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International student series Part 1: How to be successful as an international PhD student in the US

imagesThis week our contributor Camila Ortega shares her experience as an international PhD student studying in the US.  Originally from Chile, Camila came to the US in 2010 to work towards her PhD in Molecular Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A natural leader, Camila has been actively involved with her community and have plays a major role in several events on campus.

Studying abroad is a very fruitful journey. You not only further hone your skills but moreover learn about life experiences. Integrating into a new culture can be challenging at times, overcoming the language barrier and being successful on the way can take that extra energy that sometimes Ph.D. students don’t have. Here are some tips that can help you along the way:

Inform yourself! Most likely at your arrival you will have to meet with professors and people from your department. Make sure you know who they are and how to approach them so you can have a better use of their time and your time as well. Ultimately, this will help you to find the right advisor.

Be prepared! As international students you always have to be on top of your game (even more than residents), being prepare will help you having that extra confidence need it to bring your A game. Sometimes, I even memorized certain words that would help me explain myself better in front of a classroom, this helped me get good reviews from my students and ensured that I would have a teaching spot if I need it .

Finally, just remember it’s not only about getting a Ph.D. degree but also about being well rounded. Each student has a different process, some takes longer than others, but eventually if you’re ready you will get there. Keep in mind the main goal and don’t burn out on the way! You are already great because you were able to fit in a completely different environment from your hometown.

Do you have questions for Camila or have experiences to share? Please comment below.


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