UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Name: Gaurav Narayanaswamy
Company: Account Manager, Syndicate Marketing Group
Hometown: Bangalore, India
Degree: Master of Business Administration
Previously a small business owner in Bangalore, India, Gaurav journeyed to UW-River Falls to earn his Master of Business Administration degree through the Seshadripuram Academy for Global Excellence (SAGE) partnership.
"I come from Bangalore. There are collaborative programs with SAGE and I had an opportunity to select a university. The accreditation of CBE [College of Business and Economics] here at UWRF really stood out to me. That spoke to the quality of the education I would be getting and it's what made the decision," he explains. Although he shares – with a laugh – his biggest concern regarding the decision. "The weather was huge concern. I knew it was going to be tough. I was like, 'how am I going to survive here? I might freeze.'"
Lucky for Gaurav, he didn't freeze, but has instead thrived. He will be graduating with his MBA this month and will be an account manager with Syndicate Marketing Group in Minneapolis. He is currently interning with the same company and is excited for his permanent position.
"The opportunity for growth in the company is amazing. I know that if I worked hard, I will be able to grow very quickly," he says.
Growth is key for Gaurav. The opportunity for growth and the chance to further his education is what pushed him to enroll at UWRF and work towards his MBA.
"My business at home was dietary supplements. I started as a small business but it went on so well that I was able to expand to a majority of fitness centers back in my city and that's when it really grew. If you go to Bangalore and visit nearly any of the fitness centers, you are going to see my products," he explains. "It's been expanding but I wanted to expand it even more, which is why I wanted to finish my masters."
Gaurav felt he was at a crossroads when he decided to pursue his MBA nearly two years ago.
"I had a dilemma. Did I want to move forward and do my masters or stick on with this business? I thought, if not now, then I'm never going to do it," Gaurav recalls. "I gave up my business and I came over here to do my masters and I did it. It was a long journey, honestly speaking."
That long journey has been eye opening for Gaurav but he feels confident that he is better for it.
"Education is different here. The professors here are different. I feel like it's an advanced level of education in the United States. Professors share their experiences. What we gain from them, what they share with us, is completely different - and for the better," he says. "Professor Brian Huffman taught my operations management class. He didn't just stick to book knowledge. He gave us practical knowledge. We got more of a realistic idea about the market, it wasn't just about studying. My education here hasn't been about what I've read in a book, it's been about the experiences - both what I've experienced firsthand and what my professors have experienced and shared with us."
The journey has not been without sacrifices. Gaurav has not traveled back to Bangalore since arriving in River Falls and once he secures his F-1 Optional Practical Training employment status, he will not be allowed to travel back and forth to India.
"It's going to be a tough time again, but I have found that anytime I need to, I can come to the university for help. That's what pushes me to go and do something better in life," he says. "It took a lot of time to get here. The Visa process takes a lot of time and that's where we all fall down and forget the dream of coming to the United States. But I pushed through and it's been a good experience."
Gaurav acknowledges that despite the sacrifices and challenges of relocating to another country to further his education, he wouldn't change a thing.
"I had no idea it would end up this way. Leanne [Van Allen, graduate programs director] kept telling me to stick with it. She has been a major supporter and is the first person I look to for support. The university has been supportive to all students. They've taken us and guided us in the right direction and for me, that direction has led to an amazing job opportunity," he says.
"Always keep in mind that there's someone waiting on you to reach that success. Friends, parents, professors, they are all going to be happy for you, happy to see you be successful," Gaurav says. "I'm happy to make them proud."