A leadership experience can benefit you in so many positive ways, both in the short and long term. I would like to highlight three of them. First, a leadership experience can give you a competitive edge over other candidates when you apply for a job. Employers now look for leadership experience as they know that a candidate with some sort of leadership exposure will be able to deal with a situation more effectively. Next, a leadership experience can help you build connections, which you can utilize throughout your professional career. Finally, it can develop your interpersonal skills. You will get to communicate with a lot of people through your role in a particular club or association, and you will acquire different skill sets in the process.
Purdue University will provide you with many opportunities to experience leadership. My leadership journey started with volunteering for the Bangladesh Students Association in my first year. In my second year, I was elected as the president of the association. My volunteering experience in the first year gave me an opportunity to observe the association and learn how events are organized at Purdue. During my presidency in my second year, I organized several events on behalf of the association. I would like to highlight two of them. The first event was the Bangladesh Artist Festival where we were able to invite two of our prominent musical groups from Bangladesh to perform at Purdue. The event was open to all Purdue students and the community to learn more about Bangladeshi music. We were awarded a Student Fee Advisory Board (SFAB) ($58,000) grant to organize two such concerts. This also represents Purdue’s strengths in financing big events led by student organizations.
The second event that I would like to mention is the Celebration of International Mother Language Day. International mother language day is internationally observed on February 21, and the day originated from the language movement in Bangladesh. In this event, we also involved eleven other countries to showcase their culture through different performances. It was highly appreciated by the attendees for its diversity and inclusiveness. This was funded by a One Community grant from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Because my experience was so enriching with this student organization, I decided to lead another student organization, the Purdue Association of Learning Design & Technology (PALDT,) as the president in the current academic year.
The message that I wanted to convey through these examples is that you can also lead many such events at Purdue! Student Activities and Organizations (SAO), the unit that oversees student organizations, will be happy to support you in every possible way. The first step would be to find a student organization that you like and join that organization in some capacity. After that, you can plan on taking an officer role and execute your events! The sky is the limit for Boilermakers!
I believe graduate school is one of the most important decisions you can make for your life. When you are going to college, you may not have the freedom or the means to select the university you want. However, going to graduate school is your own choice, and I felt the pressure to choose wisely. I remember making my list of things that a graduate school should have to deserve my dedication to the application process. I applied to five different universities, but Purdue was always my first choice.
Before selecting the university list, you need to define your own professional goals. And remember, graduate school, especially a Ph.D. degree, will be demanding and time-consuming. So, it is better to put your effort into something you want. Here was my list of priorities:
1) International world rankings: If I spend money and time on a graduate degree, I want that degree to be internationally recognized. And civil engineering at Purdue fulfilled this requisite easily. As a prospective graduate student, here are a few sources to check out:
2) Living costs: Did you know that each state in the USA can have different living costs? As a graduate student, the budget is my responsibility. Even for visa purposes, you need to check how much money you will need to have. Depending on the location of the university, you may need much more. Purdue is located in the state of Indiana in a small city called West Lafayette. These characteristics showed me that I could have a better-quality of life on a student budget.
3) Funding sources: Purdue is a massive university with more than 45 thousand students. And to attend this enormous student population, a significant infrastructure is necessary. The university has many student employment options that are incredibly helpful during your academic life.
4) Laboratory infrastructure: To study far away from home, there needs to be a reason. The university needs to have something that I could not find in other places. The impressive Bowen Laboratory is a research facility beyond expectations. With more resources available to you, your research and your career can go further.
5) Purdue spirit: I confess that I didn´t know about it before I arrived at the university, but it ended up confirming my choice to attend Purdue. It is a place where everybody wants to do their best. The students do not wish for grades “enough to pass”; they want to be the best student in the class. Graduate students want to solve big problems in the world. Professors and employees want to help students in any way they can. Everybody is proud to wear Purdue gear and apparel. When you are surrounded by people trying to do their best, you also push yourself harder to achieve more.
