Reflections on Life as an International Graduate Student
April 29th 2011, I was up at 5.30am brewing a pot of tea and hoping that the BBC live stream of Prince William marrying his university sweetheart Catherine Middleton would work on my computer in the US. This wedding was particularly dear to my heart. I had come to the US to be with my St Andrews University sweetheart. I settled down in front of the computer while my boyfriend continued his slumber, he didn’t understand the patriotism and pride this event created in me and I think he thought I was a bit of a loser! The feed did work and I was able to join the celebration with my fellow Brits thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
The internet has made being an international graduate student at Baruch a lot more manageable. I never really have to completely detach myself from British culture, in fact as I write this I am listening to BBC Radio One on my computer, I can’t get used to all the adverts on American Radio. We are also lucky to have software like Skype, this enables me to talk to my parents and friends at home at no expense whenever I want. Although I do sometimes miss the proximity of actually being able to reach out and hug people, Skype can get pretty close.
My Corporate Communications programme at Baruch has also made it incredibly easy for me to feel at home in the US. Diversity and difference in opinion is always welcome, and people love to hear examples from different background than their own. Variations in backgrounds also adds to the learning in experience. I don’t think I need to remind anyone reading this of the effect globalization is having on flattening work environments and spreading the company worldwide. This means that we are going to increasingly asked to be insightful and respectful in cultures other than our own in order to achieve business success. Being an international student has given me an opportunity to practice this skill, and hopefully provide my classmates with some insights that will help them develop this skill area in themselves.
One thing I have found particularly difficult as an international student has been the work restrictions put on me. We are only able to work on campus part-time in the first year, in the second you can work off campus but also only part-time and in something relevant to your coursework. When I accepted my place I was assuming that finding work, even with these stipulations would be easy. This did not turn out to be the case and New York is an expensive place to live when you don’t have a job. Luckily for myself I have incredibly supportive parents who were able to help me out during a difficult few months. I would advise others to really consider the employment issues and try to secure something before you start your programme.
I complete my programme in December and my time as an international student will have ended. America will have left a lasting impression on me, in fact I am considering staying and working for at least a few years! Then I guess I will have a whole new experience as an ‘international employee!’