Note: The I AM GPH podcast is produced by NYU GPH’s Office of Communications and Promotion. It is designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emphasis that may not be captured in text on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher Radio.
EP08 International Student Life at NYU with Shalom Igwe & Ayushi Bhargava
Deborah Onakomaiya: Hey, guys. And welcome to a special episode of I AM GPH. I am your host Deborah Onakomaiya. In this episode we'll be highlighting our diverse international student body here at NYU. Our conversation today is with Shalom Igwe who's a second year MPH Global Health student. She is originally from Nigeria, and currently works as a research assistant at the Community Health Initiative. She is a proud member of the Student Governing Council here at NYU, and she is extremely interested in healthcare consulting. A fun fact about Shalom is that she cannot swim to save her life. Also on the show, we had a conversation with Ayushi Bhargava who is a second year MPH student in the management concentration track at GPH. Ayushi works in the grants department of the college, and she's also a lab manager at the Tobacco Research Lab. Her interests are in public health finance, cost analysis, and health economics. One thing you should know about Ayushi is that she is a dentist from India, and she loves to paint landscape pictures. Let's go to our conversation with these two awesome international students. Thanks so much for being here guys. So, let's go ahead and get started. To start off, can you tell us a little about yourselves, and where you're from.
Shalom Igwe: My name is Shalom Igwe. I'm a second year MPH student in the Global Health track. I'm from Nigeria.
Ayushi Bhargava: I am Ayushi, and I am a second year MPH student in the health management track, and I'm from India.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Why was studying as a graduate student at NYU important to you? Take us back to that moment when you received your acceptance letter. Like, tell us the story. Paint that picture for us.
Shalom Igwe: Okay. So, I had applied to a couple of other schools, but then I really wanted to come to NYU because of the Global Health program. I felt it was really strong, and it would give me like a global health perspective. I was at work that evening and I saw the email from Zach, and I was really excited. Honestly, like I was jumping up and down, and it was really an amazing experience for me.
Ayushi Bhargava: For me, even I had applied to a couple of colleges, and I just remember it was I think at night, it was around 8:00/9:00 in India, when Zach sent me an email. He said, "Congratulations. You've been accepted." And he sent me a scholarship letter, and I was like, "Wow." At first getting into NYU was like a big thing for me, and then on top of that I got the scholarship, and it was the entire thing. And the entire feeling was so great to come here to be a part of NYU, and it's so renowned and everything's so great about it.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Wow. That must be really nice especially added on with a scholarship-
Ayushi Bhargava: Scholarship.
Deborah Onakomaiya: And living in New York definitely is not cheap. Coming to New York it's such a big city, so much going on. Take use back to your first day at NYU. Did anything surprise you? Was there anything different from what you expected it to be? How was that first day for you guys?
Ayushi Bhargava: For me the first day I remember at NYU was the orientation day, and I entered that hall which was there at the Kimmel Center, and it was so full, and it was so packed. I didn't imagine it to be so full, and I really didn't imagine the program had so many students, and people. I remember, I don't know who it was, but one of the speakers asked all the international students to stand, and the entire crowd clapped for us because we were the ones who had left our country, left our homes and come here all the way. And, yes, that was a great feeling. Like everybody was clapping for us for coming all the way, taking that big step coming to New York, which is intimidating in itself. And it was great.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Was there anything surprising to you, or very different that you didn't expect?
Ayushi Bhargava: Actually, the whole orientation was new to me. And there was nothing surprising as such, but it was the whole experience was different. We were just 25 international students. I thought was maybe surprising, but not. I mean, it was nothing that was so surprising or something like that.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Wow, that's interesting. How about for you Shalom?
Shalom Igwe: Yes. So, it was kind of like similar to what Ayushi said apart from like the day I just came around to see the school. My first experience was at the orientation, and the diversity, the fact that there were a lot of people there, and the fact that just like everybody was just accepting of everybody. And I think the first person I met was Julie, and she was really, really warm.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Julie Avina?
