Nabil Salik from India is a master’s student, majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in Carbondale, Illinois.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
The education system in the U.S. is one of the best in the world and a degree from an American university makes one more marketable in the job market. Besides, there are a lot of opportunities to do different things that aren’t available in every country.
Why did you choose Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU)?
The area that I conduct research in as part of my program is not very common to find in an academic setting. SIU is one of the very few universities in the U.S. with that focus.
What do you like best?
The university is very welcoming to international students. As for the program, the professor I work with has advised companies across the world and is widely published. His experience teaches me things that aren’t found in textbooks.
What do you miss most?
Primarily family, friends and food. It might be amusing, but I also miss the chaotic life in a developing country.
What was your biggest surprise?
That life is not perfect as I was made to believe prior to getting here. Many of the problems that exist back home also exist here, only the packaging is different.
... your biggest disappointment?
How have you handled:
... language differences?
I was already fluent in English before I came here. However, it took me a while to understand the references people make to popular culture. Also, conversations here begin with a lot of small talk, which felt a little awkward in the beginning, but not anymore.
I have a job on campus that qualifies me for a tuition waiver and pays a monthly stipend. If you are smart with your spending, it is not that difficult to survive.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
The casual nature of education where you can address a professor by his/her first name was different than what I was used to. But, being able to speak the language made it very easy to adjust.
What are your activities?
Part of my job requires me to plan and organize the orientation and other social events for international students and so I have a lot of fun while I’m working. Besides that, I’m part of a student run investment fund that manages investments on behalf of the university’s foundation.
How easy or difficult was making friends?
It takes a little bit more time than in it would in India, since both me and the person I’m trying to be friends with are extra careful to not overstep any boundaries that arise from the differences in culture. Having travelled quite a bit and due to my ignorance regarding video games, most of my friends are from an older generation and/or from a different country than mine.
What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?
Opportunities are abundant but they don’t come easily. Hard work and networking is critical to succeed in the US.