Saturday, February 14, 2009

GRE/TOEFL and Foreign Education - My Career Experience

I infact completed my Bachelor's degree (Agriculture, 1999) in Tamilnadu and my first Master's in Haryana (Agricultural Economics, 2002). I do not know why I chose to study Agriculture but I always had the inclination to study that, probably because of my childhood and government job opportunities that existed at that time. But when I completed my studies, those opportunities had become distant past and was left in the lurch. Not that I did not try anything while in Master's program (Studied because I was given a fellowship that covered everything and even I could save money).I tried to prepare for civil services exams but I had the disadvantage of chronic skin problems and my own self doubts about failure even though I always had the indefatigable spirit and confidence. But the risk you do not take is someone's opportunity and mine did not really germinate. Suddenly, I came to know about what then considered as an exam for elites by many, GRE/TOEFL, Foreign Education and an American dream to make quick bucks. I just overjoyed to hear about it as I wanted to rest my ever working poor parents. But then, when your mind is cluttered, you research on things that you should not do in the first place. Here I started enquiring about money needed to realize the American dream and the time I came to know that it required at least 6 lakhs money (Read some stupid booklets distributed in India by the "So called" coaching institutes), I lost my steam once again and did not really have any idea about the existence of assistantships (Complete financial aid to complete a degree in US) then. Yes....I have comeback to where I started again. I started applying to all open positions I saw on news papers which included marine trainee, project officer trainee, management trainee and whatever positions that ended with the word "trainee".

After all I am a guy who worked in Agrochemical field sales force to save some money so that I could go to Delhi for the preparation of my Master's entrance examination and here I am not trying to say that agrochemical marketing job is menial but am just emphasizing the positive correlation of many Indian student's financial situation with the decision they make. Faced with adversity, I wrote entrance examination to study Agri Business Management in one of the premier institutions in the country and I cleared the exam but failed to win the imagination of the interviewing people. Wondered and wandered for few months here and there before heading to Hyderabad based on one of my friends suggestion to work on a one month contract to earn 11,000 rupees.

In spite of all these, I cherished the educational path I took, without which I might not have stories to tell you. The course offered me to learn many subjects, visit many places in the state and country (Through State and All India Tour Programs) and try my hands on many things before settling down on one. My present life really started in Hyderabad. I started making new friends and as a huge break, I got a Research Associate position in a National Academy that prides itself in training Agricultural research scientists. With steady flowing income, paths had cleared to write GRE/TOEFL exams. This itself is significant and far cry from my school days where I was not so comfortable with the English language as I studied in Tamil Medium till college days.

These are the two exams, one need to write and secure good scores to get admission in US universities with financial aid (Assistantships).Graduate Record Exam (GRE) involves three sections namely quantitative, verbal and analytical. Quantitative sections contain advanced intermediate level maths to test your math skills while the verbal section tests your English vocabulary and word power. The analytical section contains essay writing. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) assesses your skills in listening, reading and writing English.

I wrote these exams in 2003 and secured reasonable score in GRE and Good score in TOEFL. Applied to two universities for 2004 spring term (January) and got admission and financial aid in both the universities. But again I was subjected to further hardening as my father was diagnosed with liver cancer and I chose to stay in India only to see his end in 2004 January. I took it in my stride and applied again for 2004 fall term (August), this time to three universities and to my surprise I got admission and financial aid in all three universities including my alma mater "University of Arizona" which is considered as one of the top schools for the Agricultural Economics program in US. The success made me believe in two things;1)You work hard for something and you do not meet with success means, there is something better in store for you.2) You do not work hard and opt for riskless career option then the opportunity cost is huge.

US Education and its Impact:
I landed in Tucson International Airport in Arizona on July, 2004 for the fall semester and in few weeks I started realizing why USA is a pioneer in every sphere on earth. The quality of the education was just outstanding at least in the university where I was in if not in all the universities. They do not test your handwriting skills here and they do not of course come with materials that your grandfather studied. You are given complete freedom to select your courses and select thesis topics. Most of the time you are on your own though you can take advice from your professors. You come from India where you studied with the sole aim of securing marks and suddenly you are in a place where you see US President's economic advisors, Nobel laureates and outstanding researchers. It's not just American professors. You encounter lot of Indian professors with mind blowing teaching and research skills and suddenly you wonder what makes them to be the world beaters here in US but not in India. The answer is best explained by the system and infrastructure they have and more importantly, the commitment everyone shows and the reward that follows. You are allowed to think and innovate starting from your childhood and you are prepared to face the world right out of your school. My only qualm is that the students here lack general knowledge about the world they live in and they just think there is America and then Europe. This is probably something to do with their haughtiness and big brother attitude.

People who are keen learners get their outlook and personality transformed. In US, It just depends on you to pick up things and dream where you want to be and how you like to be without compromising your roots and fundamentals. Nobody asks you to drink unless you choose to and nobody asks you to eat in forks and spoons unless you choose to spill it in neighbor’s mouth. There are lot of things to be learnt from people here but unfortunately young people in India just captured the "Western Culture" with their opportunity presents-let's take it mindset.

Personally I have learnt many things, made many international friends and have seen the true spirit of cosmopolitan culture. I have completed my Master's in 2006 and attracted and attended many interviews and nobody here expects you to come with your mark sheet and say you stood first, second or somewhere. It's just horses for courses here and if you are able to perform the job, then they hire otherwise not. Fortunately I happen to get good jobs with handsome salary, an amount I never dreamt four years back. I have uttered too much to digest, but here is the points for our "So what" question.

1) We should never think about failures and suspect our abilities. Unless we try, we will never know what we are capable of. But at the same time, our success depends on how best we understand our limitations.
2) We should not try to measure the depth of the sea before learning how to swim. In my case I started thinking about money needed to arrive in US even before I started preparing for GRE/TOEFL let alone writing it (In 2002).
3) We need to avoid confining ourselves and be open to other options and ideas. For example, take entrepreneurship as a career and we have the chance to make people realize their dreams and we can identify ourselves.
4) Overall success depends on trying few things, making mistakes, learning from it and finally identifying the path where we do not have the chance to make those mistakes.

I have come this far and I continue to ask myself tough questions in the pursuit of something big and potentially life changing business plans and who knows what is in store for me.....

Yours truly,


Myfunds February 20, 2009 at 9:32 PM  

This is one of the very good success story of a guy comes from rural back ground to victorious cosmopolitan culture land

Kannan September 19, 2009 at 10:19 PM  

Very inspiring. I salute your hard work.

DiKaKo November 30, 2009 at 3:45 AM  

Good to share your experience. Thank you.

Chirag Ali,  December 13, 2009 at 8:19 PM  

Dear Kumaran

Thank you very much for sharing your experience.It is really encouraging

Chirag Ali

Anonymous,  November 11, 2010 at 11:49 AM  

you can make it through the rain. you stand up once again on my own.



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