Graduate school was always something I considered but was not sure about. I graduated with a biotech engineering degree from Tec de Monterrey in Chihuahua, Mexico and immediately started working at a local company, where I learned a lot. But after three years, I realized that I needed a change. Then, an opportunity opened up with a series of positions available at Purdue as a partnership with the Mexican scholarship program CONACYT and my alma mater, so I jumped right in.
To begin the graduate school process, I reviewed the open positions for potential fits for my interests. I did additional research on the labs and professors. After that, I learned that it is important to schedule the professor interviews to discuss the project and talk about your goals. After 3 years in grad school, I can safely say that this is the most essential step in choosing the best fit for grad school.
It is vital that you feel “connected” to the research or the lab, or even the professor’s research. I was lucky enough to find an excellent fit for me in the laboratory of renewable resources in the Department of Agricultural Biological Engineering at Purdue. As an international candidate to grad school, there is an additional layer of requirements. Whatever your options are, always remember to follow both the school and the country guidelines. Every department has specifics to their process, but everyone is happy to help when you ask kindly.
If I were to start grad school again, I would consider 3 essential things in my checklist. First, the laboratory or professor’s presence in the research topic areas is easy to see from publications and citations and potential job or academic opportunities. Second: the current state of the project finances; some projects might be eligible for you to look for funding opportunities or be already funded for your degree. Third, the cost of living and pay for your research work and how this payment will cover your expenses because you are expected to commit to this research for 2 to 5 years. This will not guarantee your success, but it certainly allows peace of mind for you to carry your research successfully.
This semester appeared full of
endless possibilities and new opportunities. Being a graduate student in my
last semester, and a TA in Industrial Design, my life got busy as expected.
Each day I would work on my thesis, teach sketching classes for products, and
have meetings with my advisor, my committee, and the instructor in charge of
the courses that I am teaching.
I managed my time well and kept everything under control in both my professional and personal life. In each of my classes, my students received assignments that helped them either learn or reinforce their drawing skills. I made sure there was a safe environment to create and share ideas between classmates and to get feedback on their creations and how to make them better. I knew the change to online classes was going to be hard. No one had any experience with online teaching, and less in my department of Arts & Design. The entire Spring Break was used by all of the staff and faculty to determine the best way of teaching online and the platforms to use, whereby we could most effectively reach the students.
The first two weeks of online classes were easy, for the most part, because they relied upon the instruction given inside the physical classroom and face-to-face, and that feeling of being “in class” was still there. But the way of creating and sharing content changed with the switch to online instruction. I found it necessary to develop detailed digital presentations to explain assignments and new subjects, using platforms that I have never used before and technology that is not always reliable. As a designer, I am creative, so I developed step-by-step videos and presentations for my students to help them understand the activities and better process the material, which they could revisit if they didn’t understand something. It has been challenging to use Purdue’s WebEx platform to share sketch ideas with the students, but it has helped maintain a beneficial interaction between classmates. And, of course, I took the additional step of making myself readily available and responsive to their emails, in the hope that the dependence on technology this semester will not interfere with the primary goal, which is making sure the students acquire the knowledge and skills they are taught.
It is nice to see that most of my students have made the transition in their minds (and work) from a “vacation” at home, to real distance learning. They have been working hard and applying themselves to their work, and that makes it worth all the effort. These times are difficult for all of us, but there are many good things to learn from this experience as well. This experience forced me to take an even more in-depth view from my students’ perspectives so I could be as flexible as they needed while they adapted to these changes that seemed so overwhelming. It has pushed me to do things that I never saw myself doing before and has helped me become a better teacher as a result. It takes heat and pressure to create a diamond, and I think we are all becoming gems.
One of Purdue’s greatest facilities is Cordova Recreational Sports Center (CoRec), where students and faculty engage in various types of sports activities. It was renovated in 2012 and is now recognized as one of the best college recreation centers in the US (ranked 12th according to the website I came across: https://www.collegeconsensus.com/rankings/best-college-rec-centers/). It’s huge, and you never run out of things to do. One of the best things to do in CoRec is climbing as there are a big bouldering wall and top rope wall where you can climb for free (free entrance to CoRec as a student and free rental climbing shoes and gears) and make a lot of friends. If you’re looking for a new sport to start, I hope this blog can guide you to choose climbing.
