Thank you to Melphin James Parathazham, MS-MIS Candidate 2016, for contributing this post.
First of all, it’s not all roses and sunshine, especially in Chicago. A graduate student's life is hard, it’s different, but there is much to learn about your future, your career, and yourself.
I started school in Fall 2014; like most of us, I was chasing a dream to be successful, to start a new chapter in life, to fulfill those ambitions and responsibilities.
The majority of the students who come from India lived with their parents most of their lives, as did I. The truth is, you will miss your home, your comfort zone, and most importantly, the people you were surrounded by. But that being said, you are here for a reason and rest assured, this land offers loads of opportunities, to shape your career to whatever you want it to be.
Some of my discoveries that might help:
Living: If possible, try to find an apartment where you have a room to yourself. Also, make sure your roommates are good. After all, you will be sharing the same kitchen. You are in a new country. I recommend you try living with a diverse set of people. A new country calls for new experiences, which is not possible if you crawl back to your safety net and are not open to possibilities. Take time to settle on your future home. Money might be a constraint, but if you look hard enough you are bound to find a place that’s a good fit for you.
Food: If you know how to cook, great! I didn't, but I'm learning. In between school and homework you might not find time to spend on cooking, and fast food becomes your next best option. That being said, find a balance between fast food and homemade food that you prepare, sit down, and enjoy. The supermarket, Aldi, is a good place to shop for daily supplies. Devon Avenue offers a lot of choices for authentic Indian food and groceries. It is a bit far but there's nothing like home food, especially if you’re consuming pizzas and subway sandwiches almost every day.
Clothing: It is way cheaper to shop in the U.S. than to fill your suitcases with ridiculous amounts of clothing for all weathers, especially the winter. Everyone dreads the windy winters of Chicago. Thrift stores and exchange boutiques all around the city can help cut down on your apparel bills.
Academics: Take time and choose your courses wisely and ask for help from faculty and staff when you need it. The UIC library is one of the best places I discovered my first semester. There is a huge pool of resources, and an abundance of space to accommodate any agenda whether it is academic or extracurricular.
On a final note, nurture your hobbies and cultivate your interests, no matter what they may be. You will have a lot of personal time. Think, improvise, and implement.