International Students' Perspectives

Xiaoyu “Sherry” Sun


“My name is Xiaoyu Sun and I’m from China. Now I’m a physical chemistry major working in the Fourkas lab. Our group focuses on the fabrication of functional micro and nanodevices by multiphoton absorption polymerization (MAP), development of new nonlinear optical microscopies, and their applications in bioscience. My current research involves applying the fluorescent properties of quantum dots into bionanotechnology. I really like it! The interesting research topics are the main reason that I chose UMD. What’s more, College Park is a delightful town. The weather in spring and autumn is pleasant, environment is healthy, and people are nice. The proximity to DC is another attracting factor as many academic conferences are held here and national science institutes, like NIST and NIH, are here, which provide us a better chance to know the cutting-edge technologies. When you feel tired or bored, you can always go to the famous museums and galleries in DC to relax, or, hang out with friends and have fun in the club. The biggest challenge I face when coming here is no doubt the language barrier. In the beginning, it was pretty hard to communicate. But now things are much better since I’m keeping practice and making progress. Another problem is about the food. The food here is too sweet for me (and maybe for most of the Asians). Until now I’m still not used to it. That’s why it’s important to learn how to cook before you come here. There are some very good international supermarkets in this area. You can almost buy whatever you need.

I’m happy with my life here and now enjoying it. Adaption is not easy, but as long as you keep on trying, you can make it.”

Tanuja Raghukumar Kashyap, M.S.


“I am from India with a Master's degree in Biochemistry. I work for Dr. Fushman in structural biology of proteins using NMR, with our major area of interest being polyubiquitin chains and relevance of their structure to function. I chose UMD because of the location, since I lived in Virginia earlier and because of the research topics. It was a good deal, because of the well connected Metro system. When I first came to the US I felt comfortable, however initially I had trouble with approaching people and discussing stuff, but now I am getting over it…and not to forget the whole balancing act that phD demands!! Remember, the TAing here is very hectic, I wish I had known that. Overall, I am very happy with the academic system here, especially for biochemistry. I must say that most of the time it was/is overwhelming to balance TAing, coursework and research. My advice is for you to get to adapt soon to the system so you feel comfortable and hence can be more efficient…talk to people who have been here and find out their experiences in all areas that matter.”

Xiang Ye


“The reason why I choose UMD is quite simple, its offer is the earliest of all I got. But of course its location attracted me the most as well as its great diversity on campus. The weather is pretty pleasant here and the District of Columbia is just twenty minutes of metrorail ride, but what is the most attracting for me as well as for those who major in bioscience is that NIH is just 30 min drive from college park. And this actually means that you will have a good chance to further your career in some lab of NIH. And in addition to NIH, there is a branch of FDA 20-minute walk from the campus, and the department of agriculture is 2 miles away as well, they are all great chances for those in the corresponding majors.

Of course, life is not perfect here. Before I came here I wish I could know how high the cost to live here especially the rent. A typical one bedroom apartment will cost around $1000 per month if it is close to campus the cost will be even higher. You definitely need to find a roommate to live together.

Before you come here, you need to bring some Chinese books (books in your major as well as some fictions or novels) because there are not much at all and most of them are in traditional Chinese character (I have no idea what would be the situation for other languages, sorry about it). As for daily necessities, you can purchase them from local supermarkets of course at a little higher price. As for fruits and vegetables, you can get them from Asian grocery stores around at a reasonable price. You probably need a car because life without it here will be very inconvenient. If you already have a driver’s license, bring it with you, because you will find that it is much easier to exchange for a local driver’s license with your license issue by your country than get the driver’s license here starting from scratch.”