When I was preparing for my postgraduate admissions, my eyes were focused on only two areas – get an admission and a scholarship. Everything else was unnecessary at that time. Thankfully, I got accepted to Boston University with a very good scholarship.
This created a problem for me once I landed here. Since I had a monomaniacal focus on only a couple of things, I did not connect with Indian students in the USA before leaving India. Hence, I wasn’t aware of the kind of problems that are faced by Indian students when they are studying abroad. Here is the advice I wish I had received before landing in the USA.
Unlike most of my friends, I did not plan to stay in the USA after my graduation. It was a mix of patriotism and economic sensibility that made me take this decision. That said, this one decision did cause a major difference in deciding what school I went to.
Put the Ivy League universities and the top ten universities after that aside. Now the cohort you get has an identical reputation in India. Most recruiters will not care whether I went to Boston College or Boston University. I used this principle and came to study at Boston University, which is equally revered in India but relatively inexpensive against its peers.
If you follow this one piece of advice, you will be able to save a lot of money in student debt and tuition fees without having to compromise on the job prospects.
I have a very clear memory of the scene – a few months before I was about to leave for the USA, I went through a ton of online calculators, estimators and forums to see what is the cost of living in Boston. I got a ton of answers. Since I was good at math, I simply took a weighted average of all the suggested numbers. The real answer – was way beyond that.
The problem here is – I was dependent on my dad for the first few months, to cover my expenses. You will need at least a couple of months to find a part-time job that helps you take care of your expenses. Till then, you will be dependent on your family’s income, which is in INR, against your expenses which are in USD.
My father was much wiser than me. So, he created a small emergency fund that I was supposed to keep aside. There will always be unexpected expenses. Whatever amount you have in mind, you will end up spending more than that. So go with adequate preparation. My father was also proactive in helping me get an international student card that shows I am a student. This one card has helped me get more discount than I could’ve ever imagined. Plus, it’s usable in several countries. I would strongly recommend this to anyone visiting the USA.
This one still hurts. Look – I love the USA for what it is; but the healthcare system here is very complex and very expensive. Drug prices go up in no time, leading to an unexpected rise in medical expenses. I have seen the financial plans of a lot of families here get derailed only because they were met by an unexpected medical emergency. Hence, the day you get your admission letter, get yourself student health & travel insurance.
My university made it mandatory to have student health & travel insurance. It was a part of the cost of attendance and hence I did not have to plan for it separately. Irrespective of whether your university demands one, you should get the insurance for your own safety.
It’s easy to remember – stop thinking just about the prestige of the school, be more financially responsible, get a student card and health insurance. USA is a great country with a ton of opportunities to learn and grow. If you take all the advice given here and focus on your course, you will learn a lot while still leading a relatively comfortable life.3