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CSU students from India adapt to new lifestyle, educational cultures

Sarthak+Bharadwaj+and+Mukesh+Sesekr+discuss+the+things+they+like+about+being+in+Colorado+at+Eleven+13+Apartments+in+Fort+Collins.
Collegian | Cait Mckinzie
Sarthak Bharadwaj and Mukesh Sekar discuss the things they like about being in Colorado at Eleven13 Apartments in Fort Collins Dec. 4. “I think if you ask me, Colorado is a very beautiful place,” Sekar said. “I want to be here.”

Mukesh Sekar had never seen snow before November.

Sekar and his roommate Sarthak Bharadwaj had never cooked, visited the United States or been away from their families before they started attending Colorado State University as graduate students for the 2023 fall semester.

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“The people are too nice here,” Bharadwaj said of Coloradans. “But initially, when we … came here, I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know how I’m going to adapt to the situation.’ But we had our pros and cons, and we had our difficulties in the initial part, like how we were going adapt to this new place. This is the first time I’m coming from my country, staying away from my parents for the first time, like, actually, it was a new experience.”

Sekar is a graduate student from the eastern part of India studying electrical engineering in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering graduate program. Initially, Sekar did not have plans to complete a master’s degree following the two bachelor’s degrees he earned and working at Amazon for three years as a developer.

“I wanted to gain more knowledge in my field, which is like chip design,” Sekar said. “Out of the five universities (to) which I applied, this university (has) better research opportunities, (and) I got a better scholarship.”

“I think the weather’s nice here and (the) view (of) the mountains — … the place is very beautiful. The pollution here is way less than what it is (in India). When it snows, from my window, I can see the whole place. It looks so good when it snows.” -Sarthak Bharadwaj, CSU graduate student

Bharadwaj, from Tamil Nadu in the southern part of India, is studying computer science at CSU.

“When I chose Colorado for college, I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know (how) the place is going to be,’ but when I entered during my immigration in the airport, the cop asked me only one question: ‘Are you studying in CU, Denver or Fort Collins?” Bharadwaj said. “I told (him) CSU, (and he said), ‘You’re in the best place.'”

Bharadwaj and Sekar live at Eleven13 Apartments off South Shields Street, within walking distance of campus. They met in the Indian Community Group, a WhatsApp group for international CSU students, and had no plans of where to live when moving to Fort Collins.

“We didn’t confirm this place as what we needed when we came here, but we were like, ‘Oh, we are going to be homeless at some point,'” Sekar said. “So we got this place, and it’s been good.”

Sekar and Bharadwaj did not get their student visas until just days before they flew to Colorado. Sekar obtained his visa five days before his flight and had to travel to the western part of India — three to four hours from his home — for his visa interview. Bharadwaj obtained his visa 10 days before his flight.

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“(The visa) is the biggest headache that we have to go (through),” Sekar said. “There are lots of things you have to show, like financials and everything. And then comes the final part: the visa interview. I was a bit nervous … because when I went in, there was four, five, six rejections in front of me. I was like, ‘OK, let’s see. Whatever happens, happens.’ I just went and spoke confidently, and that person asks only one thing: ‘Why do you want to do your masters?’ I just told my agenda.”

The entire process of applying for graduate programs took Bharadwaj and Sekar five months. They had to pass English proficiency exams, the Graduate Record Examination and written tests. They then had to wait to hear back from the universities they had applied to before they were able to apply for a student visa. The higher the GRE score a student achieves, the better the chance that universities will admit them.

“That was hard (for) me as a person who (was) working as well as studying for those exams; (it) was very difficult,” Sekar said. “Then after that, once we clear that exam, we have to go write our (standard operating procedures) and (get) permission from the universities (in) which I did my bachelor’s in and send (that) data from those professors … to the universities.”

Sekar said the student visa headquarters are only located in four cities in India. Because of the waiting process to hear back from schools, he had his interview on the last day possible before his flights.

“(The timing) was very near because it was the next date for me to travel,” Sekar said. “I think, what, two or three hours in a flight. I had to travel from the east to the south.”

The biggest adjustment for Sekar and Bharadwaj has been the weather. Bharadwaj saw snow and colder temperatures through traveling, but neither had lived in a mountainous climate before.

“I think the weather’s nice here and (the) view (of) the mountains — … the place is very beautiful,” Bharadwaj said. “The pollution here is way less than what it is (in India). When it snows, from my window, I can see the whole place. It looks so good when it snows.”

Bharadwaj said the most difficult part of assimilating to the new culture was making friends in those first few days. Since then, he has joined an international student support volleyball group, and Sekar is working in the Durrell Center.

“We just used to stay at home and just work on our stuff,” Sekar said. “We didn’t know what to do (or) how to communicate with people. But once we started going to classes (and) when we started working, even though we obviously feel lonely at some points, suddenly you see there’s a shift. … You can go to interact with people and feel good.”

Following their graduation, both Sekar and Bharadwaj have no concrete plans other than to see where their gained knowledge takes them. For now, that knowledge includes not only coursework but the practical life experiences learned by moving to Fort Collins.

“We learned to cook ourselves, and back in our houses, we never enter the kitchen,” Sekar said. “After coming here, we could say, ‘Look, we learned to cook ourselves.’ We do everything on our own, so it’s taking responsibility. After coming here, we have learned that taking responsibility plays an important role, and that is kind of nice. Instead of being just lazy and lying on a bed for the whole day, you can do something productive, and it feels good.”

Reach Allie Seibel at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @allie_seibel_

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Allie Seibel, Editor in Chief
Allie Seibel is the editor in chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, a role she loves more and more with each day. Previously the news editor and news director of The Collegian, Seibel has a background in news, but she’s excited to branch out and experience every facet of content this and following years. Seibel is a sophomore journalism and media communications major minoring in business administration and legal studies. She is a student in the Honors Program and is also an honors ambassador and honors peer mentor. She also is a satellite imagery writer for the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Seibel is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and loves how The Collegian has gotten her acquainted with Fort Collins and CSU. When she’s not writing, reporting or in class, you can always find her with a book, cross-stitching, planning where to travel to next, trying out a new recipe or listening to Taylor Swift. Seibel is incredibly proud of The Collegian’s past and understands the task of safeguarding its future. She’s committed to The Collegian’s brand as an alt-weekly newspaper and will continue to advance its status as a strong online publication while preserving the integrity and tradition of the print paper. Seibel is excited to begin a multi-year relationship with readers at the helm of the paper and cannot wait to see how the paper continues to grow. Through initiatives like the new science desk and letting each individual desk shine, Seibel is committed to furthering The Collegian and Rocky Mountain Student Media over the next few years.

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