Two presented with student visas on ‘Student Visa Day’ at United States Embassy in Delhi

The United States Embassy celebrated ‘Student Visa Day’ Tuesday, with Charge D’Affaires Patricia Lacina presenting student visas to two students who are due to study in USA this year.

“The United States places an immense value on international students and their rich contributions to our academic institutions, campuses and communities. This is particularly true in India; in fact, Indians are the second largest group of international students in the US. Student mobility and the people-to-people connections it forges has been a corner stone of the US-India relationship for the past 75 years and remains so today,” Lacina said.

25-year-old resident of Delhi, Rupika Srivastava, is due to attend University of North Texas (UNT), Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas this year. Srivastava has completed her Bachelors of Dental Surgery from ITS Dental College, Greater Noida in May and will now pursue a Master’s in Public Health from UNT Health Science Center.

For Srivastava, the application process was long and grueling as she was looking for a course which offered a practical experience in the health care industry in the United States. “The main hassle was shortlisting the university. Master’s in Public Health programs are offered in other American universities as well, however my one of the professors indicated that one of the professors at UNT, Health Science Center is research on the relationship between Human Papillomavirus infection- a virus with sub types that can cause diseases in humans ranging from common warts to cervical cancer, and oral cancer,” Srivastava said.

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As a dentist, this research piqued her interest, which was one of the main reasons why she chose to forego scholarships offered by other Universities offering public health courses and opted for UNT, Health Science Center on her own.

For 19-year-old Diwij Gupta, the application process for Bachelor’s in Computer Science program began in January 2021. A graduate of Amity International School, Gurgaon, Gupta began by sitting for the English Proficiency Exam followed by a profile essay. He then shortlisted San Jose State University, California and after sending his transcripts received an admission letter in December. “I want to come back to India and work in a big tech giant for a few years. I would probably purse a PhD in computer science thereafter,” Gupta said.

While shortlisting colleges, Srivastava sought guidance from ‘Education USA’ a program overseen by the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) under the US State Department which helps students’ priorities courses and universities based on their interest, providing regular guidance in the form of advisors, including advise on funding for the respective course.

Counselor for Cultural and Educational Affairs Anthony Miranda spoke about the effectiveness of ‘Education USA’ which is a one-stop-shop to find accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date information on any of the 4000 accredited US Universities and colleges.

“On student visa day the focus is on the journey that some of these students have made in order to get here. The research that these students and parents had to do to figure out which university would be right for them…We have something that will help you; two words-Education USA,” Miranda said adding that the program has eight centers across the country-one each at Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and two in Hyderabad, and is also available as a mobile application.

For Bhavna Jolly, Senior Program Officer ‘Education USA’, the endeavor of the program has been to provide students with the right information and from a credible source. A management graduate and communications teacher for several years, Jolly joined Education USA in 2018. She was drawn to the program based on her own struggles as a student in the United States and wishes that she had access to a platform which could her make the best decisions for imperative her education and career.

“Our job is to help students find the best fit when it comes to universities. We don’t necessarily look at rankings, we work on students priorities instead. The entire process is divided into 5 steps. It starts with shortlisting colleges prioritised on the interest of the student, followed by figuring out where the funding will come from,” Jolly said. Education USA does not fund students themselves but helps students connect with sources that would provide them with scholarships. “As of now we have a database of 50 sources of funding, which we keep updating. We also help students identify colleges which offer scholarships,” she added.

Step three oversees the actual application process, where advisors at Education USA help students review their personal among other things, Jolly explains. This is followed by the Visa processing stage which is overseen by the US Embassy officials however the program conducts several informative sessions with embassy officials for the students, she said. The final step is a pre-departure orientation where students are free to ask any and every question that comes to their mind, she added.

“We offer them advice right from what to pack to the difference in the academic and social scenarios in American and Indian Universities,” Jolly added. Education USA also provides a specific advisory service, where for a nominal cost of Rs. 14,000 per annum, students can receive sustained guidance with a fixed mentor throughout the year, she said.

Hanisha Dewan (24) and Jatin Rawtani (23) opted for the guidance offered by ‘Education USA’ while shortlisting colleges for their respective undergraduate programs. Dewan has a double major in business and music from San Jose State University, California in 2020 is currently working at EasyGov, a Delhi based gov-tech firm which offers services in marketing and consulting. She credits Education USA for helping her with the undergraduate application process including access to international fairs where she met alumni from San Jose University and could field questions about the programs offered. “Education USA not only helps with the application process but everything in between,” she said.

For Rawtani, a triple major in Geography, Sustainability and Business from Miami University, Ohio in 2021, Education USA helped him qualify for a full scholarship by Miami University. “I’m a child of a single parent and hence funding was a major issue for me. Moreover, I was a late applicant. Advisors at Education USA helped me navigate through the funding and application process,” Rawtani said.

Don Heflin, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in India also addressed the media regarding the positive response in the number of student applications this summer. “We will interview more applicants for a student visa this summer than we ever have before. We hope to break last year’s record of 64,000 visa issuances to Indian students. We will interview over 3000 students today across consulates in India. In New Delhi we will interview 13,000 students, in Mumbai 1300 and other three consulates- at Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata, will push us over to 3000 in total,” Heflin said.

When asked about the division of interviews based on students opting for stem cell courses and humanities courses, Heflin said the stem cell courses are a great attraction among students but the grant of student visas between the two fields is a decision influenced by the market. “We would rather see more students go in for studying social studies/humanities courses. For instance, public health is a great degree. It is on the edge of stem, but it has a lot to do with public policy and government. So would love to see more of that,” he added.

On the Embassy’s preparedness to ensure that application process remains seamless keeping the pandemic in mind Heflin said that all necessary precautions are being observed. “All applications are required to wear masks. The intake personnel taking them in are also wearing masks, as are our other officials,” he said.

When asked about the impact of the pandemic on this summer’s visa application process, Heflin said, “Last year we had about the right amount of applicants compared to pre-covid years. But we are seeing a surge of interest this year,” adding that the increase in the number of student visa applications is a combination of factors which includes the status of the Indian economy as well as the pent-up demand of 2020-2021.


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