Guest Blogger Nikunj Agarwal is an international student at Michigan State University (MSU)
In 2018, I met Amber Longtin, the admissions counselor for India at a career fair. I was inspired by the diversity at MSU, and it attracted me to apply to the school. As time went by, the decisions came out, and I received an acceptance letter, my very first acceptance letter. I was full of excitement and thrill, and so were my parents, but we were still waiting to receive more offers. In this waiting period, I found out that I had received a scholarship at MSU, which was overly exciting. I could see myself getting inclined towards attending MSU but had second thoughts as I had received an acceptance letter from another school.
Having conversations with Dr. Deepa Thiagarajan, Dr. Satish Joshi, and other faculty members and staff at MSU, made me realize that irrespective of my decision, I was already a part of the Spartan community.
After having long conversations with family and friends, MSU stood out to me and I made the decision on the 29th of April, while preparing for my International Baccalaureate Exams, that I will be spending the next 4 years of my life at MSU.
I came to the United States in the month of August of 2019, with mom and dad, where we explored the east coast and headed to East Lansing, Home of Michigan State University. After a week, my parents and it was the right decision we had made. My freshman year stayed in Bailey Hall on campus, far away from other Indian International Students on campus. I stood out, I didn’t follow the crowd and started my educational journey in Environmental Economics.
MSU’s campus feels like a city, it's massive, and the worst part was I stayed on the west side of campus and most of my classes were on the east side. (Pitching an advice out here, while choosing a place to stay on campus, look at the locations of classes). University is a huge transition from school, specifically for students from other countries. Everything is different, although it feels like you go to classes only for 12-14 hours a week. While staying alone, getting accustomed to the new eating habits and not to forget the weather, it can be overwhelming, but the support I received at MSU was tremendous.
With the support I received from experts on campus, I was ready to apply for a Leadership position within my department as a student representative, but I got rejected within days of applying for the position. I was disheartened after that rejection. But one of my mentors told me not to give up and was proud as I had taken the first step. I started exploring different clubs on campus and other activities, such as going swimming, meeting fellow Indian students through the Indian Student Organization, and joining some major centered clubs such as the National Agricultural Marketing Association as well as the Sustainable Business Association.
While all these activities kept me busy, one third of my time was spent finishing homework and taking interest in research. I then applied to be a student staff member at the Breslin Student Event Centre here on campus, and I am proud to say that was my first ever job, I had done.
While all was going smooth, it was no surprise that COVID hit us and I had to travel back home (Bangalore, India) in March 2020, changed the entire outlook of how university looked like, felt detached from the community due to the time difference, faced several other challenges such as not being able to concentrate on school and boredom hitting hard. I decided to follow my passion for advocacy for students out here, as soon after that, I was elected to represent the International Undergraduate Community at the Student Government on campus. I would say, this was the start to the leadership opportunities at MSU for me (Pitching another piece of advice, I regret not exploring these opportunities in my freshmen year, try to make the most of every opportunity.) This opportunity helped me connect to individuals with similar interests for advocacy and indeed helped me come out of my comfort zone.
Months passed by, attending meetings, advocating for students, and taking exams all night was the new lifestyle I was living, and something that I realized then was that I am more efficient during the night than the day, Haha!
I decided to return to campus in March of 2021, exactly a year from the day I left because of COVID. It was super exciting, as I could be in the same time zone, meet a few people in-person and have a ‘social’ life. I received my first internship offer to be a Glassen Scholar Policy Intern for Michigan United Conservation Club, expanding levels, advocating for natural resources of Michigan, and working with legislators, this was an experience of a lifetime. At that point, I was also elected to serve as the President for the International Students Association at MSU, and more importantly Chair the University Committee on Student Affair.
As the President of the International Students Association, for the first time at MSU, I received an Invitation from the Provost to address over 16,000+ students at the Fall 2021 welcome convocation, and since then, I have showed the same level of commitment and decadence to balance both academic and co-circulars, and the journey is TO BE CONTINUED …
If something I haven’t learnt so far is that you must come out of your comfort zone, you must Explore, Experience and Enjoy the opportunities you have and not give up! I will leave you with today!
As Always, Go Green, Go White!