Q&A with Akash Bhalerao about his experience as an international student at the University of Iowa

Photo of Akash Bhalerao

Hometown:  Pune, India

Field of study:  BA in interdepartmental studies (social entrepreneurship & environmental restoration)

Campus leadership and involvement:  campus tour guide and STARmember, UI Office of Admissions; co-president, Net Impact UIowa; lecture series liaison, UI Environmental Coalition; executive director, UI Homecoming Council; senator, UI Student Government; teaching assistant; research assistant, Forbes Group, UI Department of Biology; OnIowa Leader; UISG Sustainability Committee Chair

Campus employment:  resident assistant, University Housing (Residence Education); Climate Narrative Project (CNP) fellow and intern, Office of Sustainability; research assistant, Stone Group, UI Department of Chemistry; lab assistant, Chemistry Teaching Lab; desk operator at several residence halls

Global leadership:  strategy consultant/board member, SMILE Wellness Foundation; CEO/founder/president, EcoFriends Community

How did you decide to attend the University of Iowa?

The UI associate director of admissions visited my high school, The Bishop's School, Pune, and sparked my interest in the University of Iowa. I learned that Iowa has great programs in environmental science, management and mathematics, and I was aiming for an interdisciplinary education. To my surprise when I arrived here, I learned that I could design my major through the interdepartmental studies program, so that's what I ended up going ahead with.

How has your UI experience been?

Photo of Akash Bhalerao with Herky

I love it. I had a gut feeling that I would like Iowa. Coming to school here has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I love this place—I bleed black and gold! The people here are amazing, and I’ve had tremendous opportunities and experiences so far. I’ve also met some amazing friends here (like Jacob Simpson, Nazira Coury, Hallee Haygood, and so many more). I have had guidance from wonderful mentors, and have had incredible role models to look up to—like Kate Mersch, Dave Gould, Ken Brown, etc. It's been a very fun and challenging journey, but whenever I went through a challenging situation, I was always offered help, if I asked for it.

What are some of your favorite things about the University of Iowa?

The people, the Pentacrest, the coffee shops, the IMU (student union) and the river walk! And being a resident assistant at Petersen Hall—which is the most meaningful thing I have done on campus.

What is one of your favorite experiences at the University of Iowa? 

Homecoming Week is one of my favorite experiences at the University of Iowa. Homecoming Week at the University of Iowa is a week full of events for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and the Iowa City community to come together in black and gold and celebrate being a Hawkeye. I also had the honor of serving on the Homecoming Council for two years, as the parade director and executive director, celebrating my love for the Hawkeyes!

Have you had a chance to explore the United States? 

Yes, I have gotten the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and Minnesota for conferences through my student organization involvements. Chicago with friends, Seattle to see my aunt, and to different parts of Iowa! 

Would you recommend the UI to other international students? If so, why?

Absolutely, the University of Iowa is a world-class institution and provides incredible opportunities for students to learn, grow, experiment, succeed, fail, and develop skills—both in the classroom and through experiences outside the classroom. For example, I learned about advocacy, negotiations, and sustainability through my classes. I was able to apply that learning through my role as a senator in the UI Student Government when I helped to develop a professional clothing bank to help students in need have access to professional clothing at no cost. I advocated for the professional clothing bank, collaborated and negotiated with more than eight campus partners, recruited motivated student leaders, and secured financial commitments. 

Do you have any words of advice for future international students at the University of Iowa? 

GET INVOLVED! Be willing to be uncomfortable and try new things. Meet people, share ideas, and chase your interests.

Learn more about Akash here: 

Connecting Iowa With the World and the World With Iowa

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