Friday, April 8, 2016

Self-reflection: What I learned from studying in the US and how it changed me as a person

By: Trishnee Bhurosy
Student Ambassador, Indiana University School of Public Health - Bloomington

After living on the island of Mauritius all my life, coming to the US for a doctoral program was a huge leap for me. Before I even started my academic experience, I had already achieved so much: getting excellent GRE and TOEFL scores, evaluating my academic transcripts, writing a strong statement of purpose, budgeting for application fees, and contacting potential advisors whose research interests matched mine. These were small achievements before the BIG one!

It is now approximately 6 months since I took off to explore my new home – in Bloomington, Indiana. Since then, I have learned a great deal, and here are some of my reflections:

1. Mature to a new level

I had always been told that I was a very mature and responsible child. However, coming to the US and being on my own made me grow significantly as an individual. It takes courage and patience to deal with the mental and emotional stress of settling into a new place away from family and friends. Many people, mostly Americans, are amazed from where I came and how I made such a huge decision. My answer is always: “I did not think too much about it. I just did it by having faith in myself.”

2. Make new friends

After reaching my apartment in the US, I felt a new excitement mixed with some nervousness. Here I was, all by myself! With Google Maps as my companion, I decided to explore where I was going to study for several years – the School of Public Health. When I found myself in the building, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and could not have been prouder of myself.

I also came across a flyer for a local group that helps international students settle in. I decided to attend that group the following day, and met one of my very close friends. I realized how important it is to have someone to count on when home is thousands and thousands of miles away!

3. Develop a Research-Oriented Frame of Mind

As a first year PhD student, the greatest advice I can give is to network inside and outside your department from day one. This is especially helpful if you are looking for research positions or partnerships to lay the groundwork for your research project.

Some of the best advice I have received in my PhD program is to read and understand the existing literature in my field. This enables you to identify the existing gaps in literature and provides you with ideas on how to embark on your own research.

4. Find the Right Balance between Studies, Work and Social Life

I am no expert, but I have come to realize it is essential to keep a balance between your studies and personal life. Meet new people, make friends and trust me – there will be times when you really need the support of friends who go through similar experiences as you. After all, everyone has a life besides academics!

Moreover, if you are an international student, give yourself time to adapt and understand the new culture. Do not get discouraged by obstacles you face and take one day at a time. To help me unwind, I strive to walk at least 30 minutes to my classes and I meditate frequently. I have also recently learned to knit! As a PhD student, not getting enough sleep is one of the challenges I face, so I strongly recommend good sleep! Balance is the key here.

5. Get Some Work Experience

I am grateful for the wide range of opportunities I have enjoyed since arriving in the US. I have been both a teaching and a research assistant. Next summer, I will be officially an Associate Instructor, in charge of a whole course. Thanks to these jobs, I have improved my communication skills and developed new statistical skills while learning pedagogical strategies. Moreover, I blog for the Office of Career Services at the School of Public Health.

On a final note, I would advise all international students to make the most out of the opportunities available to them. Do not fear failure and be willing to take on new challenges! Celebrate your uniqueness as an international student and be proud of your roots. My country, Mauritius, just celebrated its Independence Day on March 12th - cheers to that!


Home Country: Mauritius
School: Indiana University School of Public Health - Bloomington
Major: Health Behavior
Minor: Nutritional Epidemiology

Trishnee is a first year PhD student in the Department of Applied Health Science and her major is Health Behavior. She was born and raised in Mauritius and is currently having the best time pursuing her doctoral studies in the wonderful B-town. Her hobbies include cooking, reading romantic novels, and playing with her pets. Anything related to health highly interests her and she hopes to reach out to others on health-related issues that matter

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