The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
Instagram

Time off may not be an option

 

In the last issue of The Daily Campus, I read a wonderful article written by Michael Graves making the point that taking time off to travel is as much a worthy way to spend your time after graduation as can be to hunt for a full time job right away or continuing into higher studies.

This is an idea I completely concur with. And I also completely agree with Graves that traveling and public service and taking some time out to discover yourself might end up making you a better executive when you do eventually get to be one, albeit it might take you a little longer than others who followed a linear career path.

Indeed, I have European and American friends who had been on a world tour right after they graduated. I knew several Westerners in the south of India who had taken a break from their careers to pursue their interest in learning the “Kathakali” dance form or the ancient “Kalari” martial art form native to India. 

But I started thinking from the perspective of an international student on the campus here as I read about this idea. I recalled the discussion I had with Mandy Pathak, who interacts with international students on campus. We discussed how so many international students on the campus really carry heavy burdens with them. 

This fact is only too true if you examine the facts: most of the Indian graduate students I know on campus are here in the U.S. almost completely on an educational loan. And converting dollars to Indian Rupees, even after considering the Purchase Power Parity (PPP) of India, is a really huge amount for the majority of the Indian population. University education is definitely not cheap in the U.S., and for students who are here from a country that has a per capita income is less than one-tenth of the U.S., it is definitely not cheap at all. In fact, for a typical government servant in India, this means a lifetime’s savings to support his child’s education abroad.

Consider also the fact that in many middle-class families in India, the best social security for the ageing parents is through their children. The traditional family structure automatically entrusts more responsibilities of parental and family care to the younger generation than in fact even financial support. This is a reality I am sure in most developing countries. 

So consider a typical Indian student on campus: he lands in the U.S. with the responsibility of having to repay his huge educational loans back home within the next few years and having to take care of his parents soon since they would be approaching retirement age. For many individuals there is the responsibility of taking care of their siblings, too, since in too many middle-class families they would have invested all of their life’s savings into the education of the older sibling. 

These are no simple matters, and this throws light on why so many international students are so stressed and desperate to simply finish their degrees and find a job, or at least an internship back in their home country or anywhere in the world. In their pursuit for their dream careers, most of them would have already jeopardized their families’ financial security forever. There is simply no room for distractions or delays. 

And this is the very same reason why so many Indian college aspirants choose to take up engineering or computer science or medicine over the arts and creative career options. They are simply the best options available to them for a promising future. 

Sunil is a graduate student in the Lyle School of Engineering. 

More to Discover