Personally, I have been a relatively athletic kid, and I was in the track-and-field club for six years during junior and senior high school. But the training was too hard, and I didn’t find enough interest in it to continue after graduation. I would also enjoy seasonal sports, thanks to the rich nature in Japan, like surfing, skiing, and snowboarding. But I never had a sport that I engaged on a daily basis.
A year after I came to Purdue, my friend took me to the bouldering wall in CoRec. It didn’t take me weeks to fall in love with climbing. It’s like solving a puzzle. You have to try so many movements to find the correct one while trying to be as energy-efficient as possible. If you were a type of student who enjoyed solving math problems in high school like me, you’ll love bouldering too. Ever since I started climbing, I have been climbing three times a week, without missing any sessions unless I’m sick.
Climbing is a hot sport. The climbing population is increasing worldwide, and new gyms are opening everywhere. It’s going to be in the Olympics this year (2020) for the first time, and we climbers are all so excited about it. In most cases, indoor climbing has three components: bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing. Bouldering is on a relatively low wall, and thus you don’t have to use a rope. Top rope and lead climbing are on a tall wall where you have to use a rope. The difference between top rope and lead climbing is how you, as a climber, are belayed through rope. Lead climbing involves more risky and tricky belaying technique, but more advanced than top tope. In general, bouldering requires more technical and dynamic movements (like a math problem, and thus I enjoy bouldering more than rope climbing), and rope climbing requires endurance (anaerobic vs. aerobic).
Let me give you interesting info here (from IFSC website):
National team ranking for bouldering and lead climbing 2019
- Japan, Japan (bouldering, lead)
- Slovenia, Slovenia
- France, South Korea
- Austria, USA
- Germany, Austria
Yes, I’m trying to show you how awesome Japan is for climbing, but also, some of you may be thinking “but I’ve watched Alex Honnold’s Free Solo, and I think there are many strong American climbers too”. Yes, that is true. That’s where outdoor climbing comes in. Places like the US, Europe (like Spain), and South America, are where many people climb rocks outdoors because of their beautiful nature (availability of “climbable” rocks). Therefore, there are so many strong famous rock climbers in the US, but not many of them participate in international climbing competitions, which is all about indoor climbing. In countries like Japan, meanwhile, there are not as many places to climb outside (because of nature, but sometimes also because of inaccessibility to rocks), and indoor climbing is more popular.
If you think you’re more of an outdoor person, there is a famous rock climbing spot in Kentucky called Red River Gorge. It’s about 5 hours driving from Purdue, and they often have international visitors too. It’s so much fun to make a weekend trip out there with climbing friends. In any case, if you want to start indoor climbing or outdoor climbing, I will always be happy to show you, or just talk to random people at the CoRec wall. The climbing community is full of nice people, and they are always happy to welcome new climbers.
The writer is a Ph.D. candidate in Forestry at Purdue University.
Learn more about other graduate student organizations at Purdue here: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/student/organizations/index.html
Moving to a new place is always difficult. You are not familiar with the city, have no idea where anything is located or where you need to go, and you don’t have any friends just yet. Such a transition can be especially stressful for international students who come to the U.S. for the first time. Adjusting to the new culture can be quite challenging (especially during your first semester), and it usually takes some time. Typically, making friends with American people really helps with the transition, because your American friends can introduce you to their culture and the American way of living. But…how do you make friends with Americans in the first place? Surely, not all of us are lucky enough to be born with the natural talent of making friends easily. However, all of us international students here at Purdue are lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the International Friendship Program, or IFP, during our first semester in West Lafayette!
IFP helps new international students and scholars connect with the community by matching them with a local host or host family. The friendships that are formed as a result of such pairings help new students and scholars adjust to the new culture, and make their transition to living in Greater Lafayette area easier. All you need to do is sign up for the program, and then your IFP host will contact you to arrange some fun activities for you to do together approximately once a month.
