Top Six Life Hacks for Indian Students in USA

Well, if you are reading this it means you are planning your higher studies from USA or at least you may want to think about it as an option. It may also be the case that you are already through with your GRE (or, GMAT) and TOEFL (or, IELTS) exams and planning for your applications to the US Universities or B-Schools. Whatever may be the stage, here at Diksha Learning Services (DIKSHA) we thought that it will be good for you to know how life changes suddenly from the moment you land in US as an Indian student. While there are too many changes to list out, the following SIX changes will impact you the most. And thus the Top Six life hacks as detailed below is something you should never ignore. Rather, start preparing from now on!

  • Food – Learn to Cook it: Let’s start with Food – most of us “Live to Eat”! And for an Indian Student in US, there starts the problem. Your mother is not there to dish out delicacies that you like. You don’t have a cook either. And most importantly you don’t have those canteens, road-side eateries and “dabba” system that helped you to sustain in your hostel days. Definitely you will try the Burger, Hot dogs, Pizzas and Tacos for some time till you start craving for your favourite Chicken Tikka Masala, Rajma-Chawal or Puri-Bhaji or Paratha or Upma… Moreover, if you are a vegetarian (or even if only a chicken and fish eater), please remember it’s a big, bad, non-veg world awaits you in USA. You will need to be cautious about your food. Besides, having a proper lunch or dinner (I mean a proper 3-course meal, not the fast food) in an US restaurant will be strenuous on your pocket. So, simply learn to cook. It is one of the most valuable skills to learn while you are still in India and would be useful throughout your life in USA.
  • Time management – Learn to multi-task: In India you have an unparalleled support system as a student (even as a young professional). Your parents pay your tuition fees on time. You have someone to clean your room, wash and iron your clothes, prepare your food and even at times to get your assignment ready. You are expected to study to get good grades. So you do have lot of time lazing around. You study hard for a week before your exam and still end up with decent grades. Sorry to inform that in USA you are expected (or, bound) to do all these by yourself – pay your rent and utilities on time, work part time to fund your studies/ living expenses, cook, wash and clean. Besides, the education system there will make you study almost everyday – going through lot of reference materials or project reports or journals in the library (and I don’t mean “google”). You have to submit your assignments on time and there are no excuses for a 1 day delay. You cannot copy it from your friend and not even from Google, as it would be construed as plagiarism. So, unless you can multi-task and juggle between activities, you will slowly fade away. I just forgot to mention, there are lot of socializing & partying that needs to be added to the list above. Have you ever thought that parties could be so tasking?
  • Credit history – Manage your Finance: As an Indian, most probably your finances have been sponsored as well as managed by your father. And most probably he would often frown upon on Credit Cards. Even if he has two or three such cards, he would rarely use them – may be just 20% of the total spending! But once are in US, you will need to use Credit Cards. Yes, you will need to borrow and pay back money on time to prove your credit worthiness. You need to build a good credit history for many things – such as getting a new mobile connection, buying a car, taking a rent and definitely getting a personal loan.  In fact I would suggest spend everything through your credit card. This will keep track of all your expenses, provide amazing offers to save some dollars and enhance your credit rating. Within a span of two years you can be a “Very Reliable Borrower” and believe me that’s going to be really helpful in US. There’s just one simple rule of using Credit cards –pay on time! Caution: If you misuse your card or overspend, it could become your worst nightmare.
  • Medical – Get Covered: So here in India you don’t care about your health. If you are not feeling well, you pop-in some pills widely available in pharmacies without prescription. You are feverish? Your family physician is just a call away. You have a twisted ankle? Your family or friends will take you to the neighborhood doctor’s clinic. And even after so much “halla boll” over rising medical costs in India, trust me – it’s still much cheaper than that in US. In US, if you don’t have adequate medical insurance, you are simply screwed! Most Universities shall enforce students to take a costly medical insurance coverage upon enrollment. And you better take a good one if you want to play it safe. Besides, the medical process out there is not so simple. When you go to a hospital in US, there are procedures, documentation, legalities and technicalities that make the first-timers loath themselves for falling sick. And always remember that ‘Dental’ and ‘Vision’ are most probably not a part of your medical insurance. If you are prone to such problems, then please purchase those as add-ons beforehand.
  • Networking –Socialize with an Objective: You are a good student – good at academics (i.e. getting good grades). You are also a smart, polite and good-natured individual with good communication skills (read, English). But these alone may not be sufficient to get you what you want in US. Right from getting the desired on-campus job and teaching assistantship to securing internships and full-time job offer – a lot depends on your network and rapport with the right people. Unfortunately in US the concept of “Campusing” is very different. It’s highly unlikely that Ford will come to the campus on 12th September to pick up 10 bright Mechanical Engineers! You can’t simply live in US all by yourself and expect the system to offer you something good on the platter. You will have to work your way out to know the right people and always try to be there in the right place at the right time. You will need to have your own information system (well, not the computers; I am talking about human beings) in place so as to grab the right opportunities. Socialize with people. Play a sport. Join a hobby club. Attend campus parties. Participate in career-fairs and corporate info sessions. Go for poster presentations and technical seminars and conferences. Simply, connect with as many people in different spheres where you operate. Be genuine while you network to build long lasting relationships. This would definitely go a long  way.
  • Legal – Learn to Obey Law: Being an Indian, often we tend to take “Law” as a very subjective as well as flexible thing that is open to interpretation and manipulation. But in US, please make sure that you know the law well. And also make sure that you never try to ignore or bypass it. Your US friends will be of great help to get your basics right. Besides, the University will also give you guidelines. Don’t overstep at all. Because once you are found on the wrong side, you cannot bribe your way out. If you try to do so, you might end up in jail. Some basics – You should stop at the signal (even if no one is there to watch over); you should not work overtime than the allowed legal hours (if caught you might get deported); you should always carry a copy of your legal documents that allow you to stay and study in the US. And if ever you get into some legal trouble please don’t try to work smart. Check your words (you will often find the cops saying “You have the right to remain silent”).  And seek help from University/ College authorities.
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