International Students: I'm curious...

  • As many already know, studying for the physics GRE and getting accepted into a graduate program is not the final hurdle in your physics career.
  • There are many issues current physics graduate students face such as studying for their qualifier, deciding upon a field of research, choosing an advisor, being an effective teaching assistant, trying to have a social life, navigating department politics, dealing with stress, utilizing financial aid, etc.

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coreycwgriffin
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International Students: I'm curious...

Postby coreycwgriffin » Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:47 pm

Why do you want so badly to come to the US to attend grad school? Aren't there great graduate programs around the world that you wouldn't have to work so hard to get into? Not that I don't want you here, or that I don't appreciate your hard work, but what is the appeal of throwing away whatever else you have in your life, and working so hard to score perfectly on your GREs and get straight 4.0's, when you could probably get an equivalent education in your home country with a lot less effort?

shouravv
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby shouravv » Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:02 pm

Simply speaking: Research opportunities, facilities, and funding. Many countries don't have the cutting edge research opportunities available in the US. And of the so many graduate programs around the world, very few offer a fully paid position for beginning graduate students. It may sound surprising, but even "scarce" research resources/funding in the US outdoes any other western country programs significantly.
Last edited by shouravv on Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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twistor
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby twistor » Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:05 pm

So evidently it has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with money.

abeboparebop
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby abeboparebop » Tue Nov 18, 2008 1:08 pm

twistor wrote:So evidently it has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with money.


I don't see how you can possibly distinguish quality from money. The money is why the quality's here (in large part).

physicsdude
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby physicsdude » Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:02 pm

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Last edited by physicsdude on Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

robertson
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby robertson » Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:32 pm

well, there are rumours than one day one nobel prize came to Spain to eat a paella. Serioursly, there is a teacher at my uni that did the phD at the MIT and he is a god (he is the ONLY one that could apply for this)! You cannot compare the kind of research oportunities that you get working on the USA. I agree with you that doing the phD in Spain could be very good, and I would not go to the USA at any rate, I will only go if I can do something better than what my teachers offer here.
What about personal experiences? Wouldn't you go abroad to learn about other cultures and to know yourself? I think you do not appreciate how good it is to have the best universities of the world in your country, I would like to be a good football player to play in the best teams in my country.
In my opinion, even if I am more prepared than you (which is probably not the case) I would be less famous and a worse scientist than you if I stayed in Spain. Good teachers generate good students!
I also understand that it is a question of money for people from other countries like India or Pakistan, but not for European because we can earn here as much as in the USA, and probably enjoying more our lifes.

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coreycwgriffin
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby coreycwgriffin » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:10 pm

robertson wrote:Wouldn't you go abroad to learn about other cultures and to know yourself?

Nothing wrong with that, but why the US? Why not go to any other country other than your own, if that's your argument?
robertson wrote:In my opinion, even if I am more prepared than you (which is probably not the case) I would be less famous and a worse scientist than you if I stayed in Spain.

I don't agree with this at all (even with respect to my preparedness). It's not like the US is the only country in the world with, say, access to cutting edge technology or the newest journal articles.

And arguments about there being more money here for physics research, eh, I can't believe that's entirely true. Even American researchers have to fight for every dime, and the federal government (Departments of Energy, Defense, so on) hardly gives out cash to whatever researcher wants it.

robertson
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby robertson » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:45 pm

Well, in my case, I have been living in Spain all my life. I have also lived in London for one year, and in Germany for two months. I was lucky to had the chance to visit South Korea when I was young, and I did not like the country to live. It feels like I need to know more about USA, let me tell you we do hate american culture in Europe, and that is not fair at all. I really want to live in the USA for a few years. And I suggest you to come to Spain, Italy, Germany... and learn different things. It is much better than learning how to solve a Lagrangian.

