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Suhas' journey to studying at UMBC

As a working professional, although I was happy with my job, I was not completely satisfied with what I was doing; I wanted something bigger in life. And to me, the key to achieving this goal was getting my master’s degree. So I decided to pursue my goal at a place that would challenge me and my abilities in every possible way. The place that came to my mind was the USA, the land which gives opportunities to those who deserve them. I was clear that the USA was the place for me.
I began my research to find universities which could act as my playground to learn what I wanted. To be very honest, I was not aware of the higher education system and universities in the USA until the final year of my undergraduate degree. Before this, the only universities I knew were those in the Ivy League; I soon discovered that the system was much larger than this when a friend of mine secured a position at the University of Maryland, College Park. With the help of her and a few other friends, I got to know about the various university systems like the those of Texas, Maryland, Georgia etc. After much research, I had UMBC at the top of my list of colleges I wanted to get into. Fortunately, at this stage I was introduced to Geetha, who worked for EduCo. It was through her I got to meet Ms. Jill Barr, the Assistant Dean of UMBC, while she was in India. The meeting with Jill cemented my choice of UMBC as my graduate school.
I applied to UMBC for the fall 2016 semester and had my admission confirmed. I got my I-20 and completed my application for my F-1 visa. I thought everything was set. But fate had something else planned for me; I was rejected in my visa interview. Twice.
It was a tough time. I almost lost hope of pursuing my higher education abroad but Geetha was always there to help me when I needed. She helped me defer my admission to the spring semester. She prepared me more for the visa interview by setting up several mock interviews. After two failed attempts, I was finally able to get my visa the third time. I was done with all the procedural hurdles. It was time to fly to the USA, finally!
I arrived in the USA on 19 January, the same day as orientation for international graduate students. With absolutely no idea of anything and without knowing anyone, I somehow reached the venue of orientation. To my surprise, I found Jill there. And to my even bigger surprise, I was welcomed with a big, warm hug from Jill. She remembered me, by name, even after four months had passed since our brief meeting in India. To someone who had come thousands of miles away from home, away from family and friends, that hug meant a lot. It felt like being welcomed to a second home. It was at that moment I knew I had made the right choice of selecting UMBC.
I had my department orientation on 25 January. I got to meet the Program Director, Dr. Tom Moore and Dr. Toby Gouker. They were very welcoming and were ready to help me with all my academic matters. In fact, I discussed with Dr. Moore that my primary area of interest is Computer Networks and Network Security. He was helpful enough to lay down my course structure and even suggested what my options are when it comes to my technical electives, to make sure that I study only what I am interested in. My classes started on 30 January. So far, everything is going smoothly. I am sure that my stay here at UMBC will be an experience to cherish for the rest of my life.
As a graduate student, I would always suggest to others to be clear about what career path you want once you graduate from school. Only when you are clear about your destination, will you be able to choose your path. Always make sure you do your research. It will help a great deal in making the right decisions. I cannot emphasize enough as to how important it is to have your goals set.
Finally, to sum up everything, I can only say how lucky I am to be here at UMBC. I have had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people. I have an excellent set of professors, who are well qualified and always ready to help me. I am fortunate to study in a world class environment which has all the resources I need to excel in my academics and in my future career. What more can I ask for?! The only thing now for me is to be focused on my goal, improve my skills, grow as a person and network. I am sure UMBC will help me achieve all the above, and to get out into the world and succeed!
 
Suhas Gopalappa
University of Maryland, Baltimore County