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Why I Chose Unconventional Career and University in Montana

Guest post  by Apoorva – Unconventional- career path and choice of University

I couldn’t have been happier today with my choice of course and university in the U.S. I did my undergrad in Environmental Sciences from Pune and am now doing my Master’s in Environmental Journalism [the actual name of the course is much longer].

Most people I have interacted with back home have no idea what and where Montana state is located. I see hardly anyone on this site write a post even remotely related to education in Montana.

To put things in perspective – I’m writing this simply because no one ever told me about this place and the kind of stuff I’d be doing when I got here, and I genuinely think that if there are people out there who are looking towards careers in Wildlife Biology, Conservation, Environmental Science or Environmental Reporting and Journalism- this is the place to be.

45 Days in USA – Emotional Suffering to Realized Dreams

You couldn’t be more spot on at The University of Montana, Missoula [UM] OR Montana State University, Bozeman, MT [MSU].

Road to Montana

I am at UM and am loving my time here. I started my Master’s in August this year and it all works out for the best considering my proximity to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

The wilderness here is top notch and I have deer on my patio at night. But I guess most people avoid extreme weather conditions like the crazy snow that MT gets.

There are VERY few Indians here in Missoula but almost 5 times the number just 3hrs away in Bozeman – owing to MSU’s engineering departments.

I absolutely love studying here. My coursework is harder than most would believe it to be and having 12 credits at the grad. level and teaching a class, does not make things easier.

To add to my already loaded schedule for Spring ’12- I’m also now the new President of the South and South-east Asian Students’ Association for my university.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to take part in activities, meet new people, spread the culture, and make friends in this super tiny ‘city’ of Missoula.

Admission Requirements

I needed the usual –

  • English language proficiency,
  • GRE [formality for Graduate School],
  • Letters or recommendation, S
  • Statement of Purpose

11 years of having worked with wildlife definitely helped my resume become super stable.

My grades have always been above average, but my extra-curricular activities have been all over the place ranging from horse-riding to rifle-shooting to playing the guitar.

All of that counts. Plus, I had to write essays and provide samples of my written and photographic work to be able to get into the journalism degree program.

Visa Interview

I’d like to mention here, that it took me an insane amount of time [2months] to get ALL my VISA documents ready and filed, and more so because I did everything myself with help from my parents.

I didn’t take extra classes, or go to an education consultancy agency or anything of the sort.

My VISA interview was on the 6th of June 2011 and lasted for 50seconds. I’m not kidding. I gave the interview at the Mumbai embassy and was in line 30mins before my scheduled appointment.

I was asked following questions

  • I chose this particular university [which, by the way, is ranked in the top 3 for journalism programs]
  • who would be paying for my education
  • whether I have immediate family in the U.S. and whether I’ve been here before. My answers were not rehearsed and I’m a pretty confident speaker [you need to be one if you intend to be a wildlife journalist].

One doesn’t have to go out of one’s way and be extra sugar-coated at these interviews. They’re not assessing your ability to give them diabetes. So just being appropriately polite, confident, and humble goes a long way.

Checkout Montana Universities

Either way, coming back to the point – that this place is much better than I had imagined it would be, I would be more than happy to help anyone that might be considering a career in the environmental fields like conservation, wildlife biology, forestry, climate change studies, paleontology, and environmental journalism.

If you’re interested in exploring possibilites at UM- give me a holler. I hope this helps those that have considered Montana but opted out because of several reasons. It’s a stellar place to be.


Apoorva, thanks for sharing your experiernce and life style in Montana.

I spent 4 days in Yellow Stone National Park.  We camped for a night in the park.

It was such an amazing experience. It MUST visit place in USA. People then to think NY, Las Vegas when it comes to places to see, but Yellow Stone is one of a kind.  I have to visit Yellow Stone in Winter, it will be an unique experience.

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  1. I am vanaraj Ganapathy from India. I gratuated from smith college in 2007 with master degree in Biological Sciences, Northampton USA. My Gpa is 2.48. I have another master degree in Botany (first Class). I dont have rececent GRE. I am planning to appear for GRE this year 2012. Is it posible to get into the phd program in Plant ecology or Conservation biology?