Shalom Igwe: Yeah. So, she was really, really warm at the orientation. And the fact that we were recognized like Ayushi was saying. I just remembered the professor was like ... I think it was Dr. Perry Halkitis, or someone who said that everybody should stand up. So, it was really great. It was an amazing experience. And me getting to meet new people from different cultures, and people from different walks of life, people who had experience working in a lot of middle income countries, and people who have lived here all their lives. It was really great.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Again NYU and diversity go a long way. You saw that represented among international students, and even people that were here. You've been here for a whole year. So, what have you found to be most useful to you at NYU? So, like what resources have helped you so far?
Shalom Igwe: Actually, I think the Office of Global Services, OGS, has been really, really helpful. The fact that they go out of their way to like have this time where they talk about immigration, law, immigration laws. Like helping us to find our feet, and just really being helpful. Honestly, my first year at Wasserman was really great because I remember the first job I applied to, and I got turned down, and I sent an email to the person and was like, "What do you think I should have improved on?" And she was like, "Your resume." And I went to Wasserman and like in 30 minutes my resume was fixed, honestly, and that was how I got the next job I applied for. So, Wasserman and OGS were really amazing resources for me.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Very nice. How about you?
Ayushi Bhargava: Yeah. I would agree with her Wasserman and OGS were like the most helpful resources at NYU. I mean, even I went to Wasserman with my resume, and they fixed my resume in 30 minutes. And I requested to get the same person, the counselor who was there with me for the first time, and they understood that, and they gave me the same counselor again and again. So, I could build a rapport with her, and I still have a rapport with her, so it was great creating your own resumes, cover letter. I did everything with them, so they were pretty, pretty, pretty helpful, and they were nice. And in addition to all that I would say the CGPH office itself is pretty helpful for me, and to get me a job. I got onboarded during the summer with one of the departments at CGPH, and from there I got my new job here. And so, internally how the people were they were very sweet, they were very nice, everybody was so cooperative, and they helped me get around here and know things better. I network. Networking was so much better with CGPH, and that's tough on everybody.
Shalom Igwe: I think just like to add to what she said like the fact that our professors are actually really accessible. And the first person I ever got to meet was Dr. Dickey, and he was really, really helpful in helping me talk things over about like my career. And then I also met Professor Peter Navario, and we actually talked about my career. And like everybody has just been really, really helpful. And I can't over emphasize OGS. OGS is a great resource for every international student.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Oh, wow, that's very interesting. You guys touched a little bit on networking. So, I mean, for people coming from a different country here the way to network in one country might be different from the next, and it sounds like both of you do have jobs. So, how were you able to learn how to network successfully?
Shalom Igwe: Honestly, the first place I really, really had a lecture in networking was at Wasserman. Like Wasserman build like they have these classes ready to teach you on how to network. I also like talking to other international students as well. Like having them share their perspectives with me. And then I also think another thing that helped me was the fact that I already had like a professional working experience before I came here.
Ayushi Bhargava: For me networking began with one of the career fairs that GPH had organized last year. So, that's where I found this tobacco lab, and I met with the representatives of that lab, and I started networking from those career fairs because those career fairs were like it was a lab, clubs, and career fairs. So, that had me network. And then the professors like Dr. Jennifer Pomeranz she was so helpful with I went to her asking if she has any course assistant requirements, if she has something, and she got me onboarded, and she introduced me to the other staff members too, which have been very helpful. Apart from that I think, yes, Wasserman does help, but Wasserman helps like I felt that Wasserman's help was on a broader scale on networking like outside school and stuff. But for inside school I think the professors were the most helpful.
Deborah Onakomaiya: How do you guys reach out to a professor? Like how are you able to overcome those fairs?
Ayushi Bhargava: You know, actually it is not just you it's also from the professor's side on this. But here I felt all the professors were very approachable. Like, frankly speaking, from my country we don't usually email professors, or we don't usually text them, or talk to them, but here the professors were so approachable. You can write to them, you can talk to them, you can take their advice on your projects or interviews and everything. And, yes, they were approachable. I mean, you do feel a little awkward-
Deborah Onakomaiya: Awkward?
Ayushi Bhargava: Yeah. Awkward. Like how do I write to them? But once you break the ice first then you're done. I mean, the rapport just begins, and they are so supportive all throughout. I would recommend that start creating a rapport right during the lectures, and after lectures, and meet with them. Just introduce them to you. I mean, I think that works.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Breaking the ice definitely is very important. So, what advice would you have to incoming international students based off of your experience?