You are used to be surrounded by very nice professors, but this is not the case in Spain. It is almost impossible to find a decent scientist who has not been working in the USA for a while. I am not saying that you are a worse person if you do your phD somewhere else, but if you work under the supervision of a nobel prize you are likely to be guided through more important problems. For me is not about technology, I am a theoretical physicist, I need a good supervisor who understands what is going on. Is tipically human to try to improve your status by going to a better university.

And about money, you are right dear friend, this is a world wide problem. However, with a nice stipend you can easily save 5k dollars per year and that could mean a huge amount of money in a lot of countries. But, we have discused this several times in this forum, physicist ussually don't care that much about money.

Thank you for repplying, this is a very interesting topic that next year I will hopefully discuss with my new american classmates. Bye!

Imperate
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby Imperate » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:53 pm

For me personally (I'm from the UK by the way) I could get an equivalent education staying at home, maybe even a better education at home than I could in the US, since my GRE score was mediocre but then rest of my record is pretty good, meaning there's a chance I could get into Oxford/Cambridge but probably very little chance I could get into Caltech/Berkeley now. Thus by still going to the US I could actually end up somewhere lesser in terms of pure rankings (and it will take me 5-6 years instead of just 3-4 to earn my PhD!). The main things that attracted me to the US (In particular the places I'm looking to apply like NY, California, and also Canada,Vancouver) are the lifestyle and experience. My picture of living in California is one of sun, sea, beaches, palm trees etc etc, it is somewhere that I imagine would be amazing to live and study in for a few years, or NY or Vancouver attract me for similiar, perhaps superficial, reasons (but hey I have to live in this place for 6 years so I better enjoy living there!). I think when you're from grey, dreary UK you really appreciate the wonders of what it would be like to live in a good climate (as I'm typing this I have flu and am freezing my ass off), although I would also enjoy the other extremes of snowy Canada bizzarely. As well as this, I just think the experience would be fun of living somewhere so far away and so on, I wouldn't want to live there forever as I would miss home eventually, but PhD length would be ideal for me I think.

In regard to why do typical international students (i.e. Chinese/Indian etc) students choose to study abroad in the US and not another country, I think it comes down to two factors 1) Studying abroad involves learning another language, English is by far the most common language 2) being limited to english speaking countries pretty much leaves just the UK/Aus/US, and I think it's next to impossible for an international student to get PhD funding in Britain, and from my brief discussions with admissions coordinators in Aus when I was thinking of applying there, it seems very very difficult to win scholarship (I was told that I would need around 90%+ as my average! which in the UK system would be ridiculous when a First class is 70%+ and about 10% of people get those). But the US seems to treat domestic and international people on a more equal footing, except for the unspoken thing about internationals needing higher PGRE scores, but they never say this on the websites etc.

aditi405
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby aditi405 » Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:21 am

Imperate wrote:In regard to why do typical international students (i.e. Chinese/Indian etc) students choose to study abroad in the US and not another country, I think it comes down to two factors 1) Studying abroad involves learning another language, English is by far the most common language 2) being limited to english speaking countries pretty much leaves just the UK/Aus/US

i think dats it really. Also every one is treated at par when it comes to the US . when i had visited the US, hoping to take a transfer while doing my undergraduate studies, the professors had been so welcoming and encouraging. I don't see that kind of an attitude here. In my country , we do have some pretty good institutions for further studies in physics and related subjects but the seats are limited and yes, money is a factor. its just that even if you study in a school thats not ranked at the top, one can still do interesting research and hope to do well in life in the states but if you do your PhD from an average school here, you are more or less doomed because forget about research opportunities, even getting a job as a physics prof is difficult. I would hate to leave the country i grew up in, forever though so i'm hoping to come back after getting my degree.

ether
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby ether » Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:28 am

I just wanna get the *** outta my country....

