I still remember the day when I landed in Chicago. I had been admitted into a master’s program at North-western University. I was the first one in my family to have gone outside India for a post-grad course. My dad was more excited than I was.
He had arranged for my tuition fee as well as the rent that I’d have to pay while I was staying off-campus. I knew he had used his retirement savings to fund everything. So I did not ask him for more money to take care of my expenses once I was in Italy. But he was a couple of steps ahead of me.
The very first message I got from him after the day I started my grad school, told me about this International Student Identity Card he had read about online. The card was available for as low as ₹500 plus taxes and it had immense benefits. It served as a secondary identity card and provided discounts at over 150,000 stores globally.
I wanted to tell him that I didn’t have any interest in getting another ID card. But since he was so enthusiastic, I bought it. It changed my entire experience in the USA as an international student. Everywhere I went, I could find partner restaurants and stores offering special discounts to international students.
The two places where I had the maximum number of dinners throughout my two years of grad school, where Papa Jones and Macaroni Grill. Both the restaurants offered lip-smacking Italian cuisine and were part of the ISIC network. I would often take friends at the restaurant to treat and end up paying the bill that I would otherwise pay only for myself, had I not used my ISIC.
Here’s the deal – grad schools can be gruelling. Working on your thesis, networking with professionals, securing summer jobs and still living life. So when you are working, your entire focus is on working. But the little time you get to blow some steam off, you would want to utilize every minute of it. Whether it’s Disneyland, Universal Studios, Gilroy Gardens or Knott’s – I had a splendid time in each of the amusement parks. The ISIC gave me the idea to go to these parks, since they were a part of the ISIC network!
One key area where I was able to use my ISIC to its fullest – were flight tickets. Back in India, you can always afford a train ticket, no matter how tight of a budget you have. But that is not the case in the USA. Even the train tickets are expensive. When you think about the time taken by train, you would rather take a flight. I guess, someone at ISIC understands this and hence has helped ISIC holders get special student discounts on flight tickets.
One of the major expenses of my grad school was buying a laptop. Now, I had to set up a miniature office in my rented apartment since I had a ton of research to be conducted. That meant I had to buy a good laptop and a good printer. I got both of these at a steep discount when I used my ISIC at a nearby electronic store.
I am thankful for the cheaper flight tickets. But for shorter road trips, ISIC saved my days when I had to take car rentals. My friends would often ask me how I was getting all these deals. I would always wave my ISIC in my hand like it was an exclusive club membership card!