Interviewing New International Math PhD Students

En route to my first year of graduate school, I packed up the three good pillows I have, moved a couple hundred miles, and planted myself in an apartment I had only seen in a grainy Face Time video. Hopefully in five or six years, I thought, someone will begrudgingly call me Dr. Zell.

Then, the start of graduate school felt something like:

Welcome! Everyone here is looking forward to seeing you succeed. Now, let’s not waste time. It is graduate school after all. Undergraduates waste time, but not us thrifty graduates! Are you ready to teach? Not quite? Well, up and at ’em anyway! Oh, and expect to be challenged in all your classes. Bon voyage!

Even though the transition from Virginia to Michigan felt gigantic to me, I quickly realized my immense privilege as I befriended peers who only recently arrived in America. It’s hard to compare the international students at Michigan, because they are so obviously different. At the same time, they do agree on a handful of things: it’s confusing (and sometimes intimidating) applying to graduate school in America. Getting a visa is annoying. Family should be closer than they are. And of course, American food is way too sweet.

While the transition to graduate school may be confusing, and at times stressful, the international students at Michigan prove that graduate school is ultimately worthwhile. In order to share a little bit of the international student experience, I found some interview victims.

Anyway! Here’s what they had to say (split into two parts):

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