LSE Graduate & PhD (Econ) Student at Arizona State University speaks on #StudyAbroad
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Under Grad: St. Xavier’s College – BA (Hons.) Economics
Post Grad: The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) - Master in Economics
PhD Student at the Department of Economics, Arizona State University
“We also had one member of the faculty responsible for our wellness with whom we could schedule meetings to discuss our performance and the issues we face.”
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your Educational and Professional Background? Which college, company and role did you work in to get you where you are today?
I am Sujan, currently a second year PhD student at Arizona State University in the Economics Department. Before this, I was working as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Advanced Financial Research and Learning (CAFRAL) - a Research Centre of the Reserve Bank of India. I got interested in Economic Research during my MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics. My Undergrad was in St Xavier’s Mumbai where I also majored in Economics. I’ve also had some experience working in Citibank and in doing the SBI Youth for India Fellowship.
2. What was your Undergraduate Major? What prompted you towards it?
Economics. I first got exposed to Economics in Junior College and I found it to be an extremely interesting and an intuitive subject. Having really enjoyed studying the subject in Junior College and in my first year of college, I decided to major in it.
3. When and why did you decide to study abroad?
Somewhere over the course of my undergrad, I decided to study abroad. My reasons were a mixture of wanting to study and specialise in Economics at a top university, and also experience the life of a Master’s student in a foreign country.
4. Did you receive a scholarship? Do you recommend any good orgs/institutions that provide for scholarships or financial aid?
I did not for my Masters. I think there are several good options for scholarships or interest free loans. For instance - JR Tata Trust, KC Mahindra, Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, Chevening, Rhodes, Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, etc. Some of these scholarships tend to be country specific so it may be a good idea to just Google “Scholarship for Indian students going to study in XYZ country.”
5. Is it worth taking a loan to study abroad? How does one measure one’s ROI?
Depends on how you measure your ROI. Going to a good university can be a great experience in terms of learning at the very top level and in also meeting brilliant people from all over the globe. However, given the current uncertainty and anti-immigrant feeling all over the world, there is definitely a risk of not getting a job in the country you do your Masters in. It is really up to each individual to figure out the pros and cons themselves and make an informed decision about this.
6. Why did you choose that particular university/college for your studies abroad? What was the process you went through while choosing the university/college?
Because it was one of the best universities for the course I was interested. I choose it by doing a combination of online research ( I painstakingly went through each University’s website, looked at their online testimonials and rankings, etc.) and by talking to peers and seniors in my undergrad.
7. Any particular advice you would like to give for the application process from SOP Writing to Academic GPA to Other things which you thought were important that helped you get in?
It is important to try and be a little different in your SOP. Indians tend to write similar stories. Thus it is important to try and distinguish yourself. I would suggest making your friends, colleagues, etc. Read your SOP and ask for comments. Then incorporating the comments you think are meaningful (but not all of them). That is typically the process of coming up with a good SOP. If you have any acquaintances that have ended up at the same university you’re applying to, reach out to them for help/tips and key issues to look out for.
8. Were you satisfied with your choice of university? What is your most and least favourite thing about the university experience?
Most Favourite - LSE was a rigorous one year academic experience and I came out of it feeling that if I could do well in that course, I was ready to face any challenge thrown at me.
Least favourite - at times the workload and stress was way too much, and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to take it.
9. How is the Indian fraternity over there? How is the overall campus diversity?
LSE was a very diverse place. Our class of about 120 had around 15 Indians. We hung out and it was helpful to stay connected since we all came from similar educational backgrounds. Overall also the university was very diverse with a lot of students from East Asia, India, other European countries, US and of course, UK.
10. Tell us something about the faculty and resources which were there on campus
Some of the things that I remember were there being a massive library with a lot of study space and books. We also had one member of the faculty responsible for our wellness with whom we could schedule meetings to discuss our performance and the issues we face. The method of study was different with a heavy use of problem sets, TA sessions and office hours; something I wasn’t used to due to my experience in India.
11. Tell us about your journey from the first semester to the last both academically and non-academically? What was campus life like? What were extracurricular activities on campus?
As a Masters student there was unfortunately not enough time to indulge in a lot of extracurricular activities. I did participate in the Bollywood night organised by the Indian association. Overall I went from ‘wonder and excitement’ before the program, to feelings of ‘inadequacy and anxiety’ at the start. I did okay in my first semester but ended up doing really well in the second semester. I had a steady graph of improvement, but the first few days were especially hard for me due to the jump in academic level. I also made some amazing lifelong friends whom I’m in touch with even today.
12. What did you learn and what were your most dear experiences? Any suggestions or recommendations for freshers starting out?
I got a through upgrade in my knowledge of Economics - from a technical and mathematical perspective on the subject, a huge notch up in terms of quality, and on the mathematical academic trigger from my undergrad. My most dear experience was everything. The whole year went by so fast. We had to work hard to stay up to date with the course and at the same time we also ended up having a lot of fun with all the new people in this new place. So looking back I really do cherish the experience.
13. How is the quality of education compared to Indian institutes? How did you manage to cope?
My perspective comes from a Xavier’s Economics perspective. It may not hold true for all Indian Institutes, so I would give that caveat. I think the main difference, in my experience in India, has been that we plan to really depend on teachers and expect them to spell out everything for us or expected out of the exam. The focus seems to be on rote learning especially in Economics.
Whereas here, the whole teaching method is very different. You are aware that the professors will just give you a basic outline and then you have to learn by yourself talking to your peers, using teaching assistance, approaching professors only during office hours and also thinking on your own to understand concepts in the problem sets. Thus, it is a very different approach to learning. It was a huge shock initially because it wasn’t something that I was used to.
I think that the UK system is very good since it really promotes “Independent Creative Thinking.” However, where it lacks is that sometimes it can like feel like the whole education system is too alien, too cold, as though there isn’t enough guidance going on. On the other hand, in the Indian Education System, they help you a lot; but maybe they are helping you to a point where they are telling you what to think. So those would be the two differences in the education system.
14. What were the career opportunities available? How does one manage to grab them?
You have access to bunch of opportunities in Economics within banking, general consulting, the financial sector, management consulting and also in government institutions. The problem with the UK, when I was there, was that they had an extremely restrictive visa policy for Non Europeans. Thus, given that the bar to get a job in the UK at that time was very high, not many people were able to get it. I don’t know what the situation is there now. If the visa norms are improving, then definitely there are a lot of opportunities.
15. Tell us a little bit about your current job profile and work.
I am doing a PhD in Economics at Arizona State University. I am going to start my second year and I am interested in Macro Economics and Labour Economics.
16. Any other suggestions or pieces of advice you would like to give students who are starting out the study abroad process?
I think just have an open mind! It is natural to feel shocked in terms of the general culture, the academic environment, getting to know people with different outlooks and personality. So if you go out with an open mind, you will really enjoy yourself! Don’t go there in a shell or stay in a cocoon within your own circle. Try to socialise with as many people from different countries. It is a great experience, so don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
17. How did a study abroad help you?
It really broadened my perspective - not just from an academic perspective but also in being able to meet people from different parts of the world which gave me a wider outlook, and friends/ network from all over the world. All in all it was just a great experience.
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