Robin Gustafson, a first year MBA student and Graduate Assistant for the MBA Admissions Office spoke with classmate Harsha Musthyala about her experience moving to San Diego from India and beginning her MBA at USD. A transcript of their conversation is below:
Where are you from?
India. I have been all over India, so it is difficult to pick one specific location, but my family roots are in Hyderabad, a city known for its spicy food.
Is there anything that you thought would be an issue in moving to the USA but wasn’t?
Before visiting the United States I was under the impression that I would be treated differently for being an Indian, but that is just not true. I have made great friends and for the most part, I think people are really welcoming and warm. Of course, there are some exceptions, which is true in any situation.
Is there anything that you didn’t think would be an issue coming to the USA, but ended up being an issue?
I have not faced any serious or grave issues but something that I had problems getting used to was the teaching style in the US. For example, in the United States a portion of your grade is based on participation. For someone like me who is not used to asking a lot of questions in class it took some time to get comfortable around people and participate more.
What is the most annoying stereotype or question that you receive as someone coming from India?
“Is everyone poor in India?” It is actually funny because India was known as ‘the golden bird’ two centuries ago due to the wealth of the Indian kings. Even today, there are people of all kinds in India including the unfortunate poor in slums, the majority section known as the middle class, and the rich.
What was your biggest struggle throughout your transition?
I would describe it more as a learning experience rather than a struggle. Because I get to interact with people from different cultures, I always find it so interesting that something that is strange in one culture is so common in other cultures. For example, eating from each other’s plates is very common between family and friends in India but not so much in the US. I think learning about different cultures will take some time, not just for me, but for all of my classmates.
What was your favorite class at USD and why?
Definitely financial accounting! There are two major reasons for this. This was the first finance/accounting class that I have ever taken and it sparked my interest in finance. The second reason was the structured setup of the course and the amazing explanations by our professor, Dr. Barbara Lougee.
What is the best advice you received during the first semester?
Being an independent working woman in India is tough and I have been used to living as such for a long time. A friend in the US told me that sometimes I should let people help me and that was the best advice so far because it taught me to trust people and I have made great friends.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since starting school at USD?
I have learned that success here is defined by more than academic excellence and making valuable connections is very important.
How have you felt about the holiday experience in the United States?
It is amazing! I really like how people get excited about holidays and make time for their families and friends; it reminds me of the festivals I celebrated back in India.
What is your favorite memory from the semester?
My favorite memory was Black Friday shopping after Thanksgiving. Shopping always wins!
What is something you miss from home?
I definitely miss my mom’s food!
What is something you would miss from the US or San Diego if you went home?
I think I would really miss the active lifestyle of San Diego.
Do you have any additional feelings or experiences you’d like to share?
As a person who always looks for purpose or meaning in anything in life, I think living in US is an experience that made me look at world with a new perspective. I have seen first-hand how cultures and background influence opinions, values and beliefs. So far, it has been a wonderful experience and I am excited to see what the work-culture here feels like.