Adjusting to Life as an International Graduate Student
Even though New York is an extremely diverse city, being an international student can be a bit overwhelming. You are far away from home and, despite being part of the NYU community, it can still be a bit of an adjustment. After a year as a student at NYU, I am excited to share my experience adjusting to life as an international graduate student.
First, as an international student, there are some guidelines I must follow to maintain my status as a “full-time student” under my F-1 visa. For example, I must register for 9 credits each semester. In general, 9 credits are equivalent to 3 courses. Each class is typically close to 3 hours a week. Wow! Right? ‘Is that all?’ is often the first reaction I get. But wait! Classes along with study time, are enough to keep you quite busy. Though it can be challenging, these classes also give you the opportunity to engage with your classmates.
In graduate school, the people in your class have a broad range of backgrounds. While some might have decided to go to graduate school right after undergrad, others may have varying degrees of work experience and might be working full- or part-time during the program. The age range is wide and so are their commitments, including family responsibilities. Your fellow students might also be from different countries. I've met people in my program from India, China, Mexico, Korea, Italy, Canada, and the US.
In my experience, professors understand the commitments of graduate students and only assign a few assignments with mostly flexible deadlines. But these assignments are close to the real-world scenarios and, in many cases, they might be based on the professor’s recent professional experience and that is what makes it interesting. With these assignments, you come to understand the functioning of real-world industries. You learn the latest technology and tools used by multinational companies and how those tools are utilized to design solutions to problems. The assignments are designed to prepare you for a career in your industry. The work experience of your peers enhances the classroom discussion by hearing their perspectives and real-life examples.
Out of Class
Outside of class, there are a number of ways to engage with NYC and NYU. As I’m sure you know, New York can be an expensive city in which to live. To help with the expenses, I have an on-campus job, as many graduate students do. I usually work 15-18 hours in a week and devote the rest to my studies. The work for graduate students in an on-campus job is generally not very demanding. It provides flexibility to help you manage your studies easily. It is also a great way to connect with new people and make friends. I regularly meet up with my colleagues outside of work for happy hours and dinner throughout the semester.
There are also a lot of student clubs and organizations open to graduate students that are tailored to a wide variety of interests. There are clubs that are super relaxed, for example wine and cheese tasting clubs, to super industry focused like analytics or computer science clubs. Clubs, and the events they host, are also a great way to make industry connections and offer a number of networking opportunities. I once attended an event organized by one of the clubs where they brought in NYU alumni working at Google as product managers. It was a really great event. I learned about their journey to Google and they provided insight on how we could also pursue careers at Google.
Taking a Break
When I need to relax or take a break, I take advantage of opportunities offered by NYU on-campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods. I usually prefer to go to the gym and exercise for some time or play basketball (when the gym was open!). Some students prefer to hangout in Washington Square Park or the Metrotech Commons, while others prefer fun (and often, free) services like dance classes, kick-boxing classes, and more!
My day is generally a very tight 5am to 11pm hustle. But, I wouldn't have it any other way. Althought it can get hectic, I'm finding this to be one of the best times of my life!