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International Student of the Month - Nov. 2013 Dhanya John

Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduces one international student by highlighting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to intnl@lehigh.edu.

This month, OISS Graduate Assistant, Amanda Shao, interviewed Dhanya John, a graduate student from India/UAE. The following is the interview and pictures that Dhanya shared with us.


Q: So tell me a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from, what you’re studying at Lehigh and when you’ll graduate.

A: I am Dhanya John.  I come from India but I was born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Having spent all my life in U.A.E, it is home to me. I came to Lehigh for graduate studies in Computer Science. This summer I completed all my coursework and will graduate May 2014.

Q: So far, what do you think about Lehigh? Do you like the campus? The courses? The people? Your department?

A: I really love the campus for its architecture and Lehigh captures the seasons beautifully.   My courses worked out well for me as I took a few courses from the Business School and the rest from Computer Science, which helped me land my dream job. Lehigh has great activities planned for every semester, which is totally relaxing. I enjoyed meeting new people at the Women’s Exchange program held at Packer House. I live off campus with my son and husband and they love to attend Lehigh activities.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I took courses with a focus on Data mining and Healthcare. Among other courses, some major ones were Image Analysis, Biomedical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence. From business school, I took Managing Information Systems and Analysis and Business Intelligence.

Q: So in this short new journey of discovering America in terms of the culture, language, ideals, and traditions, what have you discovered or learned about the American culture?

A: I found people around here are more cheerful and expressive. The work culture is very positive and goal oriented. Thanksgiving and Black Friday was totally a new experience for me and I enjoy the spirit and cheer during that season. It is truly an experience to see the changes in Mother Nature and I never celebrated White Christmas until I came to Bethlehem!

Q: What’s the most obvious difference between Lehigh and your home universities?

A: At Lehigh, I was exposed to academic writing and reading research papers. During my undergrad days, a simple research wouldn’t progress beyond textbooks and Google. The sustainability and recycling efforts are big at Lehigh, while universities in U.A.E are catching up on it.    

Back home, life after school is mostly at home finishing up home works and projects. Unlike here, students don’t have the opportunity to work on campus.

Q: What is the most obvious difference between American culture and the culture in your home country?

A: I think life here lets you innovate and create. Although there are set rules to follow, an individual can explore and experiment. This land has immense resources that make your dreams come true. Over here, I noticed that usage of idioms is common in conversations while its common to use poems and proverbs in Dubai.

Q: Describe what daily life is like for you in your home country?

A: We are home by 2pm after school. Following lunch, it is homework time and TV break!   Dinner is the only meal, we are all home together. So that’s when talk about our day and watch the news on TV. As we grew older we used to watch FRIENDS and Oprah in the evenings. As the weather gets better, most weekends are spent outdoors barbequing or at beaches.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: I enjoy gardening and bird watching. I love pets and own an African grey parrot here. I love being close to nature, so camping is my kind of activity.

Q: Describe the food in your home country. What are the most popular dishes?

A: I love Emirati and Indian food. Arabic food is very much Mediterranean but also influenced by Indian spices. I miss ‘Shawarma’ (*1) and ‘Shish Tawook’ (*2) and all seafood dishes!  My favorite Indian foods are ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’ (*3), ‘Gajar ka Halwa’ (*4) and ‘Pani Puri’ (*5)   

*1-Shawarma *2-Shish Tawook

*3-Hyderabadi Biryani *4-Gajar ka Halwa *5-Pani Puri


Q: What do you miss most about your home country?

A: Apart from family, I miss the beaches and conveniences of grocery delivered to your home!

Q: If someone was going to visit your home country, what would you tell them to do there and where would you tell them to visit?

A: Burj Khalifa  (the tallest tower) and Palm Jumeriah. To get a glimpse of ancient Arabia-  Madinat Jumeriah and to spend a night in the desert – Bab Al Shams. Also take a dhow boat (traditional wood boat) cruise at night. Dubai is a tourist destination, so to get an idea of the traditional life; it will be a good idea to visit the Dubai Museum!

Burj Khalifa

Palm Jumeirah

Dhow Boat


Q: Is there anything else you would like everyone to know?

A: Dubai is a melting pot of cultures. I grew up with Indian values and never missed India as we celebrated all Indian festivals and followed our religious activities just as we would have in India. Apart from Arab friends, I have friends from all over India and its neighboring countries, which is unlikely if I were living in any state in India.

Office of International Students and Scholars • Lehigh University • 32 Sayre Drive, Coxe Hall, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • 610-758-4859 • Fax: 610-758-5156 • intnl@lehigh.edu
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