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secander2!
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby secander2! » Wed Nov 19, 2008 5:34 am

haha... in HEP, we're all trying to get OUT of the US and over to Switzerland.

lallooprasad
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby lallooprasad » Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:45 am

If I had some good scientists working in the field of my interest right here in my university in my country, then I probably won't be so hell bent on going to US for my PhD. My field of interest is not something unique. It's cosmology. Yet, I can't think of a single cosmologist in my country - not even one. There are a few in condensed matter, quantum optics/information, and also a couple in high energy physics - phenomenology but none working in cosmology.

Question is: Why US and why not some other country? I think people have already said a lot about that. Money, language, etc... But I should mention that many students from my university have also gone to UK, Germany, France, Australia and most recently to Canada - I guess because admissions are considerable less competitive there!

nonick
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby nonick » Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:22 pm

So why US?

Simple answer:
People that have PhD in sciences are respected in the US and can have jobs that pay well enough while they do whatever they want to.
I know that this sounds ridiculous to many Americans who have never been to relatively poor countries. If you think that scientists are poorly paid in the US, consider this; in my home country a full professor in a good university earns around $6000 an year (an assistant probably earns half that), when the cost of living is comparable to that in the US, i.e. to lead a normal life, you need something of the order of $10000 - 15000 an year. Also the whole system is so conservative, it is really hard to start a good scientific career - I remember I read somewhere that the average age of the full time professors there was close to 60. Now you will say, what about finding jobs in the industry - the truth is that no real research is done back home - what most companies do is just copy or steal technologies from other western countries, and etc... so they usually need people with only masters. Also I really like teaching, my career goal ,as for now, is to become a college professor.

Simpler answer:
After I have been in the US for almost four years now, I am sure that I don't want to go back to where I come from. Heck, the reason why I came to the US to go to college was I guess that I wanted to just get away from the miserable place I call home. So since I am pretty good at Physics, it's natural that I want to do a PhD in Physics here.

Simplest answer:
English is the only foreign language I know. And I love Physics.

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trani
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby trani » Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:09 am

@secander2! haha yes, seriously! :lol:

Are you planning to continue on CMS?

(I am guessing that from your icon + profile)

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secander2!
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby secander2! » Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:21 am

@trani, :D but I'm definitely not complaining! Living in Switzerland sure beats working on the SSC down in the Texas heat!!!

I'm actually on the TOTEM project (100 points if you've ever heard of it, we're kinda small), but I'm amazed you recognized the picture!!! I just googled 'particle collision' or something to find it! We're working on diffractive physics right now, but when I go to grad school, I'll probably move to one of the other LHC experiments, partially because the only US school which is involved in TOTEM is Penn State.

Are you currently involved with one of the experiments? Planning on sticking with it for grad school?

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trani
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby trani » Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:32 am

Interesting, I have to admit I have heard the name but I had no idea what they do. Do I get any points? :mrgreen:

Anyhow thanks to google now I know a bit... Looks like a pretty cool project. You get the advantage to work with high energy, but small collaboration - not too common... (at least in my experience which is quite limited). Do you like it?

I am working with ATLAS and yes I am planning to continue my involvement in the experiment. We will see where, come scores from Nov. 8 test :? btw congratulations on your success on the PGRE! :D

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secander2!
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby secander2! » Thu Nov 20, 2008 5:42 am

100 points for you!!! All you had to do is know the name :D I really do like working here, there's a lot a great people, and because it is such a small collaboration, I've had a chance to work with many of the different aspects that go into an LHC project which normally would be out of my scope. If I could continue working at TOTEM and have a few more high caliber schools to choose from, I'd probably do it, I just feel like it's probably time to move on, and my real physics interest is more in the direction of new physics.

ATLAS is pretty sweet!!! I 'd be very interested in joining that project! Anyways, thanks about the PGRE, I was pretty happy! Good luck yourself! I sure your scores will be great!!!

kaosgrace
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby kaosgrace » Fri Nov 21, 2008 8:36 am

I think when you're from grey, dreary UK you really appreciate the wonders of what it would be like to live in a good climate (as I'm typing this I have flu and am freezing my ass off), although I would also enjoy the other extremes of snowy Canada bizzarely. As well as this, I just think the experience would be fun of living somewhere so far away and so on, I wouldn't want to live there forever as I would miss home eventually, but PhD length would be ideal for me I think.