Shalom Igwe: I think when you know you're going to be an international student I would say use up all the resources available to you because the truth is there are actually a lot of resources both within the college and outside the college, and most times a lot of people are not aware of these resources. I would say like sign up to different like newsletters. Just sign up for different stuff, and put yourself out there like test the waters, and like Ayushi said like from year one she had experience working in the tobacco lab. Like I never knew about it. If I knew about it I guess I would be there. Like she has a paper about to be published, and all that. So, just like get involved and talk to people and meet people.
Ayushi Bhargava: Yeah. I would resonate on that, and I would say that NYU has resources it's just that you have to find it, and you should know how to keep a tab on them. Like NYU has so many resources it's just that it's a person to person thing that whether you go and grab it or not. And, yes, I would recommend that newsletters, and dates from the student affairs, and the student councils are very helpful. And they send out job opportunities, they send out networking opportunities. And in fact they also have these social clubs that they send out and they help people to get involved more in the culture of the United States, New York, and everything. And I think students should go ahead and get collaborated with these things.
Deborah Onakomaiya: And I have to ask this question: Both of you are coming from different countries, you're far away from home, how are you able to build your social network at NYU?
Ayushi Bhargava: Frankly, I started going out to these clubs, and fairs, and these lunch meetings, and breakfasts, and all these things with the NYU's College of Global Public Health has a student governing council, which has a lot of events. They keep organizing these events, and that was a good mixer. It's surprising that students actually come for them, and they come out, and they meet, and they greet, and they have fun. And I think that's how I build my social network. To going to these events, and going to ... I mean, I would say you come to NYU, I guess, once in your lifetime, and you leave your home, you come to a new country, and everything, and I think you should make the most of it by just being a part of everything you can, everything that's possible.
Deborah Onakomaiya: How about for you?
Shalom Igwe: I think she's really right. Like for me I started off by making friends with people from my culture because like, for me, it felt weird walking up to random people and talking to them. So, like she said going out for events, meeting people, getting involved in the SGC helped me meet more people, being involved in labs as well. Clubs and labs like you meet more people then.
Deborah Onakomaiya: I mean, you guys have had such amazing experiences at NYU, but most importantly the reason why you're at NYU is to learn. So, what classes have been exceptional, or what professors have you been with in class that you were like, "This is the most amazing class ever," since you've been here?
Ayushi Bhargava: I have that on my tip of my tongue. I would say it's the management class by Ji Chang. I think that was I loved that class. It was in my first semester, and she was so approachable, and she was so good at it. I mean, I really loved that class. There was one other one that was financial management. He was also pretty fun, and the classes are pretty good. It's not bad. But Ji Chang definitely do it. Definitely take it.
Shalom Igwe: I think the best class or the professor I really, really love, I love my qualitative fields method class. I love Dr. Alexis. Like being in her class helped me to put a lot of things about my future career in perspective. And I also love the health management class with Professor Ji Chang. And actually I love my epidemiology class with Dr. Farzana.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Nice. Nice. Finally, what are your public health goals? So, 10 years from now if I called Shalom or called Ayushi where should I expect you guys to be?
Shalom Igwe: So, basically where I see myself in 10 years I want to be like a global health consultant. Like being able to provide advisory services to both countries and organizations that function on a global health perspective. So, like different advisory based in program planning, analysis, evaluation, both qualitative and quantitative research. Just be like that one stop shop for everything global health.
Ayushi Bhargava: For me it would be somewhere in the finance stream because I've loved my finance classes, and I love the management classes too, and the job that I'm doing currently is with the grants department, which is basically public health financing. How do you manage grants, how the different invoice is done, how the different process is done. So, I think I'm going to take up my career, I'm going to start from somewhere in a non-profit, which is health related, which takes up finance as they have something as finance as a core. And then from there I would maybe go on to consulting, but for now I'm not taught that much, but for now I'd really want to go into public health financing.
Deborah Onakomaiya: Thank you guys so much for being here. It was wonderful to hear about your stories, how you got accepted, the resources that you've used, and you know where you want to be 10 years from now. Thank you so much.
Shalom Igwe: Thank you too Debbie.
Ayushi Bhargava: Thank you.
Shalom Igwe: It was nice chatting with you