Coming into college I did not know what to expect

Submitted by Sunail Luthra on 5/8/17

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Coming into college I did not know what to expect. Growing up in high school, I didn’t have many friends, was not very active in the clubs, and didn’t put myself out there. So, coming into SUNY Cortland, I knew I wanted to change that. I did not want to be the shy kid who missed every great opportunity that passes by. I wanted to take control of my life, I wanted to look back, and for the first time, enjoy my experiences. This is why I want to study abroad at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, for the upcoming fall semester.

I did not really think much about studying abroad. I did not think my family and I could make the financial commitment, and I had this perception that it really was out of my budget. Through my two years at college, times have gotten harder for my family. My dad, a New York City cab driver, has had his business significantly reduced, since Uber’s takeover. He’s had to work longer hours often leaving before 8am, coming back around midnight every single day.  My mom on the other hand, has had to go from job to job to help us make ends meet. Since high school, she’s been managing two jobs, as well as taking care of me and my younger sister. This is why I originally decided studying abroad, as much as I wanted to do it, it just wasn’t a reasonable decision.

So, I focused on joining as many clubs, participating in many activities, and exceling on my school work, as much as I could. Through two years at Cortland, I have lived it up. I am on two different executive boards for two different clubs, I am an active leader in my community, participating in community service and tutoring students for classes I already received high marks in, and done substantial research for both of majors, philosophy and economics. It has been a great two years here so far, but I still want to make it even better.

When I first saw our study abroad office, I was fascinated, but I still did not think it was for me. But then a friend of mine, who had just studied abroad, had explained how it was one of the best experiences of her life. Enjoying a different culture, traveling to different countries, trying different foods, it just sounded amazing. She said she didn’t regret one second of it, and it was truly the most amazing decision she had made. She had me hooked.

So, I had to go to an interest meeting, and that changed everything. Going to my first interest meeting, and looking at the different programs, and seeing how the SUNY system really tries to make it affordable for you, I decided to apply.

Of course, I am still relying on financial aid and multiple scholarships to help me fund this trip. I have been applying to every scholarship through Cortland, as well as multiple external websites. I am determined on making ends meet this time, and getting to experience this trip. I am also looking into taking out an extra loan, that I will have to pay off when I graduate. Taking out at extra loan for this experience, as scary as it sounds, I really hope is worth the experience. This is why the impact of a potential scholarship could be tremendously substantial in my decision to commit to my program.

At first, I was committed on going to England. My mom has two brothers there, as well as some siblings in Germany and Belgium, but I had never been to England. I have been to Belgium and Germany, and both are fantastic, and actually inspired my love for traveling. I loved being able to experience in the new culture, combined with the sight-seeing, it is an overall great new experience. I choose England because it seemed familiar to New York City, with me coming from Long Island. However, as I looked through more programs, I decided to expand my horizons a little, and I found Leiden through SUNY Brockport. Once I first went through it, I almost already knew that this was the one.

So, I did my research on the school, as well as the country, and the more research I did, the more I realized this is my program. For starters, this school has so much history, originating in 1575, with great architecture and a great town. Leiden University is only 20 miles from downtown Amsterdam, which is a great tourist attraction. I looked into the activities to be done while spending my whole Fall semester here, and they were endless. Netherlands, being such a pragmatic country, is very well functioning. Being able to travel downtown and experience all the different cultures, go on long bicycle trips, relax in the Vondelpark, or even go to the historical Anne Frank house, the activity list was endless. I know just by participating in these activities, and going to these historical attractions, I will become a better person. The Netherlands is the ideal country, and it is what the rest of the world should be like, it really is an ideal society. This lifestyle is what I want to engulf myself in, experience, and bring back to the United States, because this will help me become a better person and impact my future personal goals.

Furthermore, Leiden is a highly-ranked university, not only in the Netherlands, but all of Europe. In doing my research, I noticed that it also has very small, discussion based classes, similar to my Cortland classes. It has a top of the class philosophy program, and that being one of my majors, I just had to take a class or two. Looking through the course sheet, I knew I had to take one of these classes, such as the one focused on Hindu religion, which is my religion. Continuing with my academic research, I realized Leiden University also had a great economics program, and that being my other major, I knew it was a perfect fit. I realized that this program would substantially help me challenge myself in academics, as well as help become more of a professional in my field. These classes, I realized, will be challenging. This is a premier school in The Netherlands, so I know that my grades will be tough to maintain, but I know I am for the challenge, because I know this will make me a better student, and a better professional.

I am applying to this program because I want to expand my horizons. I love to travel, and I love new experiences. Growing up I was always afraid of taking chances, so now I never say no to new great experiences. I really hope to be a part of this program next fall, and the financials unfortunately making this experience tough. I am applying to these scholarships because I know, by participating in this program, I will become a better person, and I will bring that back not only for the rest of my time at Cortland, but also for the rest of my life.  In preparing for this experience, I have been applying to every scholarship I can find that matches my criteria, I have been saving from my EOP Tutor position at Cortland, and I will be working full time this summer to continue to save for this program. Moreover, I have been researching and planning my months while I am abroad, because I want to travel not just within the Netherlands, but all of Europe.

I am looking forward to this experience more than ever. Through two years at Cortland I have been committed to my academics, but I want to do more. I only have two years of my college experience left, and I want to take advantage of every second. I want to thank you in considering me for this scholarship, and helping me make this trip possible, and I really do hope to be flying there for my semester, next fall.

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