The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

International M&Ts: Adjusting to Campus Life Thanks to the M&T Community

by Gautham V., M&T Class of 2017

by Gautham V., M&T Class of 2017

I typed in “Jerome Fisher Program” in the search engine and pressed enter. I opened the first link that popped up and as I continued to read through the description, my eyes gazed at that glowing little figure of “50” in the paragraph. My first thought that crossed my mind was whether there was any rationale, for me as an international student, in taking those odds. There was no doubt about how much I wanted to be a part of this great program but I couldn’t help but wonder about the number international students accepted by the program given its exclusiveness. My father convinced me to send in an application nonetheless, for which I am grateful to this day, and wait for the result. The rest you can say is history.

Today I feel privileged to be a part of the M&T family and have had the pleasure of a college experience under a program that has challenged me to pursue my greatest ambitions. However, what I’ve got to take away from my experience in the Jerome Fisher program so far goes further than the academic challenge of combining the fields of engineering and business concepts. The people I’ve met, conversations I’ve had and the cultural diversity that the program has exposed me to has made me appreciate being a part of this M&T family. The opportunity to share ideas and opinions on a wide range of topics with individuals from across the globe is what has had the most significant impact on me since my tenure as a freshman. Interacting with peers from a wide range of countries including UK, India, Chile, Germany and El Salvador on a daily basis, whether it’s at the M&T office over a cup of coffee or a dinner at the dining hall, has allowed me to appreciate those lessons that cannot be learned inside the lecture halls. With over fifteen percent of the current M&T family consisting of international students, there is an invaluable cultural exposure that accompanies the intellectual opinions shared by these amazing individuals. Shortly after I received by admissions letter, an M&T junior, Shaun, who had a similar background of being raised in Dubai, reached out to me. He gave me answers to the never-ending questions I threw his way in the form of my concerns about how I would cope under this program as an international student. It was hardly a matter of time before I was convinced of how the M&T Program was a once in a lifetime opportunity that was knocking on my door.

The undergraduate experience as an international student seemed intimidating at times. I realized that I would have to adapt to the different lifestyle that presented itself in front of me. Being a part of the M&T family was essential in a smooth transition from high school to this wonderful academic institution. One of the greatest features of the M&T Program is the level of interaction between its peers. Every time I faced a challenge or hurdle, there was always someone I could talk to and reach out to for advice. During my second week at Penn, I was having a rather rough day and decided to stop by the M&T office for a reinvigorating cup of coffee before I headed to my next class. As I left the office, an M&T senior, Sunny, asked me to walk with him since we were both heading the same way. He asked me about my undergraduate experience so far and I told him about how I was focusing my efforts on doing well in my classes. I remember him smiling and telling me about how grades were not the be-all and end-all of college and encouraged me to get involved in fun campus activities and enjoy the undergraduate experience. It is the little things like that, the conversations I’ve had, the ideas I’ve heard, and the opinions I’ve shared that I vividly remember today.

I’ve realized that I tend to introspect a lot more at university than I did in high school and I am struck by how quickly time has flown. Having received my admission letter about a year ago, I often think about the concerns I had as a student coming to the United States for the undergraduate experience. I imagined being alone, an individual among a sea of gifted students, fighting my own battles and facing my challenges alone. Today I realize that I consider myself lucky because I never had to face any of my concerns. While I was moving to a new country, a new lifestyle and a new environment, I was also already a part of a new family. The M&T family that has never made me feel like I have to take this undergraduate journey alone. There are several reasons for which I am grateful to be a part of this program. However words cannot do justice to the impact that this tight knit M&T family has had on my undergraduate experience thus far as well as the effect I anticipate it having on my future.

Gautham is a current M&T in the Class of 2017 from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He studies Systems Science within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School.

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