Personally, I did my undergrad studies in the States, so I wasn’t new to the U.S. when I came to Purdue; however, I was new to Indiana and West Lafayette. Being paired with my IFP host, Linda, has really helped me during my first semester at Purdue. She has invited me to participate in a number of really fun activities organized by her church.
We went to the Fall Festival and screening of the movie Hidden Figures, saw a performance of A Christmas Carol and attended a Purdue Women’s Tennis team match. Linda connected me with many Russian-speaking students, as well as some Russian-speaking professors (it turned out that she had spent several years living in my home country and speaks fluent Russian!). Although the IFP technically only lasts for one semester, many students become such good friends with their hosts that they stay in touch with them long after that semester is over! Linda and I were matched back in August of 2018, but we still exchange messages on a regular basis and do something together from time to time. I am very thankful to the IFP program for giving me a long-term American friend, and strongly encourage all the new international students and scholars coming to Purdue to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!
The Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) is kind of a speech contest for graduate students. They talk about their research (thesis) in three minutes with only one slide. It is not a conference-like talk, but rather a speech; they don’t introduce themselves in the presentation, there is no Q&A session afterward, and they are disqualified if the presentation exceeds three minutes. 3MT started in the University of Queensland and expanded to other universities including Purdue. Purdue Graduate School organizes this exciting event every Spring, where a big number of Purdue graduate students participate every time. (for more information, see Purdue 3MT website).
I learned about this event from Dr. Linda Mason, the Dean of the Graduate School. She is a science communication professional and offers graduate seminars/workshops every semester. Just like other students, I was so attracted by her passions and the way she talked in the seminars. That was the time I started thinking about participating in 3MT. But it seemed to be a big challenge – talking in public is definitely out of my comfort zone, and as an international student, I thought I was already having a linguistic disadvantage. I shared this feeling with my fiance – hey, I kind of want to try this, but I don’t know if I can do it. Then he, without trying to encourage me or anything, just went straight to the Purdue 3MT webpage and registered me.
The preliminary round was just me talking in a regular classroom in front of three judges. The absence of a big public audience minimized my nervousness. Luckily, or maybe thanks to the fridge in my apartment that was listening to my practice every night, I was selected as a finalist among 100 participants.
Unlike the preliminary round, the final took place in the newly-built, huge auditorium in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center. I thought I would be extremely nervous but my confidence level had increased since being selected as a finalist. My friends came to watch me, and I tried to do the power posture to just pretend that I was a superwoman (if you haven’t watched Dr. Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, I highly recommend it for those who have low self-confidence like me). And the miracle happened; I was placed second among the eleven finalists. That was one of the few experiences (or maybe the only one) where I’ve been under the spotlight. I felt even a little shy on the stage.
This all happened last year, April 2018; but, the story didn’t end. Earlier this year of 2019, I received an email from one of the 3MT organizers saying “would you be interested in participating in the Midwest Three Minute Thesis Competition in St Louis?” I didn’t wait for a second to say yes.
I couldn’t make another miracle happen in my second 3MT experience. There were 40+ students representing each university in the Midwest, and all the talks were high-level. Some talks were even entertaining to make the audience laugh. Although I didn’t make it to the final, it was a wonderful experience to see all the talks and interact with the participants. I couldn’t believe that Purdue provides such a fantastic opportunity for a student like me.
Waiting for my returning flight at the St. Louis airport, I was writing a thank-you email to the Purdue 3MT organizers who sent me to St. Louis. Then, one of them asked me, “would you be interested in being a judge in Purdue 3MT this year?” Wow, my 3MT journey never ends.
People at Purdue are respectful and inclusive, both students and faculty/staffs. I feel all the students (both domestic and international students) are equally treated and respected, and I believe this is a very important factor when you choose graduate school. Furthermore, there is plenty of opportunities where you can challenge yourself, stand out and grow as a professional researcher. 3MT is just one of many opportunities. I can’t wait to see what’s coming up next in my graduate life at Purdue!
