america · desi · desicritics · People

The Anatomy of a Desi Grad Student

Every year, thousands of students leave India to pursue higher education in the United States. The trend that caught on in the mid to late 80s, has continued till date. They are not the same- each and everyone. Once you discount their country of origin, they come in different shapes, sizes and attitudes.

Here is an attempt at classifying them, their motives, aspirations, and their way of living.

Disclaimer: Everything expressed here is completely my opinion and my observation. If it resembles you and I know you in person, you need not be the one to have inspired me first. The use of “he” is just a matter of choice. It doesn’t mean I am speaking of men only. This is an attempt to look at everything on the lighter side and if it doesn’t bring a smile on your face, I consider myself to have miserably failed! No offense to anyone. On any basis. And I do NOT claim to have seen it all!

The Americanized Grad:

He is the graduate with the traditional American Dream glittering in his eyes. He is not necessarily interested in what he is doing. His sole priority in life is make money, make it quickly and live the American way of life. He was probably groomed for this right from his childhood. A job, a green card, the possibility of being advertised as the American bridegroom take him to his pedestal.

The I-don’t-know-what-I am-up-to Grad:

He has no idea what he is doing here. Either he is overwhelmed by the efficiency of the education system in America or he is going through a major culture shock. Or even worse, both. He ended up where he is because it was the best option for him or at least he was told so. He loved the prospects, the possibilities but is caught unaware by the stark realism of his position. You cannot always blame him for that though.

The Rote Topper Grad:

He is the guy completely used to the rote system of education back in India. He was either born that way or simply forced by his parents to become that. He crams his way into a good university for MS or PhD only to realize his way of functioning would never work in America. But owing to his hard working nature, he quickly adapts and gets into the groove. Thank god for that!

The Go Getter Grad:

He is someone you have to give it to. He knows what he came for, where to find it and how to get it. He leaves no stone unturned in achieving his targets. He is very matured in his work, does things systematically and ends up with flying colors. He is the first to arrive on US soil, get the first on campus job, first to grab that internship and more often than not well placed after graduation. He is someone every graduate would probably look up to.

The Misinformed Grad:

There are plenty like him. He thought America is nothing but girls, rock music and sexy cars. He probably still thinks so. It is possible that America failed to surprise him. Generally, there are two categories. Either he enjoys that charmed life even after arriving, thanks to super rich dad and/or light coursework or he is stunned by the expectations America has in store for him. More often than not, its a good thing and he stands up to it. There is a lot at stake after all.

The Fairytale Following Grad:

Everyone wishes to be like him. He may be hard working. He may be plain lucky. He arrives and quietly conquers everything. He chooses the right courses, secures a summer internship, gets a full time position, manages H1b and rest is history. But there can be another kind of a fairytale. This version belongs to that plain lucky one. He takes the easiest course/degree possible, walks through it, experiences most of the things America has to offer and more or less lives a charmed life. There is a theory that states a large chunk of this “he” is a “she”. No offense. Taking nothing away from her. She is just blessed!

The Perennial Scholar Grad:

He is the perennial scholar who topped the exams back in India and has always been every teacher’s blue eyed boy. He started the groundwork for his MS or PhD way back in his first year of college. By the end of the fourth, he had topped every second semester, published a handful in international journals and secured an MS or PhD with financial aid in a university of his choice. Once there, nothing surprises him and he feels at home. He thinks he was always meant to be there. Quite rightly so.

The Geek Grad:

To a normal person, he may come across as one of the most confused people around. Everything in life seems trivial to him. He doesn’t plan much ahead. His ambition is to complete the challenging project due next week. He, like the perennial scholar, thinks he is meant to be where he is. And he is right too. At the end of the day, he loves what he is doing and ironically, he is the most clear headed Desi you’ll ever find.

…and possibly, many more!  :)

(first published on Desicritics )


13 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a Desi Grad Student

  1. I think I am the ‘I-dont’-know-what-i-am-upto-grad’ !! I am happily over-whelmed with the education sustem here and I am more than welcome to the culture change too,not a shock per se. But a nice light read and it was good talking to you in person too :)


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