My Time at ODU, Thanks to the Global UGRAD Program
“God has something better written for you,” my mother said when I got rejected from the first exchange program I applied to. Based on the events of the past year, I can now say that God really did have something better planned for me.
It began when I got an email calling for applications for a semester exchange program in the U.S. My life was about to change. My dad advised me to make the best of the opportunities available to me and apply for the program. After applying, I was the only student shortlisted from my campus, and that made me feel good. After completing all the required paperwork, I waited for the final results. In May, I finally got a call.
“Hi Roohi! I would like to let you know that you have been selected for the Global UGRAD Semester Exchange Program,” Ms. Nerrissa Gomes, my coordinator from Mumbai, said.
I was one of five students from India selected to spend a semester in the USA. Later that year, I found out that I would be studying at Old Dominion University.
I was not sure what kind of experiences would unfold during the course of the coming months. All I knew about U.S. was from the TV shows and movies I had seen, as well as the news I had read.
“Are the people going to be exactly the same as they are in the movies?”
“Will I be able to do all of it by myself?” Such questions ran through my head as I said goodbye to my loved ones who came to see me off at the airport. I was all set to learn an array of different things in this short period of four months.
During my first day in the U.S., I missed my flight from New York to Norfolk. Tired of all the traveling already, I was scared. I managed to make it to Norfolk the next day after all the flight rescheduling and cancellations, and as we left the left the airport, my first reaction to Norfolk was overwhelming. I was awestruck by the beautiful city!
I took the classes I had wanted to take but had been unable to back home. In every class, I came across a new way of learning. It was an amazing experience that enhanced my critical thinking. I also had a chance to get to know all kinds of people. From professors to classmates, everyone was welcoming. What made it more interesting was the fact that almost everyone I met wanted to know more about the culture I brought with me. It was amazing to see how everybody’s opinion was important and respected.
What I loved about the academic structure at ODU was the array of options students had in order to make their study as productive and useful as possible. Moreover, although the pressure would build up, it was constructive in nature, so that it motivated the student to study. The evaluation system was on par, from quizzes to writing papers.
Apart from academics, this trip also provided me with opportunities to try new things. I got a chance to travel alone for the first time. Then came my attempt at learning ballet from a two-month workshop at ODU. I also got to try to cook with my roommates, without the help of my mom.
The trip also allowed me to get to know more people. To my amazement, I realized quickly that Americans were not the kind of the people I had thought they would be. I met not only Americans, but also others from different parts of the world, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Korea and Iran.
They brought with them their own unique cultures and stories of how they got here. We all shared the same story of being international students trying to adjust to life on an American campus.
As the program came to a conclusion, I reflected on everything I had learned. If not for my time in the U.S., I wouldn’t be the person I am today. The experience helped me grow, learn to be independent and confident, make lifelong friends and understand a culture that was once completely alien to me. I couldn’t have wished for anything more!