University of Geneva
Rajbir Purewal is a 22-year-old economic student from Geneva, Switzerland who has roots in India. He is unlike most of the other AMS students as he is studying at Smith for only one semester, and despite growing up in Geneva he counts English as one of his mother tongues, along with French and Hindi.
Adapting to new surroundings has been difficult for Rajbi. He has been to America many times before, because he has family in Stamford, Connecticut, and says he "identifies with the culture" of America. However, familiarity with the culture did not make Rajbir's transition to Smith easy. He says his adviser in Geneva warned him that Smith was a women's college before coming here, but made it seem as if there were a modest number of male graduate students, which turned out to be "kind of wrong." Rajbir comes from a very close-knit family and has never lived on his own before, so being away from his family was also a considerable adjustment, especially being away from his little sister, whom he considers "the most important person" in his life. His first weeks at Smith were trying, but now he is happy to be here and he is especially excited to be using the Five Colleges to take classes at UMass's School of Management.
Being older than the vast majority of students at Smith has been a challenge, as he find they do not share the same interests with many of the younger students, however he soon adapted and made friends, especially with the other AMS students.
Shifts in culture and environment weren't the only adjustments Rajbir had to make; he noticed that classes at Smith are conducted differently than in his home country. Rajbir is used to 45-minute classes, so having a class that is two hours and 30 minutes long was at first odd for him. He says having a class where students just talk is a new experience, and he appreciates that the professors here are more willing to help their students, whereas in Geneva the professor was unlikely to know his or her students' names.
While his time in the AMS program is another step towards his future, Rajbir does not have a clear idea of what he wants to do after this year is over. Rajbir knows for certain he could never work in an office, because he likes people and wants to have an impact on the people around him. For a class in Geneva, Rajbir drafted a plan for a business that would raise money to help reduced water scarcity in India, which was met with a lot of interest by the people to whom he presented the idea. Whether or not he pursues this particular enterprise, he would like to do something similar, and if not, he thinks he will do something in marketing.
After experiencing life abroad for two months now, Rajbir has advice for students traveling abroad for the first time: "Don't Skype too much!" Rajbir says that socialization is essential and that it isn't good to "rely on talking to people who are not there." He added that students should enjoy their experience abroad as much as they can and be open to challenges. Some of the opportunities to study abroad will be incredibly unique, and students should try not to be distracted too much by their friends and family at home.
By Emily Paruolo '17, Global STRIDE Fellow