As beautiful as Vancouver is, I have to warn you that you may be sorely disappointed; it's neither snowy nor sunny nor warm. It's green, it's gorgeous, it's teeming with life, but it's wet and cold and rainy and damp. It rarely snows, and never very much. People from the British Isles (especially Ireland) feel very much "at home" here in the Pacific Northwest, but that may not be what you're looking for.

(Of course there are several mountain ranges with beautiful snow and skiing a few hours' drive inland of the coastal cities, but those won't be part of your daily life except insofar that you can see them out in the distance taunting you).

On purely geographical considerations - I can't make any informed school suggestions - if you really truly think you want the cold/snowy aspect of Canada, you'd want either inland BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, or the Maritime provinces. There are also Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but I don't recommend those in the winter to people who like their fingers and toes. On the whole, though, I'd recommend your other choices of California or New York more; you can sample the North American climate extremes there without being perpetually surrounded by them.

coffeecoffeecoffee
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby coffeecoffeecoffee » Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:05 am

kaosgrace wrote:I think when you're from grey, dreary UK you really appreciate the wonders of what it would be like to live in a good climate (as I'm typing this I have flu and am freezing my ass off), although I would also enjoy the other extremes of snowy Canada bizzarely. As well as this, I just think the experience would be fun of living somewhere so far away and so on, I wouldn't want to live there forever as I would miss home eventually, but PhD length would be ideal for me I think.


As beautiful as Vancouver is, I have to warn you that you may be sorely disappointed; it's neither snowy nor sunny nor warm. It's green, it's gorgeous, it's teeming with life, but it's wet and cold and rainy and damp. It rarely snows, and never very much. People from the British Isles (especially Ireland) feel very much "at home" here in the Pacific Northwest, but that may not be what you're looking for.


Seconded. Vancouver is, on the whole, damp and dreary. And California is a big state: the picture of palm trees and beaches isn't accurate of much of the state.

rohit
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby rohit » Sun Nov 23, 2008 12:10 pm

lallooprasad wrote: Yet, I can't think of a single cosmologist in my country - not even one. There are a few in condensed matter, quantum optics/information, and also a couple in high energy physics - phenomenology but none working in cosmology.



hey lalooprasad cmon thats not true at all. Thanu Padmanabhan at IUCAA is a world class cosmologist and he got the Gravity foundation prize this year. People from all over the world come to study String Theory at HRI; Ashoke Sen, considered to be one of the greatest String theorists , is there. The TIFR HEP grp is world class.So,in Mathematical physics/ String theory we have some great people. Experiment of course sucks, coz u need funds for that. Now , of course , any first world country will have incomparably better research, but those statements u made there are simply exaggerated. btw what univ are u frm?

As for why i wanna go to the US - simple - better research + i wanna travel the world :P

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metric
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby metric » Tue Nov 25, 2008 10:11 am

In my case, the sociological factor was very important. I could do a PhD in my country (Argentina), but almost for sure I would have to move to Buenos Aires, which I don't like given that I have a 2-year-old daughter and I'd prefer to live in a smaller city (besides, I hate the climate there.) So, to do a PhD I had to choose a place outside my country, I had offers from Italy, Slovenia, Spain and the US. In Italy, research is the current target of the government and I could not afford living there with a EUR 1000 scolarship for a family of 3, besides my wife doesn't speak Italian! (leave alone Slovenian.) Spain sounded nice but the University (and the faculty) was too small. So, the US was the final choice, my wife is an English teacher so we won't have language problems. I'm applying to a university in the northern part of the country so I think I'll be far away from KKK-redneck-christianfundamentalist-creationist-minuteman people.
These are my reasons. Although I will be very grateful to the US for putting down money for my TAship, it has nothing to do with statue of liberty kind of bs nor that I am crazy about leaving my country, the universities there are good as they are here, academically I think that we are at the same level, but we lack money and in experimental HEP money is king. Sorry for the brutal honesty! :)

physicsdude
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby physicsdude » Tue Nov 25, 2008 3:51 pm

