Ritu Sharma | Global Indian

Ritu Sharma: Living the dream at the New York University

Written by: Namrata Srivastava

Name: Ritu Sharma
University: Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University
Education Level: Postgraduation
Course: Computer Science
Location: New York City, United States of America

Key highlights:

  • The US education system has a more practical approach towards postgraduation courses.
  • Even if one doesn’t get a scholarship, there are ways a student can earn while learning at the University.
  • Connecting with senior students at the university is crucial for gaining insights into the institution’s academic principles, instructional approaches, and overall culture.
  • Participating in various clubs and extracurricular pursuits beyond academic commitments helps in one’s overall development
  • It is imperative to build a strong network with professionals in one’s field while at the University.

(February 29, 2024) She already had a few offers from good colleges, but that wasn’t enough. “New York University was a dream. And to be honest, I was not very confident that I would get the offer letter from them, as it is quite a tough course to get in,” shares Ritu Sharma as she connects with Global Indian from her apartment in Jersey City.

Ritu Sharma | Global Indian

However, fate had other plans for her. “I really couldn’t believe that I had gotten through when I first read the letter. Right from when I applied for the university, I knew I wouldn’t get any scholarship, and going to NYU was an expensive affair. But I think of this more as an investment than spending. And over the last one-and-a-half year that I have spent here, I have realised that coming to NYU to pursue my master’s was the best decision of my life,” adds Ritu, who is a final semester postgraduation student at NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

Work ex in India, then a post-grad abroad

While she always dreamt of pursuing a master’s from a USA University, Ritu knew that gaining some professional experience before applying to a University would only add to her profile. So soon after she finished her graduation from the Vellore Institute of Technology, the 27-year-old joined an MNC in New Delhi as an analyst. “My initial plan was to work for just one year and prepare for applying to universities. However, COVID happened and I couldn’t apply anywhere for about two years. As soon as the second wave of COVID in India subsided, I started preparing for TOEFL and GRE,” shares Ritu.

Ritu Sharma | Global Indian

Ask her what motivated her to pursue a postgraduate course, and she quips, “In India, most bachelor courses are quite well-rounded. We are taught everything about the subject – but nothing in depth. Also, while I was doing my undergrad, courses like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning weren’t a part of the curriculum. Eventually, as I started working I realised that there was a huge gap between where the computer science world was, and what I was taught in college. I wanted to bridge that knowledge gap, and at a University, I could trust would give me the best education.”

Having made up her mind Ritu started her preparations in full swing, however, it wasn’t an easy road for her. “These examinations are tough. So, I knew I needed training. I would go to the office in the morning, and attend coaching classes in the evening and on weekends. That was a difficult time, as I had to manage work in the office and at home, and then make sure that I had sufficient time for the training, practice, and revisions. However, I found that if a student who wants to pursue a master’s has strong technical knowledge about the subject, then you can clear the GRE with a bit of revision. Also, me being good at mathematics really helped,” shares the student.

Juggling classes – and a new life

Having friends studying in the USA, helped Ritu understand the country and the culture ahead of moving there. However, the course curriculum and the rigorous education system weren’t something Ritu prepared for. “I knew it wouldn’t be a cakewalk. The education system here is driven by more practical work. So we get assignments every week, which we have to complete to get our credits. Also, the competition is quite intense since the university picks the best students from across the globe. However, the faculty is quite approachable and friendly, so that really helps the new students settle in,” Ritu explains.

Ritu Sharma | Global Indian

NYU Library

The student further adds, “My first two semesters were so packed that I hardly got any time for extra-curricular activities. NYU is home to several clubs, however I couldn’t join any. However, I had some breather in my third semester, so I joined the dance club here. I am learning Ballroom and Latin dances. I specifically enjoy my Samba and Tango classes.”

Finding accommodation in NYC and settling in

Sharing her experience of living in Jersey City with three other Indian students, Rity says, “Most of the dorm facilities available at the campus are for undergrad students, and most postgrads arrange for their own stay. Since living in NYC can cost a lot, I and a few friends are living in an apartment in Jersey City. Also, having grown up in a rural area in India, I don’t like closed spaces so much. Most apartments that fit in our budget in NYC are very small, and I didn’t want to live there. It’s quite a commute every day going to the University, but I enjoy travelling on the train.”

Ritu Sharma | Global Indian

But despite having spent about two years in the States, Ritu shares that she still feels homesick at times. “Nothing prepares you for leaving your family and friends and moving to a completely new country. Though I was quite excited at the beginning, I always missed my family. But I think the trick is to keep reminding yourself that you are here to build something for yourself and that if you can fare through this your entire life will change. Of course, you can visit your family whenever you get a chance, and in the meantime, there are video calls,” laughs the student.

Earning as a Graduate Adjunct Teaching Assistant

Ritu is also working as a Graduate Adjunct Teaching Assistant at the university. “Though I don’t have any scholarship, I realised that there are several ways one can sustain themselves while studying in the USA. There are many opportunities for a hard-working student to earn and support themselves here. Yes, you might have to sacrifice your weekends, but that working experience only adds to your overall learning at the university,” shares Ritu.

Ritu Sharma | Global Indian

Ritu with her undergrad students

Giving an insight about her role as a Graduate Adjunct Teaching Assistant, she says, “So most universities have teaching aids for the students. For us – at the postgraduate level – there are Ph.D. students who help us with any difficulties or issues we are facing in any subject. There is a time allotted for us to work with them. Similarly, there are postgraduate students like me, who help undergraduate students with their doubts and queries. I teach mathematics to undergrad students here.”

So, what’s your plan ahead? “It’s my final semester, so there is obviously a ton of work that I have to finish. In the last one-and-a-half years I have built a very strong network with my seniors as well as professionals from my field. Thus, I already have a job offer from a New York-based company, where I did my internship, in 2023. So, soon after I graduate I plan to start working there,” shares Ritu as she signs off.

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