What I learned and earned as an exchange student at UPES

There is nothing that fosters growth more than the discomfort and confusion of entering a world so different from your own

It was late Spring and I was skimming my school emails when I froze in astonishment to read: ‘Your advisor has nominated you to be considered for a special study abroad program in India for the Fall of 2019’. I re-read the sentence a few times before absorbing the entirety of the invitation. I was the selected candidate from Supply Chain Management and Analytics program at Virginia Commonwealth University for student exchange program at UPES, India. What made this offer so special was that I was only required to pay for the plane ticket and travel health insurance. The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun, India, awarded me a full scholarship. It covered the costs of tuition, books, fees, room, and boarding. Only a small number of students get an opportunity to study abroad during their undergrad years and to receive a full scholarship to do so is nearly unheard of. Although I had never traveled outside of the US, I would have been foolish to turn down this incredibly generous opportunity. In August 2019, I flew out of Dulles International Airport for New Delhi, excited about what the adventure would bring.


I took advantage of every opportunity to discover India, a choice I will never regret

After the plane touched down, I met a wall of heat and humidity. During the drive to campus, I fixated on the bright colours and bustling traffic. “We are not in Kansas anymore,” I thought to myself while sneaking smiles away from the rear-view mirror and driver’s reflection. Weeks later, I would recall this moment in an email to my advisors back home, stating: “I have become hyper-aware that in the US people walk on sidewalks and stand in lines, cars drive on the roads all in a row, cows are behind fences and monkeys are in zoos. Here, the monkeys, cows, people, and cars all share the roads in chaotic harmony, which oddly enough feels more natural.” 

Fellow students greeted me and I received a warm welcome from the staff. At UPES, I met students from all over the world – France, Gambia, Mexico, Kenya, Canada, and Slovenia. As Indians are known for their hospitality, in nearly every interaction, my hosts offered me chai and inquired about my comfort. I had a full week to recover from my travels and acclimate to the new time zone before classes began.   

I became extremely close to two of the brightest students in the school, Jyoti Nathani and Kartik Khanna

I enrolled in classes such as Global Supply Chain Management, Product Lifecycle Management and Business Process Re-engineering, courses part of MBA in Logistics and Supply Chain Management program at the UPES School of Business. The classroom discussions about world trends were insightful. The school organised discussion panels and invited industry professionals who spoke about their careers and keys to success.

I became extremely close to two of the brightest students in the school, Jyoti Nathani and Kartik Khanna, who worked tirelessly on classroom assignments, projects and school organisations, all while helping me bridge the learning gap that all international students face in a foreign school. We prepared for exams together and ate meals in the mess hall. For Diwali, the festival of lights, they encouraged me to purchase a sari and attend the festivities. In our private chats, we spoke of the difficulties that millennials face and realized we shared challenges that transcended nations and distances. I regularly asked them questions about their Indian culture and the things they hoped to see change in their lifetime. When we weren’t working, we ate cheese momos at the local food stands and took trips to the movies.

I took advantage of every opportunity to discover India, a choice I will never regret

Groups of international students would plan weekend excursions all over India. Monday to Friday I would work from sunup to sundown on my studies so that I could get the most out of my weekends. Late on Friday evenings, we would pile into sleeper buses to wake up in a magical new location on Saturday mornings with less than 48 hours to explore. On these excursions, I went paragliding over Dharamshala and saw the Golden Temple of Amritsar. I visited the Dalai Lama’s temple in the Himalayas and relaxed under palm trees on the remote beaches of Goa. I bought jewelry in Jaipur and marveled at the Taj Mahal in Agra. I took advantage of every opportunity to discover India, a choice I will never regret.

There were times when I missed my family and friends back home. Dorm life often had me pining for the privacy of my apartment in Richmond, VA. There were times I got lost in the busy cities and struggled to communicate in Hindi with the locals. But I would do it all over again, just as it happened. There is nothing that fosters growth more than the discomfort and confusion of entering a world so different from your own. I went to India on a mission to see the country and excel academically and through hard work and persistence, I was able to accomplish both. Reflecting on my Indian journey, I feel blessed for the incredible knowledge I took away from my professors and the lifelong friendships I made with people from all over the world.