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Last edited by physicsdude on Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby metric » Thu Nov 27, 2008 12:06 pm

You're right, I think those must be harmless by now. I was thinking more about the kind of minuteman that sits in a van in TX hunting down illegal immigrants with binoculars, a confederate flag and a bottle of booze (aka the center of their empty lives.) Although I don't look like the "latino stereotype" because all my grandparents are European, I might get some funny looks if I open my mouth. I've never been to southern US, but just in case I'm staying away, not that I think that the entire south is racist, but if you're moving to another country with your family then you may want to be in a place where nobody would think that you're a bad person just because of the passport you have. In fact, given the history of the relationship between my country and the US, I could deduce that all US citizens are bad, which it's not the case!.

lallooprasad
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby lallooprasad » Thu Nov 27, 2008 12:32 pm

rohit wrote:
lallooprasad wrote: Yet, I can't think of a single cosmologist in my country - not even one. There are a few in condensed matter, quantum optics/information, and also a couple in high energy physics - phenomenology but none working in cosmology.



hey lalooprasad cmon thats not true at all. Thanu Padmanabhan at IUCAA is a world class cosmologist and he got the Gravity foundation prize this year. People from all over the world come to study String Theory at HRI; Ashoke Sen, considered to be one of the greatest String theorists , is there. The TIFR HEP grp is world class.So,in Mathematical physics/ String theory we have some great people. Experiment of course sucks, coz u need funds for that. Now , of course , any first world country will have incomparably better research, but those statements u made there are simply exaggerated. btw what univ are u frm?

As for why i wanna go to the US - simple - better research + i wanna travel the world :P


Yup you're right about Ashok Sen. He once came to my university on a conference. He's big in string theory.

Which university are you from?
Last edited by lallooprasad on Sun Dec 07, 2008 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

physicsdude
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby physicsdude » Thu Nov 27, 2008 2:50 pm

<.>
Last edited by physicsdude on Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

rohit
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby rohit » Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:00 pm

lallooprasad wrote:
rohit wrote:
lallooprasad wrote: Yet, I can't think of a single cosmologist in my country - not even one. There are a few in condensed matter, quantum optics/information, and also a couple in high energy physics - phenomenology but none working in cosmology.



hey lalooprasad cmon thats not true at all. Thanu Padmanabhan at IUCAA is a world class cosmologist and he got the Gravity foundation prize this year. People from all over the world come to study String Theory at HRI; Ashoke Sen, considered to be one of the greatest String theorists , is there. The TIFR HEP grp is world class.So,in Mathematical physics/ String theory we have some great people. Experiment of course sucks, coz u need funds for that. Now , of course , any first world country will have incomparably better research, but those statements u made there are simply exaggerated. btw what univ are u frm?

As for why i wanna go to the US - simple - better research + i wanna travel the world :P


Man I'm from Pakistan. I wish I were from India! At least then I would've had a chance to study under the likes of Padmanabhan, Narlikar, etc. India has always had a strong emphasis on their astronomy-astrophysics program. I mean you people have got so many observatories but here in Pakistan, I think there is only one somewhere in a remote place.

Yup you're right about Ashok Sen. He once came to my university on a conference. He's big in string theory.

I'm from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Which university are you from?


oops ! :oops: sorry ! i assumed frm "lalooprasad"...
i'm in JNU

kz205
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby kz205 » Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:32 am

I come from some police state with a seriously messed up draft scheme and I want out. Of course, it's also about better funding, good research opportunities etc. I had the chance to escape to the UK for my undergrad degree and would've have stayed on but they charge really high fees and don't provide any financial support to foreign PhD students.

