Gaining admission into a university abroad is only the beginning of the chase. This is followed by a painful (and long depending upon which country you are from) VISA process and then comes the icing on the cake – finances! Some are lucky enough to get a scholarship or have parents that can afford to sponsor but the rest of us have to eke it out on our own. The most popular option is to take out a student loan. Student loans generally are supposed to be re-paid as soon as you get a job and have interest rates and schemes that are advantageous to the borrowers. In my personal experience, I borrowed money from a bank in India with my parents as guarantors. I had to pay the loan back in installments as soon as I landed a job after graduation. The bank had a grace period of a year between graduation and finding a job.
Even with the loan paying for school, I needed to support myself for rent, groceries etc., so, I looked for jobs around campus – I signed up for student associations and communities that would circulate such opportunities in email. I applied with various departments for graduate assistantships and at the school cafeteria. I finally found a job that paid me a stipend enough to manage my expenses.
Soon as I got admission into the university, I signed up for the Indian Students Association and other foreign student support groups and it is with their guidance that I opened my first bank account in the US a month after I landed my first on-campus job. I didn’t immediately grasp the importance of a credit card and credit history. It took me a few months but through my relationship with foreign students bodies I learned the importance of credit history and longtime accounts in the US. I applied for a credit card about two semesters into my grad school without losing any further time and unknowingly so, had laid the foundation of my financial future in this country.
Sahitya Gollapudi is currently pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University in addition to being a senior software engineer at Akamai Technologies. Being born in India, personal finance of international students is a subject she truly believes in. She is so excited to be bringing her insights to CollegeCFO.
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