(The writer was an exchange student at the UPES School of Business from August 2019 to January 2020. She recently completed her graduation in Supply Chain Management and Analytics from Virginia Commonwealth University)


  1. As we know, Indians are amiable in nature and are known for hospitality. A true example is UPES family, where students from abroad are taken care well, in terms of academics as well as other areas too. Seniors like Jyoti Nathani and Kartik Khanna have always been a great support to domestic as well as international students. Hope you had a great journey at UPES.
    Best Wishes😇

    1. Yes the journey was indeed wonderful. I am thrilled I was offered such a generous experience and hope to return to India in the future.

  2. Hi Nolan !!
    I’m glad you felt warm and comfortable here.. hope the learning and the experiences were worth a lifetime!!
    We would welcome you with love every time you decide to visit India.. It was great to learn from and have you here at UPES.

    1. Yes the experience was worth a lifetime! India is a marvelous and incredible country. I will miss my friends there and hope to also host Indians here in the U.S.A. in the future.

  3. Hi Nolan ,
    It was great to have to around in the campus. And I’m so glad that you had the time of your life here and I’m sure you’d Cherish it all your life. I remember my seniors Kartik and Jyoti introducing me to you and how everything I saw in the mess or in corridors we’d great each other and your brightest smile always added happiness to my days and after you left I sort of missed you at the campus. And you are always welcome with love. Hope to see you in near future and it was great to have you here at UPES. All the best.

    1. Prachi,
      It was so wonderful to meet you, I had so much fun with you interacting on Logistikas. I still wear my sweater that your team made! I miss seeing you’re face around campus and I hope to see you again in the future. I am certain you will have a lucrative and productive career.
      Best Regards,

    1. UPES deserves worldwide recognition for their prestigious programs and I hope they continue to provide such great education to students like me.

  4. Hi Nolon! I am so glad to connect you through this blog, I tried connecting you through what’s app, but seems you lost your phone. It was good to interact with you regarding PLM course, and good to know that you passed with Extra Ordinary O grade.
    You have been very punctual and sincere. Kartik, Jyoti, Biswajit often miss you during conversations with me. Hope you stay connected with me, other faculty colleagues and your batchmates. Wish you a great future ahead.

    1. Hi D.N.A!!

      Good to hear from you Sir. I miss the other students too and I look forward to what their futures will bring. Thank you for the sweets, laughter and knowledge. I will take my PLM concepts with me into my career.


  5. Noce to read yoir views through this blog.
    Thums to u for utilizing this opportunity to experience this great nation India along with excelling in your studies.

    1. Hello Dr. Kumar,

      I enjoyed the experience and am glad I was able to learn from you. Best of luck in the future and I hope you are able to other students the things you taught me.


  6. Hi Nolan
    A very nice and touching post about your wonderful experience both in Campus and off. You made friends and cherished all the activities. Thanks for being a sport in the student council at SOB.
    All the best

    1. Promod,
      I enjoyed very much the opportunities, activities, and friendships at UPES. I will encourage others to participate as well and thank you for the invitation to be apart of such important social building organizations.


  7. Thank You Nolan Burke for mentioning us. It was indeed a pleasure to have you here.

    Having you as a part of our classes, proved to be beneficial for us as well in terms of understanding an entirely different culture, new perspectives and thoughts. Despite multiple set back, you never gave up on your mission of exploring the country and excelling in academics.

    I would encourage more students to opt for student exchange programs and explore its benefits.

    1. Jyotiiiiii,

      Hello my darling. You are an incredible shining light as I was drawn to you from the moment we met. Your brilliance will take you far in life and I am honored I got the opportunity to study beside you. I am also grateful that you taught me how to put together an outstanding PPT in less than 24hours! I had to do it once I was in the USA again and thought of you often.

      Take care and talk to you soon,

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