower tuition.
I struggled in the first few months with the language and the culture. It was difficult to address an 80-year-old man by his name. Over time, I built my own family of Germans. Everyone is a topper here, but there’s no showing off. I’ve experienced that professors appreciate Indian education for its rigorous theoretical knowledge. But there is a huge cultural difference there too. In Germany, it’s not about the marks, it’s about the skill sets. You study for knowledge, not numbers.
‘YOUR GRADES HAVE TO BE GOOD AND YOU HAVE TO BE AN ALLROUNDER’
Ruchi Junnarkar, 26
Pursuing a Masters in Development Studies from London School of Economics
For me, LSE was always a dream destination. The earlier you decide that you want to study abroad, the better for you because academic records matter. Your grades have to consistently be good, along with extracurricular activities. Once you get here, you realise how huge a deal it is to have studied in English because there aren’t too many countries who offer that option and you see students struggling. An under-graduate degree from India may also sometimes mean bridging the gap in theory and academia by locking in hours of reading at the library. When in college, you are surrounded by people who are exceptional, ambitious and talented.
‘LEARNING FROM THE BEST, WITH THE BEST’
Pursuing an MBA at Imperial College, London
I have studied abroad before, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back to it after working for six years in India. I started preparing a year in advance, working to get a good score on the GMAT, writing out my applications. I wanted to be in London because it gives access to good companies. The best part about being here is that students come from varied backgrounds — there are investment bankers and army personnel, people who’ve worked in the aeronautical space sector. So, you’re constantly learning from the best, with the best. Most schools here also encourage making mistakes, unlearning and relearning. Networking is key and thanks to that, I made my first Mongolian friend here!
First Published: Aug 23, 2017 20:31 IST