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Helio
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby Helio » Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:13 pm

For me, I just finished my undergrad in the US. I did it because I could. Some countries have MILES, I repeat MILES, of red tape when it comes to people that went the private school and want to go to university. I did not want to deal with that and I wanted to live outside my home country for a while.

I am continue my studies in the US because it was the simplest thing to do. Again miles of red tape and I am already in the system per se.

For others, mainly chinese, indians, and all the others, they come from countries that do not have the research system that the US has. But for the most important part, entering the US system is considerably easier then some of the others. There are no interviews, you only need a bachelor degree, you take the GRE, take the PGRE, and do well, and you are practically in. Considering the number of physics majors in countries (which are considerably higher than in the US) compared to the PhD slots you got oversupply and the US is a good way to go.

AE-86
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby AE-86 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:42 am

The GRE's aren't that difficult for people outside US you know. For me, acing the GRE's was much easier than getting into a just as prestigious university at home. Plus, I didn't have to look for funding.

Mataka
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby Mataka » Sat Jun 13, 2009 9:05 am

is it me or this question is a bit stupid ? It would be like asking to domestic students why are they doing their graduate studies at a university other than their hometown university ... the answer is obvious; because they do it better somewhere else !

Geoff Olynyk
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby Geoff Olynyk » Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:05 am

What did 'physicsdude' say in all those posts that are edited out now?

For me, it's simple: my country (Canada) canceled the national fusion research program ten years ago. There's one tokamak left in the country, and it's really small and in a very cold place (University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, SK). I got a really good offer from two American fusion labs (MIT and Princeton), the culture isn't that much different here, so why not?

To more directly answer your question, I could not get an equivalent education in Canada, that's why I am going through all the hassle of living in another country. (Although for me, it wasn't even as bad as many international students, because I was able to move most of my stuff with a U-haul truck from Ontario.)

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Izaac
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Re: International Students: I'm curious...

Postby Izaac » Sat May 05, 2012 4:49 am

I know that's a rather old post, but nonetheless I think that knowing foreign countries system can't hurt anybody, so here's why the US looks a better prospect than my home country (France).

Firstly, there is a huge gap between low-standards universities and very-high-standards one. No intermediate, at least in Physics.
On one hand, you have the universities that accept any applicant, where most of the students are mildly interested in the subject. The teachers have no interest in their task because they know that more than half of the students are going to drop. I talked to a teacher who told me it goes about the same until the PhD years (5 years of college).
On the other hand, you have what we call "great schools" (literally), where you get in by taking an exam, with awful pass rates (1% or so). Those great schools begin after 2 years of "preparatory schools". To give you an idea, those have about 35 hours of weekly teaching, plus 35 hours of homework (things you probably never heard of, like the Binet equation); weekly exams (I mean, real 3~4 hours exams; all Saturdays busy) where the highest grade you can get is 50% or so; and highly competitive ambience (i.e., you'll fight tooth and nail with all your classmates for that 1% admission rate).

So, well, between the Sargasso sea and the suicide bomber drill, I can't say which of the two evils is better. As for now I choose the Sargasso by correspondence course, and am studying some aspects of physics by myself.

And secondly, there is this general way of thinking in France that makes the US way more attractive. Just to give an example, (maybe that's the most emotional argument I have), this January, after a handful of mails, I managed to find a paid internship on the ATLAS experiment in a laboratory in Southern France. Contacted my university to get a few papers signed; the reply came: this internship is not planned in our physics program, hence we cannot sign the papers. Basta, no internship.

And at last, of course the money. I'd love to go to Japan, maybe to the UK, to study there, but scholarships are hard to get. But that's a purely practical matter. Besides, I believe (but might be mistaken) that it shows the spirit of the US: if the universities consider that an applicant is worth coming, they'll do everything for her to come. So here I (am trying to) go!




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