CHAT WITH: VIDYA GOLLA

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STUDIES AT: DREXEL UNIVERSITY in PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

MAJOR: ENTREPRENEURSHIP and INNOVATION

HOMETOWN: HYDERABAD, INDIA

Why did you decide to study in the U.S.?

I thought that the U.S. education system was the most flexible. I was looking at schools in Europe as well. I’m the type of person who has a lot of interests, and I didn’t want to narrow down on one thing and get into one stream of study.

At Drexel, we have such a variety of courses, and I’m also able to take them all at the same time. So that’s pretty much the reason that I chose the American education system.

Which high school did you attend? Sreenidhi International. The curriculum is the IB diploma program. A lot of students take it because it’s more recognized around the world.

Did you consider schools in India?

No, I didn’t.

“Mario the Magnificent” is a bronze statue of the school mascot, the Drexel dragon. (Courtesy Drexel University)

How did you select schools to apply to?

We had a college counselor who would help us. But I think the most effective way that the colleges abroad could have marketed themselves to me was the delegates who came from abroad to showcase the schools. They had a lot of college fairs and things like that, and I think the two people I talked to the most were the delegate from Drexel and the delegate from UBC (University of British Columbia in Canada). Those were the final two schools that I was narrowing down on.

How many schools did you apply to?What did you think of the application process?

I applied to 11 schools.

I thought that some universities’ (applications) were interesting. When I was applying to USC (University of Southern California) … they had a lot of personal, more fun questions, and I thought that could really help an admissions officer get to know more about a student as opposed to essays and test scores.

I saw people around me in high school not only trying to do things to look accomplished, but they also had their essays written by other people, so those didn’t exactly reflect the type of person they were. I thought the applications that had some more personal questions and more fun questions made it nicer.

What was the most difficult part of the application process?

Trying to showcase my personality through the essays or through whatever questions they were asking. It was not too bad. I think the hardest part for me personally was choosing the schools to apply to because there are so many schools. And I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to study.

What’s your favorite place on campus?

I work at the startup incubator on campus. It’s called the Baiada Institute. I like going there a lot because it’s just a great environment where a lot of entrepreneurs and people who are interested in starting something all come and network.

It’s a very relaxed and “homey” environment, so anyone who wants to set up a company or find space over there, they can.

Drexel is the first school in the world to have “entrepreneurship” outside the business school. We have our own school, the School of Entrepreneurship. The school is pretty small, so I get a lot of one-on-one attention with all of the administration, which is great.

What has surprised you the most about life in the U.S.? 

The classroom dynamic is kind of different. There are cultural things that are different. For instance, in India, if you were in a classroom, you would always greet the teacher and thank the teacher with every class. Over here, people don’t seem to do that. And everything is pretty fast-paced over here. Compared to my school in India, there’s a lot of work.

The Race Street Residence Hall is one of several dorms on campus. (Courtesy Drexel University)

What are 3 pieces of advice you’d give to students from India who want to study here?

The first advice would be to approach someone who has done a lot of research, such as a college counselor or a friend, and share information about colleges and scholarships and the application process. I think if you were doing it on your own, it would be difficult.

I benefitted a lot from the delegates who came from the colleges and my college counselor, who would check in on me.

The second thing would be to be original and actually put effort into the application process. I know a lot of people who got other people to write it up and I feel like college admissions officers can see through that because I know I could.

The third thing would be: Once you get on campus and you’re living in a dorm, eat a lot of oranges — because you’re going to get sick and you need the Vitamin C.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I have not thought that far into the future. Hopefully, I will have started something by then. I’m interested in the fashion industry, and I’m not inclined to stay in one place, so I’m not sure.