Pursuing graduate studies is a big decision for anyone. Unlike their peers, graduate students spend years in graduate school before they start their professional career. Besides the typical challenges that any graduate student may face, graduate student parents face different challenges, especially if they are international students. Many international students have families and, most likely, young kids.
If you and your spouse are students or you are living with your kid/s alone, a big challenge is choosing a good place to leave your kid/s while you are in school. This place should provide a safe environment, to foster the healthy growth of your child and improve their academic skills.
There are four daycare centers on the Purdue University- West Lafayette campus. Being on campus, these centers are convenient options for an easy drop off and pick up. I have experience with three of them, Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory school (MCDLS), Purdue Village Preschool (PV Preschool), Purdue University Early Care and Education Center (PUECEC). I am satisfied with my experience with all of them. The teachers and staff are very professional. They provide a safe environment for my kids and the fun activities that each child needs. Those child care centers provide different options for graduate student parents. If both parents are students, the full-time option in MCDLS and PUECEC are perfect. Before I started my graduate studies, my son used to attend PV Preschool, as it is a part-time preschool. Besides the fact that it was very affordable, my son had his best moments there, and learned lots of things from his lead teachers and the Purdue student teachers.
It is important to note that once you get your admission letter from the graduate school, you need to look for a daycare for your kids. Don’t wait until you arrive at the campus to look for the right place for your kids. You can register for Purdue daycare through this link https://www.purdue.edu/hr/childcare/Account/Login. Using your Purdue ID, you can add your kids to the waitlist of the daycare. Purdue University opened the Purdue Early Care and Education Center in August 2016, which helped accept more kids, but it is still necessary to plan ahead of time for your kids.
Also, my son enjoys the after-school programs offered by Purdue daycares. These programs offer extended care for school-age kids. PV Preschool has a wonderful after-school program that is affordable as well for most graduate students (this program will stop by May 2020). PUECEC also has an after-school program where your kids will have lots of fun.
Purdue offers a great summer camp “Boiler Kids Camp, BKC” which offers fun and educational activities for kids 5-12 years old. In BKC, your kids will play different sports, cook, climb, do crafts, play games, learn about science, and do experiments. BKC is on campus which is very convenient. BKC is popular and spots fill quickly, so keep an eye on their website and register your kids as soon as they open the registration. Also, the Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI) at Purdue offers a fantastic summer experience for kids in Kindergarten through fourth grade. Super summer camp provided my son with hands-on STEM activities.
As an international student, I understand that it is always a concern as to how to raise your kids in a different country. Finding a balance between being engaged in the community you are living in and preserving your cultural traditions is very important. Since Purdue University has one of the largest international student bodies among the US public universities, Purdue child care centers provide a great experience for international students. Before your kids join those centers, they will ask you to fill a form that has questions about your child, including the special holidays you celebrate. This question shows that these centers greatly respect the diverse cultural backgrounds of their students.
My family was always welcomed to share information about our home country, Egypt. When my son was at MCDLS, we visited the school and shared information about the ancient Egyptians; we wrote the names of my son’s friends and teachers in hieroglyph, the language of ancient Egyptians, and the kids built pyramids with magnetic blocks! A few years ago, when I visited PV Preschool, I showed the kids the lantern “Fanous”, which a representation of celebrating the month of fasting “Ramadan”. These small and simple things make my kids and I feelwelcomed by the community here. It has helped my kids accept that they have a different culture, but they still can celebrate our holidays with their beloved friends. In the PUECEC, kids count numbers in different languages: English, Chinese, Swedish, Arabic and Spanish. This activity encouraged my son to know the numbers in Arabic, our native language, so he can say it correctly when speaking to his friends 😊. I think this is a great experience for all kids because it helps them appreciate diversity early in their life.
