Name: Hitarth Sharma
Course: Data Science
University: San Jose State University
Location: San Jose, California
- Research the universities and courses well in advance before applying.
- Having a university close to the Silicon Valley helps provide a perfect place for internships and job opportunities.
- Taking Advanced Placement exams after Class 12th can help you skip a semester in San Jose State University.
- IELTS and TOFEL are not mandatory for San Jose State University, at least not for Data Science course.
- Connecting with students from the university of your choice can get you valuable insights into the application process.
(January 16, 2024) It was in the Fall of 2023 that Delhi-based Hitarth Sharma boarded the flight to the US, stepping an inch closer to his American dream. Growing up, he dreamt of working in Silicon Valley and was keen to translate it into reality. He knew it was all about taking one step at a time. That’s when he applied for San Jose State University in California, which is right at the heart of Silicon Valley. “It’s a perfect place for internships as well as job opportunities. There is no dearth of options, and that’s what makes it exciting,” he tells Global Indian, adding, “Apple hires a majority of kids each year from San Jose State University.”
For Hitarth, his brother helped him walk through the process of applying to universities in the US. “I was in ninth grade when my brother left for the US for his undergrads. With someone by my side who had experienced these things before me, it became much easier for me to have that guiding hand,” says the 17-year-old, who sat for his SAT exams. Once the score was out, he applied early to six to seven universities around November 2022. “With that, the chances are higher,” says the teenager, adding that IELTS and TOFEL are not mandatory for San Jose State University.
Preparing the right application
Explaining the application process, he says that he was asked for a Letter of Recommendation from his teacher and predicted marksheet along with his application form. “It was a smooth process. Once my board results were out, I had to submit my original marksheet,” says Hitarth, who chose the university for its “good curriculum that revolves around jobs and placements.” However, weather was yet another factor that was keyed in while looking for a university in the US. “California has the best weather,” he smiles.
While he was excited about a new adventure that was awaiting him on the other side, he was equally sad to leave the comfort of his home. “Leaving your comfort zone can be quite daunting, but that’s where your growth lies. And I was happy to take that leap of faith, and see what was in store for me.”
Adapting to the West Coast
Landing in California wasn’t a mere change of landscape but a cultural shock for Hitarth. “The people and culture, everything is different here in the US. People are warmer and more welcoming. Moreover, I’m happy to have found a plethora of Indian restaurants as there are many Indians in California.” Ask him if finding accommodation was a hassle, pat comes the reply, “I opted for the university hostel. It is easier to reach classes on time, plus I can explore the campus more.” Recalling his first impression of the campus as he stepped into the university for the first time, he says, “I was awestruck. It is so huge and impressive. Moreover, it was a moment where I felt my dream translated into reality.” Moreover, meeting a pool of diverse students made it even more exciting. “In just a short span, I have found friends who I can call my support system. People from our dorm, we bond over pool and table tennis, regardless of our nationality.”
While many international students start looking for part-time jobs as soon as they enter the university, Hitarth says he has no plans as of now. “I want to focus on my semester. Honestly, I don’t think part-time jobs are worth it as time management can be a real issue with classes and clubs to attend. Also, they aren’t that well-paying that one can afford accommodation outside of the campus.” He instead rallies for on-campus part-time jobs as one gets enough time to study as well as work. “One should rather apply for Teacher Assistant jobs as it allows you to learn about your major as well as work on your things. Such jobs align with study as well as monetary benefits.”
Though his course Data Science spans four years, he has managed to skip a semester altogether and is planning to graduate early. It was while researching for universities abroad, he learnt about Advanced Placement exams. It gives students the chance to earn college credit while still in high school along with strengthening college application immensely. “College Board takes AP exams in May each year for which you need to register in advance. 15 units = 1 semester. So, if you earn 15 units, you can simply skip a semester in your university. That’s why I already have a semester off,” reveals Hitarth, saying after your board exams, you can focus on preparing for AP exams for the entire month of April. “It’s really helpful.”
These three months at San Jose University have given Hitarth the perfect exposure. “As students back home in school, we live a sheltered life. Here everything is on us. It has made me independent as well as responsible.” The teenager says that he is now more social than ever and more easygoing. “I am not afraid of the unknown anymore and this is a side of me that I explored after coming here,” says Hitarth, adding that he has become more mature, polite, and open to new things. “Though I am happy learning and unlearning, I do get homesick at times and miss the comfort of the known. But I am excited to go home during Christmas vacation.”
Life on campus
Within a short span, San Jose State University has become a second home for Hitarth. “I love hanging out at the gym and football field on the campus. Plus, the huge library is very accessible and has lots of resources. But it’s the people that make it warm and welcoming. It’s so heartening to see so many students willing to know and learn about my culture. I have a friend from the Philippines who has started learning Hindi on Duolingo,” he smiles.
It’s been three months that Hitarth has been in the US but he feels it’s been just a month. “With my classes, clubs, and co-curricular activities, time has just flown by. We have national parks nearby, so we often go on hikes or explore new restaurants in the downtown.” However, he points out that the number of homeless people on the streets makes it unsafe after 10 pm. “We always try to make it to the campus premises by that time as it can get pretty unsafe in the wee hours.” However, being a college town, San Jose is a safe city, Hitarth says.
With over three years to go, Hitarth plans to work in Silicon Valley after his graduation and repay his loan. “I don’t wish to stay here for a long period, instead get exposure, and move to a new place.” Ask him if he has any advice for students looking to study abroad, and he says, “Research the universities and courses that you are interested in, there are many resources on YouTube. Many students think applying abroad is a long and tiresome process but it’s not that hard. You just need to apply. And once you find yourself in that university, be open to new things while being attached to your roots.”
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