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Kamesh knew he was in unchartered waters when he came to study Cybersecurity at Maryland’s Advanced Engineering programs. It was his first time away from a close-knit family, and from his hometown of Chennai, India. But Kamesh says he recognized early on in his academic career that by staying in his “comfort zone [he] won’t learn anything.”

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

After graduating from Sathyabama University in Electronics and Communication, Kamesh landed a job at NTT DATA, as a software engineer. While working there, he participated in a cybersecurity project. In his words, the venture “ignited his interests,” as if he had finally found his calling. With support from his family, he resigned from his secure position after almost 3 years and applied to graduate programs abroad.

Kamesh was drawn to Maryland by its reputation and faculty. But if you asked him, Kamesh would also tell you that education is what you make it. He sought out opportunities for professional and personal development – from attending discipline-specific talks to going to the University’s career fair. The latter landed him a part-time paid internship at Certify Global.

This spring Kamesh graduates with a Master’s degree. He hopes that his example of leaving a comfortable and known situation can help other international graduate students on their journey.

Do you remember your first day on the UMD campus? What was that like? Was it what you expected?

My first day at College Park was an experience. I saw this huge and beautiful campus – and it left an impression on me. After orientation and some meetings, I called my parents and said, “thank you, I am living the hope you imagined for me here.” Then I continued to roam the campus that entire day, and still I wasn’t able to see all of it. From there, I had a good first semester, and a very successful second term. My hope was always to grow here as a person and as a student.

It is difficult to leave one’s friends and family to come to the United States to study. How did you go about finding a new set of friends here? What were the challenges associated with this process?

It was difficult to leave everybody and come. But taking a risk is important for personal growth and learning. At first, I admit, I was both scared and excited to talk to people. But as I kept participating in university events, I became more comfortable meeting and keeping new friends. I pushed to expose myself to different campus programs.

What was the easiest thing about studying here? The most difficult?

For me the academic program was challenging, as was learning in a practicum-based environment. My classmates were experts in cybersecurity and at first, I experienced self-doubt. But here at UMD, when you are prepared to face these issues, there are people to help you. The Graduate School was my backbone. Certain individuals there supported me through the most difficult of times. I felt understood, and when I asked for help, they responded.

What advice would you give to another international student on their first day on campus?

Just talk to people, learn and respect their culture. Until you start talking to others, you cannot join any group. Participate in diverse campus events and do lots of volunteer work.

We have many graduate students from India here at Maryland.  We recognize that India celebrates 70 years of independence this year. What would you wish for India for the next 70 years?  

I think it is important to respect and recognize those who fought and died for India’s independence. For India’s future, I hope our country engages trustworthy and principled politicians. I would also like to see free education and medical facilities for the poor. Most importantly, for India, I wish for peace – freedom from religious disagreements and hatred.

Now that you are graduating, what do you hope to do with your degree?  

I am passionate about cybersecurity. It’s a fascinating and growing field – there is something new to learn every day. My Master’s degree gave me a very good foundation and I am planning to use it to develop new ideas and processes.

Favorite book by an Indian author?  

Inspiring Thoughts by APJ Abdul Kalam, the 11th president of India. It is my book when I feel low in confidence. This book gives me strength and after reading it, I feel differently about life and this moment.

If you had an Indian dish that would best describe your experience here at UMD, what would it be and why?

I would say it would be biryani because to make it well, takes patience, effort and practice. The outcome is well worth the energy put into it. My experience at Maryland has been that. Biryani also happens to be my favorite dish. By the way, the only place to get the real version around here is Gaithersburg.