Although, the full-time child care centers are sometimes expensive for graduate students, there are resources that may support you. The Purdue Graduate Student Government (PGSG) offers child care grants for eligible graduate students. Another option is the Patty Jischke “Kids are the Future” Endowment scholarship. Those resources help make the child care expenses more affordable.A
As a graduate student parent, you will need support from other graduate student parents. The Graduate Parent Support Network (GPSN) will help you with that. This network will allow you to see others’ experiences and also share your experiences. It will provide you with helpful resources and also, it is a chance to make new friends for you and your kids too. Also, they organize trips to nice places, such as the trip to Indianapolis children’s museum.
1- Purdue Child Care Centers Information: https://www.purdue.edu/hr/familyfriendly/purdueChildcare/index.html
2- Purdue Child Care Registration: https://www.purdue.edu/hr/childcare/Account/Login
3- Boiler Kids Camp (BKC): https://www.purdue.edu/recwell/programs/youthFamily/boilerKidscamp.php 4- PGSG Child Care Grant :(https://www.purduegradstudents.com/child-care-grants)
5- Patty Jischke Endowment Scholarship: https://www.purdue.edu/hr/familyfriendly/jischkeEndowment/index.html 6- Graduate Parent Support Network: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/student/families/gpsn.html
7- GERI Supper Summer Camp: (https://www.education.purdue.edu/geri/youth-programs/super-summer/
Joining graduate school is a life-long dream for many people. However, many people lack enough information about what the application process entails, and some of the considerations to make when looking for schools. The application process is even more difficult for most Africans where the awareness of various vocabulary used in the academic calendar of many American schools is scarce. Below I offer some tips that prospective students and/or their families can follow when making the choice of the US school to attend.
Do you want to join in the fall, spring, or summer?
Most American schools accept admissions for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. However, most international students tend to join in the fall (Aug or September) and spring (January). In most anglophone countries, the fall season is what is known as autumn, but in the USA, it is known as fall, I guess because that is the time when trees shed their leaves in preparation for the start of winter. Each university and the program of interest might have different admission conditions. Therefore, it is good to reach out to the school of interest and inquire about their admission requirements.
Know what you want and where your interests lie
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. It is important to know the program that you are interested in and its requirements. For example, different programs have varying requirements for GRE and TOEFL requirements. Therefore, evaluate your interests clearly, and know what is required of each major of your interest.
Prepare well for GMAT/GRE/TOEFL
Almost all programs require prospective students to take a standardized entry exam. With the exemption of business schools, which require prospective graduate students to do a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), most programs require students to do a Graduate Record exam (GRE). The required scores vary across schools. However, those interested in medical and law schools do different entry level exams.
Additionally, international students are also required to take a language exam to assess their fluency in the English language. This can either be the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. These exams require thorough preparation because they are anxiety provoking, but they can make your admission easier if you score highly. So, know which exam is required of you and prepare well in advance. You can check the details of these exams by googling them online.
Are you interested in scholarship, assistantship, or is your family meeting your education expenses?
Most schools have assistantships, and some have scholarships available to support graduate students. Assistantships are the most common forms of financial support for international students. Depending on the requirements, if offered, the assistantship require the incoming students to either be a teaching assistant (TA) to a professor or be a research assistant working in a lab. In exchange the school pays for your tuition and gives you some monthly stipend. If offered, the federal law requires international students to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week, and these are spread out in a way that working does not violate your classes. The application process for both scholarships and assistantships is separate from school application. If your family is supporting you, well and good, you do not have to worry about this! However, life is very expensive in the US, so trying either a scholarship or assistantship does not hurt!
Keep an eye on the deadlines
Schools are strict on deadlines and they won’t extend them for you! Make sure you know when the deadlines for the application are, and plan ahead! Schools start accepting applications a year earlier. For example, for those interested in the Fall 2020 admission, the applications will open starting the fall of this year (Aug to Dec 2019). Knowing the deadline is important in getting your references informed and for effective preparation for the entry exam.
Show interest and connect with the faculty and students in the school of your interest. For instance, ask about the assistantships available, admission requirements, and if the school can waive some requirements for you. Some schools waive TOEFL requirement for international students from anglophone countries.
Robert Nyaga is a Ph. D. Candidate studying Health Communication at Purdue University