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Friday, 20 November 2009

Studying and Living Abroad

Written by Neha Prakash
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Priya Jhaveri misses her dog.

Jhaveri never spent one night without the black, furry beast lying across her blue, polka-dotted comforter, tickling her toes. But for the past two years, Jhaveri has been separated from her dog, family and home.

Unlike most students who commute four to five hours for their education, Jhaveri braved the fifteen-hour flight from Hong Kong to State College, Pennsylvania to attend college. Now a junior at Penn State, Jhaveri decided to attend a university internationally, leaving behind the comforts of her childhood.

According to the Institute of International Education, the number of international students in the U.S. is at an all-time high, and in turn; hundreds of thousands of American natives are opting to spend more than only a semester abroad.

Whether it is for the entirety of one’s college career or only one year, the decision to study abroad for an extended period of time is definitive and impacting.

“Most people don’t stay in Hong Kong to go to college, so it was always an unsaid thing in my family that I would spend four years abroad,” Jhaveri said. “But, I’ve never gotten used to being so far away and get homesick a lot.”

Jhaveri said the hardest part about being time zones away from what she grew up around was she couldn’t visit her friends or family on weekends, nor could they stay with her.

“I only go home during Christmas and summer break, but during Thanksgiving and Spring break, when most of my friends go home, I either have to rely on friends here to make plans with or just hang out in State College…it sucks,” Jhaveri said, adding, “Even though I wish I could fly home for just a week, it’s way too expensive to do that.”

“The legal drinking age is only 18 there too…and there are real clubs,” she added with a slightly resentful tone.

Anup Shivakumar, a student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), said he also misses home and especially his mom’s cooking. However, he emphasized he is willing to be on the other side of the world for the majority of the year, because of the experiences he has had studying in America.

After growing up in Dubai, Shivakumar admitted to the difficulty in adjusting to certain aspects of attending UIUC. But he had no difficulty in appreciating the freedom and adventure of being abroad, he said.

Approaching his senior year, Shivakumar said during school holidays, when he can’t go home, he makes use of his free time traveling around the country. In the past year alone, he has been to Miami, Las Vegas and New York.

“If I were going to school back home then I would never travel this much or get to be as wild, so I love it,” he said grinning from ear to ear. “I usually go with a lot of the other international students because they are looking for stuff to do too.”

Mirroring Jhaveri’s situation, Shivakumar said the universities in Dubai aren’t as prestigious nor do they have the programs American universities boost. He said he choose UIUC because of its city atmosphere and prominent engineering program.

Both Shivakumar and Jhaveri realized the major downfall of studying abroad is the cost.

“Everything is really expensive compared to home, I almost feel guilty shopping here,” Jhaveri said.

Though most American students do not have to leave the country to receive substantial educations, those who opt to spend time in foreign territory echo Jhaveri’s and Shivakumar’s sentiments of the love of independence but the longing for home.

During his junior year at University of Maryland, Neetal Jagadeesh traveled south of the border to Melbourne, Australia. He spent eleven months there, and he said his memories from Melbourne are etched into his mind forever.

“One night I saw the fireworks on the Yarra River, and saw tons of cultural performances and spent the whole day there and really felt like a part of the society,” Jagadeesh said. “If I were back in College Park, I probably would’ve spend the night like most students do, just doing work or out at a party…nothing memorable.”

The time difference between countries made keeping in touch with friends immensely difficult, Jagadeesh said, adding he would stay up all night just to say hi to his parents or girlfriend.

“Keeping in touch with friends probably wouldn’t be a big deal now though with things like Skype and Facebook,” he interjected.

The three jet setters were unanimous in saying the decision to study abroad from anytime from a month to four years takes real thought and a willingness to be daring. Jagadeesh provides advice to those considering the experience saying, “if you are going to go far, then stay there for a while so you can really acclimate to the people and culture and feel at home…you really won’t regret it.”

Though Jhaveri said she will never accept not having her black Labrador, Pepsi, by her side 24/7, she said she now knows she can be on her own, millions of miles from her parents, and be fine. She even said she is finally getting over her homesickness.

“I just have two homes now,” she confessed with a smile.

© Neha Prakash

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012