Chennai boy comes to Schenectady!
Srihari Balaji, Freshman @ Union College, NY
February 25, 2020
I am a Freshman at Union College, NY studying Mechanical Engineering. Union College, a private liberal arts college in Schenectady, NY is the birthplace of the Greek life called Fraternities (“Frats”) with the first three such organizations sprouting at Union College in the 19th century.
I was off to a pretty normal start in my first trimester at Union College. I had 3 days of international orientation organized by the International Students Association. Current students shared their experiences, cultural adjustments and the seniors in particular were very helpful.
My dorm was pretty good. Dorms have their own personality - some more social, others like Mesa House was very study focused. Typically , there were 2 students to a room. The experience so far has been great.
The food is not bad, being a vegetarian it is working out okay.
One of the challenges for me, in the transition to college life, was adjusting to life without mom/dad to monitor or nudge you along. I have to make sure I get up on time in the mornings, cannot procrastinate thinking somebody else will pick up the slack. In short, I have to maintain my own schedule and more importantly develop time management skills!
I was assigned to an Academic Advisor who helped me pick the classes. I also got help from sophomores. After the 1st week, things got pretty intense academically speaking. My 3D modeling class and Vector Calculus were off to a hot trot!
I prepared during the summer before getting here, so I feel ready for college.
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I am enrolled to be a Mechanical Engineering major. I took 4 courses in the first trimester and I have also joined the Astronomy research team.
The professors are very good and research oriented as well - which I like. One professor I really like is our Math professor. I really like her approach to teaching Math, which is more conceptual than the use of formulae which was typically the case in India.
The students are very smart. On average, more than half the students go to graduate school after undergraduate studies. It is a small school so the class sizes are small and intimate.
Outside the Classroom
Union College has about 5000 students. It is a historical campus and I wanted to share some of the sights and sounds on campus.
Nott Memorial - in memory of a Union College President
FW Olin Center. This building houses the Astrophysics and Astronomy department.
Schaffer Library. Most engineering classes are held here or around here. It also has couches for students to sit and occasionally sleep on (Not visible in photo).
Imagine Lab. This is where I do my work study.
I spend most of my non-class time doing homework. When I am done with that, I am involved in the Aerospace Club about 4 hours every weekend. I am building an airplane to get Practicum credit.
Indian Food and Culture
There are about 10 students from India and a total of about 270 international students at Union College. North Indian food is quite easy to find. There are a number of Indian restaurants close by. On campus we do get Indian fare like vegetable kurma, fried rice etc.
For Diwali in 2019, Shakti, the Indian Association organized an event which was attended by over 50 students.
Advice to Aspirants
The students at Union College have long-term goals, are hard working, very study focused. If you are interested in research or want to get a feel for research, there are a number of opportunities to test it out. It is a small school, so access to faculty and resources is easy.
I would absolutely recommend that students apply to Union College.