Launching Careers

A U.S. degree opens doors to exciting careers for Indian women.

By Michael Gallant

March 2023

Launching Careers

Jerusha D’Souza on campus at the University of Southern California, where she studied law. (Photograph courtesy Jerusha D’Souza)

The United States is one of the most sought-after destinations for international students. The high quality of education and diversity on campus cultivates creativity, independent thought and equal opportunity. Three intrepid Indian women who studied in the United States, and took advantage of wide-ranging resources at the universities to launch successful careers, talk about how international students can unlock amazing opportunities.

Jerusha D’Souza

D’Souza, a music, technology and entertainment lawyer in Mumbai, graduated from the University of Southern California (USC). She runs her own law office, and helps international rock stars negotiate major contracts. But before she began striking deals, D’Souza knew that she had to gain deep knowledge in the areas of law that fascinated her.

“Media, entertainment and intellectual property—those were the fields I knew I wanted to focus on, and I didn’t think I could learn everything I needed to in India,” she says. “I applied to a few schools in the United States and chose USC because it had the best film school and offered a lot of the subjects I wanted.”

The school’s proximity to Hollywood and powerful network of entertainment-industry alumni also played an important role in her decision. As a practicing lawyer, D’Souza works on everything from licensing and sponsorships to performance contracts and record deals. She also assists clients navigate business matters like collecting royalties for their creative works.

“I love working with creative people,” says D’Souza. “Meeting artists gives you such a fun perspective. If I show up to a meeting in a business suit, nobody will take me seriously—but if I wear a tank top and Jordans, everyone will talk to me. It’s still about business, but it can almost feel like a casual conversation with amazing, interesting friends.”

D’Souza wholeheartedly encourages students to take the leap if they get the opportunity to study in the United States. “Do it! Having an American degree has given me such a level up in my career. I would never have imagined that I would start my own law practice and have so much fun in my work, but because of the knowledge and experience I gained in the United States, I was able to do it,” she says. “In the world of law where I practice, if you don’t bring an edge to your work, nobody listens to you. And my degree from USC has been a great edge to have.”

D’Souza recommends that Indian women looking to study in the United States start looking at scholarships early in the process—instead of after they are admitted. Schools are often proactive about helping international students connect with financial aid, she says. “If you ask for help, the university will connect you with the right people to talk about scholarships.”

Many students worry about safety when they are far away from their families. D’Souza admits that staying safe in Los Angeles was a concern for her, but she says that USC did a great job of putting her mind at ease. Among other measures, the school offered free transportation at night, security officers and emergency call boxes positioned all around campus, and even basic self-defense training from the Los Angeles Police Department. “I sometimes had classes until 9 p.m., and never really felt unsafe on campus,” she says.

D’Souza’s other concerns included locating adequate housing and getting into the classes she wanted. For both, D’Souza actively engaged with professors, alumni and administrators to ask for advice and help, and their prompt assistance helped her thrive on all counts.

Sujana Mayreddy

Long before she began supporting Indian and American exchange students through her role at the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF), Mayreddy completed her own overseas adventure. A graduate of Virginia Tech, she currently works as a regional officer at USIEF in Hyderabad.

Mayreddy chose to apply to Virginia Tech mostly because of its ranking and financial support opportunities, all of which she learned about from the university’s thorough and informative website. “I also individually wrote to different faculty in my department to check if there were assistantships that I could be part of,” she says. “One of the professors had an opening that matched my interest, so I managed to get an assistantship for two complete years.” Studying in the United States helped Mayreddy launch a career she finds exciting and fulfilling. “American degrees are recognized and respected around the world,” she says. “For me, it provided a strong foundation and opened up opportunities that would not have been possible otherwise.”

Sujana Mayreddy (inset), a regional officer at USIEF in Hyderabad, graduated from Virginia Tech (above). (Photograph courtesy Sujana Mayreddy and Eric T Gunther/Wikipedia)

While pursuing her master’s degree at Virginia Tech, for example, Mayreddy received an opportunity to intern with the World Trade Organization in Switzerland. She describes the experience as having a huge impact on her personally, academically and professionally. “I believe this was possible only because of my educational background of studying in the United States,” she says. “It helped me become independent, confident and adaptable, and appreciate diversity. I was exposed to diverse perspectives and experiences, which have broadened my horizons in understanding the world and myself.”

Indian students hoping to pursue higher studies in the United States can follow Mayreddy’s example and thoroughly research programs that align with their interests and career goals. “All the universities have websites that provide information on the application process, scholarships and resources for international students,” she says.

Mayreddy says her biggest fear about studying in the United States was the unknown. “Since I had never traveled to the United States before I went there to study, it was all new,” she says. “Initially, I missed my family and friends a lot, but in a few months, I got busy with studies and work. The first trip to India during summer break was badly needed. Once I came to India after the first two semesters and went back, I felt good, and it became home.”

Mayreddy always felt safe on campus, thanks to Virginia Tech’s rigorous security protocols, which now include a phone app that allows students to instantly call for assistance in case of an emergency.

She also found the flexibility of the American educational system challenging but rewarding. “In the United States, a student can pursue anything they are interested in as long as they meet the requirements of the course,” she says. “There is so much help and support given by the faculty to help students achieve their aspirations.”

Mayreddy also points out that contacting professors directly, as she did, can reveal opportunities for academic growth and financial support that prospective students might not otherwise discover. “Studying in the United States can be challenging and rewarding,” she says. “But with the right preparation, mindset and resources, it can be a fantastic opportunity for personal and professional growth.”

Ishita Tibrewal

When Tibrewal first learned to serve, slice and volley as a competitive tennis player in Kolkata, little did she know that she was also laying the foundation of an exciting sports-related career in the United States.

Tibrewal, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College, is nearing the completion of a master’s degree in business administration and Master of Science in sport management at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst. She has already accepted a leadership position in the collegiate sports field, she says.

Ishita Tibrewal will start a full-time role at the National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics, post graduation. (Photograph courtesy Ishita Tibrewal)

Such opportunities would not have been possible without a variety of scholarships to help Tibrewal along the way. She recommends starting early and reaching out proactively. “Many campuses are making a big push to be more diverse and to grow their international student population,” she says. “And colleges like Mount Holyoke are setting up more scholarships to support international students.”

Since Mount Holyoke does not offer scholarships based on athletic talent, Tibrewal says she received need-based and merit-based financial support to pursue her dream of working in the field of sports. She won additional scholarships from organizations outside Mount Holyoke, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“Mount Holyoke gave me endless opportunities for personal and professional growth. These included being an active member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, working various on-campus jobs to develop skills in working in professional environments, and holding student leadership positions,” says Tibrewal. As a junior, she was selected for four national NCAA student-athlete conferences. “Those experiences enabled me to meet other athletes from institutions across the United States, and learn from leaders within the NCAA National Office, as well as other athletic administrators that helped shape my worldview of the sports industry,” she says.

Tibrewal will complete her graduate studies at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management this year. At Isenberg, she got the opportunity to hone her business skills through its hands-on curriculum and interactions with faculty who have extensive sports industry and consulting experiences. “UMass’ focus on real-world projects and experiential learning has given me the opportunity to not only widen my horizons but also better understand the sports industry and where I see myself in it,” says Tibrewal. “In addition, I found a support system that challenges, inspires and helps me improve every day. I will forever be grateful for all the doors UMass has opened for me and I can’t wait to start my full-time role at the National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics, post graduation.”

Michael Gallant is a New York City-based writer, musician and entrepreneur.


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