It has been almost one and a half years of my stay in VCU. The memories of the BIG moment when I left my country for the first time are slowly diminishing. I can faintly remember being excited and nervous at the same time as I had no clue what awaited me here.
That was a long time back. Today, I can say that I made the right choice by overcoming my anxiety and choosing VCU for my further studies. Right from the moment I met Pam Haney (Director, Intnl’ Student Services at VCU) when I landed at the airport, till now, I have met with the most wonderful and humble people I could ever imagine. The warmth and acceptance shown by the VCU community makes you feel at ease and quickly vanishes the feeling of being a new student.
Being a graduate student, I am fortunate to receive the most advanced research skills training and plenty of opportunities to interact with people from different fields. Learning at VCU is a fun-filled experience fun due to plenty of extracurricular activities which happen throughout the year. It also has a large international student population which has helped me learn about various different cultures around the world. Being an extra-curricular guy, I am involved in many activities and have great friends with students of American, Middle Eastern, Asian and European origin, in a short span of time. The United States has a great music scene and many national as well as international artists keep performing here. It also has an ever-growing food culture having cuisines from almost every country in the world.
One thing which I really like here is the spirit of happiness. It can be seen on people’s faces all the time, for reasons as small as reaching offices on time, or as big as celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone loves to be happy! I have had the opportunity to share the happiness with some of the American families when I visited their homes during last Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Meeting them was a pleasant experience and a welcome break from my hectic school schedule. I look forward to go there again.
Along with all the fun, there are some things which the international students should keep in mind. Firstly, make sure, and I mean REALLY sure, that you have a health insurance as soon as you arrive here in the US. The health services are very expensive here compared to other countries in the world, and you cannot avail them if you don’t have insurance. Also, like any other place in the world, we have to be responsible for our safety and security. Although, VCU has an optimum police protection for students, it is better to be pro-active when it comes to keeping out of trouble. Be careful while deciding the place to live (staying on-campus is the most preferred choice), buying vehicles, or travelling within the US. These issues are discussed elaborately by the GEO office in the orientation, so make sure you do not miss it!
Finally, the encouragement, appreciation and motivation I got, being in VCU shall be the most fulfilling experience for me. I grew and developed both professionally and personally, and hope that I will continue to do so.
PhD Student- VCU School of Pharmacy