FSU’s highly ranked Higher Education program; Tallahassee’s tropical climate that reminds me of home in Mumbai; the diversity of the community with FSU, FAMU, TCC in close proximity; and Tallahassee’s location as the capital of Florida, due to my interest in international education advocacy. The higher education program at FSU is one of the longest-standing programs in this field internationally. It is also one of the top-ranked programs nationwide, but more than all that, it gives you a lot of early career preparedness in the real-world scenario of student affairs. Studying in a higher education master’s program is somewhat of a full circle, inward-looking experience! We are required and given the tools to critically study and examine the institutional systems that teach us: the university system, administration, policies, and other leadership aspects of a higher education institution.
Motivation to pursue a graduate degree
There is a sizable gap in higher education research of the lived experiences of international students/scholars, the wider international community including the family and children of students, and undocumented and refugee populations that have even different experiences. This research is something I am passionate about and want to intersectionally look into across all functional areas in student affairs, such as housing, career services, and academic success. There is also a paucity of student affairs professionals who are of South Asian cultural heritage and who unapologetically bring their decolonized perspectives to the table to change the systems of higher education that have implicitly maintained barriers to the marginalized sections of our global society. I aim to represent and be intentionally present to engage and center that discourse.
Importance of research and work
While my current graduate education at FSU doesn’t warrant much research engagement, I have been able to focus much of my coursework assignments and projects on international students and internationalization of the higher education space. In my engagements within the higher education program, I intern with the Asian American Student Union (AASU). This is where I can not only explore my identity as an international Asian student from India, but also negotiate this identity with the Asian American identities of second plus generation students. When I think largely of the research I will be engaging in, it stems from places of internationalization of higher education in the curriculum, programming, and student support. In addition to that, some other nodes I aim to explore are Global South to Global North mobility and the reasons thereof based on neoliberal constructs; decolonization of South Asian identities in world diasporas; understanding how spirituality, faith, and religiosity of the contexts of international students in the U.S. affects their well-being; and nuanced assimilation of host languages and effects as students progress through their academic careers in the U.S., among many other overlapping ideas.
Advice for prospective graduate students
I encourage new international students and scholars to be proactive and get involved with academic and extracurricular activities. Just like the plane took flight when coming to the U.S., take flight in your life and fully experience all that Florida State University has to offer you. And remember to cherish the small things in life like the fragrance of flowers on campus, the serene beaches in Florida, the hikes and landscapes all across the U.S.! Learn, travel, live! Do something, and be fearless! I would counsel new students to seek friendships with people from a variety of backgrounds. While I see a lot of students sticking to their friends from their nationality and regions, try and be more open and interact with others from different parts of the world in a low-stakes space such as International Coffee Hour at the CGE. Speaking your language and having your home food will surely help with homesickness, so do that to feel loved, and also try to get out of your comfort zone. Even though it may be hard at times, remember that that is where learning happens. If you feel lost and unmotivated, reach out to peers; they might be going through something similar, so be empathetic and caring toward each other. Lastly, graduate education is never easy, but it can be made inimitably valuable by finding your community of support networks. Find your creative inlets, and let yourself fill up before you give out help to others.
Accomplishments during graduate school
Being awarded the 2021 Florida Association of International Educators – Study Florida Scholarship is one of the most cherished accomplishments, since international graduate students from all Florida schools are eligible to apply! Recently, I was awarded the 2021-22 Hardee Fellowship from the Hardee Center for Leadership and Ethics in Higher Education. As a presidential intern for the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) – College Student Educators International, I am one of three individuals selected to assist the ACPA President (2020-2023), Dr. Danielle Morgan Acosta, and participate in a unique opportunity to advance the goals set forth by the association and the president. Here I get to be in critically important spaces and thus understand the many nuanced mechanics of how large international nonprofit professional associations function. I serve on the 2022 ACPA Convention Steering Team that plans and makes the convention the place to be! I also serve as the international student advocate for the Congress of Graduate Students (COGS) at FSU, and I encourage graduate students to reach out about any desires for improving and fostering a welcoming environment for our international community. This position gives me the opportunity to serve the international student/scholar and community-at-large and advocate on their behalf with FSU’s Student Government Association (SGA). I have also presented and attended multiple virtual conferences this year, including FAIE’s 2021 Statewide Conference; the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Region VII Conference; the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) 2021 Convention; the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) 2021 Virtual Conference; and the Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values, at which I presented a session on "UNPACKING Experiences of International students!" This fall 2021, I presented at NASPA Florida Conference, and in the NAFSA All-Region Summit internationally.
I plan to pursue doctoral education in higher education and student affairs after graduating from FSU to further my internationalization efforts within the field. In the long run, I aim to work in the international student education policy-making space by informing the lived experiences of international students and scholars and their communities. International students and immigration are inextricably linked, and making equitable reforms is my ultimate goal.