  2. Hi
    Is there any scope for env engg in US? I am doing env engg from GGSIP University,India,but all i have heard is negative abt scope in ths field..

    1. Hello Malvika,

      There is scope for every field, every where. If you are good and know what you are doing, you wont have problems being employed.

      But if you are talking on relative terms, than TRUE that it is not as easy as the field of Computer/Information/Electronic sciences, in terms of employment and quality of work. Also, this field is adversely impacted during tough economic times because our field is conceived more as an expense than profit. Initially, comparatively, the pay isn’t all that great. But on the long run returns are great.

      Considering you are on this forum, if you are planning to apply fr graduate studies in US I encourage you to do so. But don’t settle with mediocrity, score well on your GRE and TOEFL, and apply for really good universities. I am sure that definitely will be a good start.

  3. Hi,
    Is there any university in US for applying in Mechanical Engineering Department with GRE score
    283 and TOEFL score 100 with full scholarlarship or financial aid. Please inform me.

    With regards

  4. hi,

    Congratulations on ur great decision and choosing the interesting path..
    ENV. JOURNALISM is one of the V.IMP upcoming field in Env. issues..n needs love/passion for Env.

    wish u great success n best luck for future..
    i did my masters in Env. Sci. and looking forward for MS in the ENV. Field
    could u pls send your e mail id if i need any information in future…

  5. Dear Apoorva,
    Thank you for this Amazing post, I want to read M.S or PHD in Pharmaceutical Microbiology in
    the University of Montana, Missoula [UM] OR Montana State University, Bozeman, MT [MSU]. I want to know if this course is available int these Universities and the Admission requirement for the course, I hold a Bsc in Microbiology, i am from Nigeria in Africa. I look forward to your reply through my e-mail address….
    Thank you.

    Adefila O.E

  6. Dear Apoorva,

    It’s great to read about your unconventional decision and finally being very happy with it.

    I want to pursue PhD in conservation biology . But I am a post graduate in Biotechnology and do not have any experience in conservation biology as yet. My GRE and TOEFL scores are 1160 (verbal- 480 and quant- 680) and 105 respectively. I do not think I could afford to go for studies without financial aid. So taking up an MS seems difficult unless I gain financial aid.
    What would you suggest to me? Looking forward to your reply.

    Thanks in advance,
    Pavithra Rao

  7. Hello HSB,
    I have been a follower for 2 months now. Its really nice of all the people who share their experiences. thanks HSB, thanks all.
    It would be of great help for me if anyone comes up with the following questions:
    1. will it be very difficult to get funding (for PhD in some bio-medical stream)if I have to take my wife with me as F2? [ GRE 1450, TOEFL 100, GPA 3] ( I have no option but to take her with me).
    2. will the amount of monthly stipend sufficient for the two of us to get going?
    3. is VISA for both of us going to be tough to get?

  8. Hi ,Aporva I am also looking for Phd in environment Science from usa .could u send me some public university and pls tell me how calculate GPA I tried but couldn’t understand write method.


  9. hi,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. The innate happiness of working in the field that u love is reflected in this letter. (That is what i thought, after reading it!).

    Enjoy ur stay in US and have lots of fun through your course.

    All the Best…. CRIKEY!!!!

  10. I love wildlife and live very near to mantana on east coast… Have included it in my “to-visit” places during my stay in USA.

  11. Thank you for this amazing post!
    I am also looking forward to applying for a PhD in env. However, I have a lot of doubts.
    Could you pl give me your email id?

  12. Hi Apoorva, its great to hear from someone studying in Environmental field. I want to pursue my masters in Environmental Engineering. I had short listed Montana State University, Bozeman but was not sure about its ranking and review. I have scored 303 on new GRE and 101 in TOEFL. Is that ok to get into Montana?? Can you help me?

  13. i am also an environmental engineering student ….please can i have your contact either in facebook or mail id…this is my link-http://facebook.com/kalmathmanjunath. i hope i will get reply .

    1. Thank you for this amazing post!
      I am also looking forward to applying for a PhD in env. However, I have a lot of doubts.
      Could you pl give me your email id?

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