Graduate student from India learning to love Dallas
Short skirts, bland food and safe drivers are some of the most interesting differences international student Rajesh Kumar remembers encountering when he arrived in Dallas.
Kumar, a second year graduate student from India, said his first meal in the U.S. was at Chipotle where he could barely get the food down.
‘The most difficult part for me was to adjust to the food – bland kind of food, and we eat very spicy kinds of food in India,” said Kumar.
Kumar grew up in Dehradun in the northern part of India. Today he is in Dallas working on his Ph.D. in polymer chemistry under the internationally known professor Nicolay Tsarevsky. After graduating with a masters degree in chemistry at Ssi Sathya Sai University in India, Kumar chose SMU solely because of Tsarevsky.
Kumar is able to speak with his professors informally here in the U.S., a difference in customs that he finds invaluable.
“There are no formalities here whereas in India I had to call my professors sir and now I can say hello anytime I see them and call them by name,” said Kumar.
American young women party more and speak very frankly compared to young women in India. Kumar remembers feeling shocked when one of his American female friends greeted him with a hug.
Kumar listed other surprises he found in the U.S. that he is thankful for: how pedestrians can cross streets safely; learning about the newest technological advances months before people in India would hear about them; meeting people from all over the world; and how respectful everyone has been about his culture.
Kumar’s roommate, Ketan Jadhav, said it took a long time for Kumar to get used to American music.
“Kumar always used to listen to Hindi music and I always had English music on loud in our apartment,” said Jadhav, “and finally he likes it now.”
Jadhav, an international SMU student from Mumbai working on his masters in telecommunications, said Kumar is always on his phone when they are at home, talking to his parents, girlfriend or siblings.
When asked if he misses India, Kumar said not enough to leave Dallas. After graduating in 2018, he plans on staying and working in the U.S. if an opportunity arises to apply for a work visa.
Kumar currently earns an $1,800 monthly stipend for his research that develops safe, nano-sized drug vehicles for cancer cell penetration. In India, he would only earn a $300 monthly stipend for the kind of research he is doing with Tsarevsky.
Kumar has made friends easily here. He met his roommate at an international students meeting and he has numerous American friends he has met through classes. He said working as a teaching assistant for an undergrad chemistry lab helps him meet others.
Kumar said his experience at SMU has been positive, but then he takes a pause and chuckles. “But I really hate the daylight savings thing.”