Feeling safe at the UVA McIntire School of Commerce

The support network at the UVA McIntire School of Commerce has helped its students navigate a turbulent few years in Charlottesville, Virginia. We spoke to master’s student Mahum Chaudry about her experience at McIntire and how a scholarship made her studies possible in the first place.

In short

Mahum Chaudry - UVA McIntire School of Commerce

Studying abroad is an exciting, life-affirming opportunity for many people, but it brings with it a number of challenges. Whether it’s getting the required grades, supporting yourself financially, or integrating into a new culture, all international students will likely have a similar set of hoops to jump through. Yet for Pakistani student Mahum Chaudry, these things have almost been the least of her worries.

Financing your studies

Mahum was able to study in the United States thanks to a scholarship that was awarded to her by the University of Southern Mississippi. She completed her undergraduate studies there and then set about finding a college to do her master’s, eventually settling on the UVA McIntire School of Commerce. Mahum chose McIntire in part because of their scholarship scheme for international students.

“McIntire actually awarded me a 50% scholarship. That has really taken the burden off my financials,” she told MASTERGRADSCHOOLS. “The main reason I got the scholarship was merit-based, so it depends on your undergraduate GPA. McIntire has recently waived the GMAT, otherwise the GMAT would also be considered in the scholarship.” (01:09)

Having been a beneficiary of multiple scholarship programs in the USA, Mahum has a few words of advice for students hoping to secure funding for their studies: “I would suggest applying early. If you want a scholarship, try applying in October or November because it’s [on] a first-come-first-serve basis. The sooner you apply, the more chances you have of getting a higher scholarship.” (01:30)

Cultural differences and settling in

Once the financial element of your studies is taken care of, attention shifts to the challenge of living and studying in a new culture that is alien to you, which Mahum found difficult at first. “I think the most difficult thing for me was the cultural difference,” she explains. “The first semester I was very lonely because I was feeling so much change – the culture here was so different. The way I adapted was by joining organizations and working on campus. I started working as a resident assistant – that really helped me make friends and fit in with the culture.” (01:50)

By offering students the chance to get involved with campus events, UVA McIntire has been a big help in Mahum’s process of acculturation. Now she is reaping the benefits of such a welcoming environment.

She says, “I actually feel very safe and comfortable at McIntire. I have never experienced any negative thing from anyone at McIntire and if I have anything to share, the faculty and other people on campus are more than willing to talk to me and help me adjust.” (02:45)

Protests in Charlottesville...

August 12, 2017, is a date that will forever be etched in the memory of Charlottesville. It was the day that a 20-year-old man rammed his car into a crowd of people who had been peacefully protesting against the Unite the Right rally taking place in the city. One person was killed and 19 more were injured.

It added to the simmering racial tensions in Charlottesville, and the city was once again home to large-scale protests during the Black Lives Matter movement in May 2020. Having only recently moved there it must have been an unsettling time for Mahum – but she was again able to draw on the school’s support network to guide her.

“There was a lot going on in Charlottesville and the situation got unstable, but I can tell you as an international student and a woman of color that McIntire was there with me throughout the process,” she tells us. “I had people I could talk to and they made sure that we felt safe and included in the community.” (02:20)

And then a pandemic

But that wasn’t the end of it. Just a few months later, Mahum started getting headaches and fell ill. She soon learned that she had contracted COVID-19. 

“I called the university health center and they were so helpful,” she recalls. “They told me I needed to get tested right away, which obviously the insurance covers, and after the [positive] test result they made sure I had access to all of their resources.” (06:14)

The faculty was also extremely understanding, making sure to upload videos of lectures, extending deadlines, and changing their office hours to accommodate her. Now COVID-free, she has the option to attend lectures in person or virtually.

Mahum’s decision to study at UVA McIntire may initially have been financially motivated, but her resulting experience illustrates the importance of a university beyond the obvious factors such as ranking, curriculum, and teachers. 

Equally important for international students is having a support network to guide you through a tumultuous time in your life, leaving you to be the best you can be when it comes to studying. In Mahum’s case, she was able to navigate the turbulence of studying abroad and stay on course for a rewarding master’s experience.

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