Sneha Rajendran’s story

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Sneha

After completing my MBA in India, I started working in the talent management function of one of the consulting firms and I completely enjoyed my work. My fiancé at that point in time was working in the US. Having completed his Masters from one of the top universities in the US, his preference was to continue to work in the US. Thus I was faced with the question of what I was going to do when I join him after marriage. Although it appeared there were several opportunities at the work front within my company, things weren’t that easy to come by.  There were complications with respect to not having the required number of years of experience, visa sponsorship and the like.  As the next step I tried directly applying for openings in other US based companies. Despite having the qualifications required, the major challenge I faced was getting an interview call. I tried several avenues – direct application in a company’s website, employee referral, Linkedin but there was no positive response. This is when I took a step back and tried to ascertain the reason for not getting recognized in the applicant pool. I spoke with several people and a common theme that emerged was – having a US degree facilitates the job search process. As a general rule, companies preferred students graduating from US universities vis-à-vis someone with an equivalent non-US degree.

Subsequently, I looked into programs that matched my background and that were relevant to my career goals. I also geared up for the application process – acing GMAT, getting recommendations and writing a convincing statement of purpose. I reached out to students across different B-schools and got a thorough idea about the expectations of the admissions committee, student life in the US and opportunities that open up at graduate school. This entire information gathering excited me and made me want to pursue an advanced degree. After an exhausting two months of essay writing followed by interviewing, I made into the MS in Management Studies program at MIT Sloan School of Management. The announcement of the admission results coincided closely with my wedding dates and it was the best wedding gift I received!

From my experience, I would say, there is no one simple formula that works for everyone.  There are several opportunities both in industry and academia in the US. It is important that one exercises sufficient due diligence and identifies the path that works best to accomplish his/her goals.

Sneha Rajendran

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Leah Grace C’s story

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Before coming to the US, my husband and I founded a software startup in Montreal, Canada. We knew that we eventually wanted to go to Boston for his MBA but we wanted to take that chance of building a business. We didn’t find immediate success but it was and still is a great learning experience. We left Canada, leaving most of the management to our employees.

I arrived in Boston on F2 visa. My husband and I still had the startup bug and the opportunities at MIT helped fuel that. Through the Legatum Center at MIT and the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, we were able to get funding for a project in the Philippines, where I’m from. This is the one thing that kept me “sane” during those first few months in Boston while my husband went to school every day and I used to sit at home due to my visa status. After two months I made the decision to go to graduate school. Going to graduate school in the US has always been a dream of mine but it was my recent business experience and living among the business school community in Cambridge that gave me the needed push. I started studying for the GMAT and took the test a month later.

I found Hult International Business School through an Economist article plus I’ve known some friends who went there for their MBAs. I knew that I only wanted a 1-year program and its proximity to the MIT Housing where we live was a bonus. I met with one of the recruiters and hearing my story, she encouraged me to apply for August 2012 admission.

When I got accepted, I immediately made plans to go back to Canada to apply for an F1 visa there. I could have applied within the US but it would have taken a lot of time and the US State Department does not really approve of it (based on past personal experience). Thankfully, I had no problems with the visa application at all.

I would suggest spouses coming to US on F2 visa to take a decision early and start working towards your goal.

Leah Grace C.

Manali V. Yadav’s Story

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Manali

I love Lucy. So did America. Lucille Ball was the undisputed queen of American television in the years following World War II, bringing mirth and merriment into households still reeling from the most catastrophic war known to mankind. She once famously said, “One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” This advice is worth writing down in a diary somewhere. For those of us who have moved with our husbands to share in their dreams in foreign lands, Lucy’s advice is more precious than gold. Remember – the trick is to be happy and let one’s creative juices flow.

I too had apprehensions prior to moving to the Boston. After all, I was a successful career woman with an enviable job in one of India’s leading architecture firms. I was unsure if I was ready to part ways with what had been an important and enjoyable part of my life. I kept fighting these demons right until it was time to board my flight. I guess my mother sensed my anxiety in the tone of my voice as I called her up before it was time to shut off my mobile phone. They say mothers know best. They really do. “Don’t view the next opportunity as a replacement. Start a new chapter in your life. No two chapters should be the same” she said. And then, it dawned upon me. I wasn’t giving up my life as a career woman. I was merely gaining one of a housewife. Instead of making homes for a living, I was now going to make mine.

Being an architect and artist, my daily schedule in Boston couldn’t be any better. Boston is called the Athens of the United States. After all, Boston is the Number 1 Innovative City in the United States, “on the cutting edge of finding, inventing, and capitalizing on everything hot and new”, Boston is the Youngest city in the Country – said a survey. Countless universities and colleges coexist in a very small area, each a leader in a unique field. Unlike universities in other corners of the world, American institutes are welcoming to one and all. You don’t need to be a student to attend events in these universities. I took it upon myself to attend as many art exhibitions and visit as many museums as I could. I often attend talks by leaders in architecture – luminaries whose work I had studied as a student in India. I have met some incredibly gifted personalities and have become oriented with cultures from several countries. I have gone on food tasting events, learnt greetings in foreign languages and learned dance forms from other nations.

Just a word of advice – Like everything else in life, pursuing an advanced degree in the United States requires some planning. Be sure to check the websites of institutes to study their degree offerings, admission requirements and application deadlines. No two universities are alike in this regard. Some require GRE scores while others have more eclectic requirements. You must be willing to invest some time in preparing yourself to take these tests and fill out the application forms, some of which could be quite extensive. However, almost all universities require citizens from non-English speaking countries, including India, to take the TOEFL to demonstrate their command over the English language. Also, application deadlines to commence classes in a particular semester generally precede the semester by 6-8 months. For instance, if you are keen on joining a university in the fall semester, the deadline to apply might be in December or January. My husband had urged me to take GRE and TOEFL before I got married (December) Ironically, amidst the wedding preparations I was celebrating my engagement with Quants and Verbal. Luckily I was through with decent marks getting admitted to an excellent Co-op program in Design, which emphasize on learning in the workplace as well as the classroom.

Inspired and informed, I have taken the leap and enrolled myself for a Master’s degree in design at Boston Architectural College. I start classes in the fall. The next chapter of my life of being a student of design and a homemaker in conjunction is about to begin. I couldn’t be any more excited.

Manali V. Yadav