Student Stories

The Most Bizarre and Nerve-Racking First Semester in USA

Shared by a reader who would like to remain anonymous about Most Bizarre and Nerve-Racking First Semester in USA.

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Flickr User : bdwaydiva1

I would start off by saying that I’m a meticulous person, I plan and organize and do my homework and think a 100 times before committing to anything.

Planning for MS in USA

I had Started my planning,preparation and processing for MS in September 2010 (after reading through every single post on HSB ).

Ii wrote my GRE and TOEFL, started applying in November and got an admit to UXX (please keep my university name anonymous) on December 14th 2010 (according to my Facebook time-line no less) and it was exactly like everyone describes (hard, challenging etc.,).

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in May 2011 from one of the many engineering colleges in Hyderabad (also my hometown, I’m a very proud Hyderabadi) and arrived in the United States on August 15th 2011 (Independence day day for both India and me).

Enrolled for classes, attended orientation, paid my tuition.

Graduate Research Assistant position

On December 14th 2011 i interviewed for a Graduate Research Assistant position on-campus and I got the job.

I had never worked before (not even an internship) it was extremely challenging.

I learned and re-learned and learned even more.

SSN and Problem Starts

I went to the social security office to apply for my SSN and that was where things got weird. I was issued a denial letter from the social security administration explaining to me that i do not qualify for a social security number as they were unable to verify my status on the DHS (Department of Homeland Security ) database.

I took the letter and went back to the office of international education and asked for an explanation.

To date I don’t know exactly why it happened but my SEVIS was terminated (even-though I was enrolled full-time).

I had never seen any reference to any such thing before in my life.

The DSO put in an re-instatement request but nobody had any clue when things will get corrected.

I panicked.

I freaked out majorly because of my ignorance about the importance of SEVIS or about what it meant in relation to my F1 visa “status”.


To add to my miseries I was amazingly stupid in selecting courses without asking the right seniors.

Lets just say that I picked ones that I was clearly under-qualified to take.

Everything is Falling Apart

All in all, everything seemed to be falling apart at the seams.

I realized that I was completely unprepared for this life.

The workload was too-much, the job was too challenging, the living in a new country for the first time coupled with new roommates,cooking,cleaning (all those things that are part of living in US and doing masters) was quite overwhelming.
There was also the question of getting in-state tuition waiver, my school typically does not process the HR paperwork without an SSN and things were stuck.

Eventually after months of waiting things fell into place.

My status was active, I got my SSN and started my paperwork.

Not the End

The very next morning my TOEFL scores were cancelled(the center malpractice issues in Hyderabad was the reason behind this) which meant that my graduate student status went into “provisional” and graduate school cannot appoint a GRA who has this on record.

I was Angry.

I was Angry at people who cheated.

Angry at ETS for being so unfair.

I had 110 when I gave the test in Hyderabad.

I re-took the exam at the Dallas Prometric Center (for which i paid again) and got a 114.

The results were out after 12 days and the graduate school removed the hold.
Still I think i was extremely lucky.

My employers were highly understanding (I think this was when I truly appreciated American culture) and I had relatives living nearby ( Don’t ever under-estimate the advantages of having some family close by who can pick you up when you fall).

I had amazing and highly supportive friends and mentors who were just there for me.

And I love my School.

It gave me lot in terms of intangible things like learning, life-skills, experience.
Now everything is going smoothly (but you never know).

I have a new game plan on how to finish my MS and land a job.

I don’t know how true it is when people say hardships make you stronger.

I think hardships make you smarter. Smarter and quicker.

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  1. When I was same as you as foreign student many years ago, my school advisor told me he overlooked at my school credits and i still need 20+ semester credits in order to graduate right before my graduation. Wrote to the Dean, Advisor admit his fault, and the 20+ was waived. What a freak out experience!!

  2. How about finding a good girl in the US? So she is there to consolidate when you are down. How does that sound?

  3. The above article has belittled the miseries my daughter had with her room mates (All girls) soon after she landed in US for her MS. My daughter was the youngest of the five girls. But she was the only one to get RA , since she had research experience in India. Problem started with this. Other girls started treating her like second class citizen. They could have been easily booked for Physical abuse or ragging. But we did not opt for it. Four months my daughter suffered and moved out when a suitable accommodation was available.

  4. Hey Man! That was close!!! Qudos to u for emerging out unscathed through the difficulties. One thing that everyone should keep in mind while dealing with things in US (or any other country) is that u are in a foreign country and things dont always act as perceived. But the plus point for US is that, people and officials here are generally cooperative, understanding, and act fast..hence that are supposed to get resolved, get resolved very fast.

  5. all the newbies, do not forget to relax and rethink your strategy, be very aware of how INS works, attend the workshops International center arranges all the time to be aware of the rules and regulations.
    Do not work Illegally, couple of people from my uni got deported and they are not ever coming back to the US, Unless your are getting paid in millions, don’t bother, Try to find a job on campus, they are out there, you have to go and inquire about them, dont be shy about it.

    and try to mingle with people with other cultures if your plan to work in the US, which many of you want because US workforce is very diverse. Make friends, talk to people, and party often, it helps relax your mind.


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