Why the U.S.? – Komukill Loganathan (Cornell University ’21)

A picture at the Buttermilk Falls that perfectly depicts upstate New York

I’ve been dreaming to study in the US my whole life. I was pretty resolved about going to the US for undergraduate studies. No comprises; can’t push the dream for graduate school even. It was when Maybank offered me a full scholarship to a US university of my choice that I saw my dream come true and alive. I realized I was living my dream when I read Cornell’s admission letter. The journey for this to happen certainly was not a walk in the park.

The whole time, I had no answer to the question “Why the US?” especially for an undergraduate, other than I just feel like it. Well, one year down and now I can answer this rationally. So, why the US?

1. Interesting experiences that let you grow and understand yourself. As cliched as this may sound, living in a new place of new culture and new people has helped me understand myself and encourage the learner (& adventurer) in me. Growing up in the Pearl of the Orient, never have I known that I was in love with hiking and exploring hills and falls. Here, it has become my hobby to explore nature’s wonders in upstate New York. The fact that Cornell has 3 falls and so many trails right on-campus just adds to my thrill.

Took this on one fine morning by Beebe Lake in Fall 2018.

My one-year in the US has helped me check off some odd listing in my non-existent bucket list. Be a roommate with a snake for 8 months? Check (Yes, pet snakes are allowed in one of Cornell’s dorms). Feed a snake dead rat? Check. Walk by a trail that’s at least 10 meters high with no railing? Check (Note: Depth scares me). Drag two luggage worth 50 kg around 42nd Street, New York City all by myself because I couldn’t find the bus stop to the airport? Check. These memories among others strengthened and made me more confident.

Here’s a Hognose that I befriended because I don’t have a good picture of my roommate snake.

2. Inspiring people. So many amazing and inspiring people surround me every day. I met so many interesting people from all around the world who have influenced my perspective about the world in some ways. The thought-provoking conversations about Southeast Asia and its potentials with friends from Malaysia’s neighbors, the intro-to-American-life mini episodic conversations that lasted for the whole year with my American friends, and the socially responsible acts and brotherhood bond in my Alpha Phi Omega (APO) – Gamma Chapter fraternity are some highlights of social life in my freshman year. Witnessing the complexity in the way people think and regard the world beyond theirs exposed me to some interesting perspectives.

My APO Pledge Project Group

I initially thought I would meet interesting people only among my peers but found out soon enough that my professors will leave a lasting impact on me too. I had a government professor who had a “Caution, landmines!” sign on his office door. I had a Math professor who teared up in front of a 200-people-lecture for racial violence issues happening. I had a Computer Science professor who was friends with Edsger Dijkstra and loved poetry and would tell a beautiful poem every class. I had another Math professor who was obsessed with making surfaces (torus, Mobius, etc) using papers. Maybe it is the friendly relationship between students and professors that motivates us to excel in classes and learn beyond classroom syllabus.

3. Individuality is appreciated. The academic system is the US appreciates you as a person. Your thoughts and ideas matter. Hence, there is never a “stupid” idea or a “silly” question. In fact, you are encouraged to speak up, no matter how silly you may think you sound. There is always support to bring your ideas alive, to assist you through your learning, and to nurture your interests.

A team of freshmen and our prototype in my first make-a-thon.

Having said these, an opportunity to study abroad, especially in the United States will change you as a person and evolve your being. An opportunity like this does not need to break your bank! Join me in USAPPS 2018 to find out how you can carve your path to study in your dream school in the U.S.

Why the US? – Edrea Lee (University of Michigan Ann Arbor ’20)

My first time seeing the famous central campus clock tower at UMich

In my upper secondary years, I was often asked where I would be pursuing studies in one or two years time. Back then, I would literally answer, “Aiya, don’t know la..” I just knew one thing, I loved and will always be a big fan of the study of Economics.

I studied in a typical all-girls public high school in Kuching, Sarawak. I happened to be placed in the science stream, meaning I was required to take classes in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Additional Mathematics etc. Economics was not offered to science stream students in my school. But that did not keep me from reading the ‘The Economics Book’ (yes, this is the title of the book) and ‘Freakonomics’, the first two books I read which sparked my desire to pursue Economics despite being told that I would make a good doctor.

My passion and interest in Economics are the main reasons why I chose to study in the US, eventually. As crazy and unsophisticated as this may sound, I wanted to study in the US because many of the famous economists who wrote the books and articles I read (and whom I admired) were professors in US universities. Nevertheless, I also believed that the flexibility of the US higher education system would benefit my study in Economics. To me, Economics is a broad subject which requires, not only mathematical knowledge but also an understanding in various fields ranging from business to science and technology as well as the humanities like psychology and history. As I worked on my application to UMich, I made sure to emphasize on my excitement to take classes in different departments and how that would bolster my educational journey in UMich.

Having been through a tumultuous sophomore year in UMich, I must say that every amazing experience and aspect of the US education system which I have ever heard of were entirely true. These aspects include a flexible curriculum (as I mentioned before), holistic college experience, a vast array of social and career opportunities etc. But to me, the US education system or at least, my first-year experience in UMich was not only defined by those aspects above.

Visiting an ice cave in the Upper Peninsula with a couple of other Malaysians

Here are two things I learned which are also good reasons why I would choose to study in the US all over again, setting aside my desire to be taught by the economists who wrote the books I read in high school:

1) Your opinions and thoughts always matter

I tend to think of myself as a relatively quiet person since I almost never dare to raise my hand to contribute to a classroom discussion. But here in UMich, my professors told me that they want to know what I think. And that, if you speak your mind out, there is no boring comment or opinion unless you intend for it to be. However, what really surprised me was how my professors often took everybody’s ideas, mashed them up a little, and came up with even more interesting points to add to our topic for the day.

This routine in UMich gave me a newfound confidence as I became more engaged with my peers and professors in class to enrich my learning experience. More importantly, I was able to emulate this confidence in many activities I participated in on campus. I realized that this is how we learn in and outside the classroom as we constantly question and think about the facts in front of us.

2) It is not enough to dream. We need to live the dream.

I really do think that the US education system centers around the theme of experiential learning. We are always encouraged to put our ideas and plans into action whether it is through volunteer work, internships or by joining a club that fulfills your passion. UMich has provided me with the facilities, tools, and services to seek out these opportunities on and off campus.

Seeing all the creative and impactful startups and initiatives on campus, as well as the stellar performance of UMich alumni in their respective fields, have inspired me to act on my dream of using economics to serve the community that I am part of. I start off small by participating in a consulting club that provides pro bono management consulting services to on-campus administration and departments. I see this as a chance to improve my school for the benefit of the UMich community. I am also passionate about the Malaysian community at UMich. For this reason, I decided to join the Michigan Malaysians’ Student Association in their efforts to put together a cultural performance every year.

An entrepreneurship professor once said this to my class, “Don’t just describe the idea on paper. You gotta start thinking of ways to make it happen! …”

Malaysian Cultural Night 2018 Group Photo

Consulting Club Group Photo

Speaking of dreams and passion, I have always wanted to help other students like yourself to pursue your studies in the US. I hope everything I have shared so far will encourage you to delve further into the prospects of studying in the US. I look forward to meeting you at USAPPS 2018 this year! I am more than happy to address any questions you might have about the application process or my experience in the US.