Coming to the University of Illinois, I changed everything – my country, my college, my major. My interests turned towards Computer Science when a friend introduced me to programming in C. I received a Grace Hopper Student Scholarship which gave me the opportunity to network with a few other girls who were already studying Computer Science, and to learn more about the field. I applied for a transfer and was accepted to the Computer Science program in the College of Engineering at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.
The quality of education at Illinois is excellent. I have found the curriculum to be very relevant and applicable to the industry. As a transfer student arriving in my junior year, I had to adapt quickly to a new environment and a different system of education than the one I was familiar with in India. Professors, TAs, and fellow classmates were all very approachable which helped me quickly get on pace with those that had been studying here since freshman year. And, the exposure to people from various cultures helped me gain confidence in networking.
I also benefited from many extracurricular opportunities available at the university. I love dancing, so I thoroughly enjoyed taking Latin dance classes. The facilities like women’s healthcare clinic, nutrition classes and free gym membership helped me live a healthier lifestyle. I served as the Treasurer in the student organization Women in Computer Science where I learned a lot about the technology sector from many smart people. In that role I also got to network with successful alumni in the field and developed some great personal contacts as well.
After graduating, I was eager to jump into the industry, and get real world experience. My Distributed Systems course led me to look for positions in that field. I am currently working at PayPal as a Platform Engineer, and I am excited to contribute to something that can improve people’s lives. I am also volunteering for nonprofit organizations, including Girls Who Code and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. I definitely see myself continuing to give back to these causes from everything I’ve learned at U of I and what I’m continuing to learn in my career.
My advice for current Illinois students is, first, to ask questions whenever and wherever needed. It is okay to be silly. You may feel silly for a few years of your life, but then masterful for the rest of your life. Second, for international students, let your international status be a stepping stone to your growth. If you are passionate about what you do, have a good skillset, and can express what you know, then nothing can stop you. Even when you hit setbacks, have courage and patience. Be bold, ask questions, and work hard; with time, good things will work out for you.
(Last updated: April 2016)