International student brings academic, athletic acumen to campus

December 05, 2012

After two years studying computer science at Thakur College of Science and Commerce, Ashutosh Pandey is completing an Information Sciences and Technology degree at Penn State New Kensington. He travelled 8,000 miles to his first class.

Pandey is a native of Mumbai, India, and one of a group of international students matriculating at the campus this semester. They hail from China, Ghana and Uganda, as well as India. Internationals are a growing segment of Penn State’s student population and the New Kensington campus is doing its part in bringing in quality students from foreign countries. In the past year, the campus increased it enrollment from one international student to six.

“I was a part of a program which allows students at Thakur to transfer to one of eight Penn State campuses to complete their bachelor’s degrees,” said Pandey, who also earned his high school diploma at Thakur, which doubles as a secondary and post-secondary institution. “I chose New Kensington based on what I saw on their website, its location and discussions with friends. I made a good choice.”

It was difficult decision to leave his family, but Pandey decided to trade the bustling urban center of Mumbai for the tranquil rural township of Upper Burrell, home of the New Kensington campus. Mumbai, with a population of more than 12 million, is one of the most crowded cities in the world. In contrast, the tri-city area of Upper Burrell, Lower Burrell and New Kensington has about 27,000 residents.

“I really wanted to go to a place which was a bit different,” said Pandey, whose hometown is the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra. “Penn State New Kensington provided the required change I needed in my life from fast to a more comfortable and relaxed pace. Also when I miss my city life, I can always travel to Pittsburgh, which is a half-hour away from the campus.”

A junior in the Information Sciences and Technology (IST) program, Pandey brings an impressive resume to the campus. He is an accomplished researcher and presented two papers at national and international conferences while attending Thakur. His papers on 4G technology and speech recognition technology were published in international journals.

“During my time at Thakur, a big and wonderful institution, I accomplished a few things that really helped me in my overall development,” said Pandey, whose passion for computer technology first drew him to the campus. “At Penn State, the IST courses include everything which is going to help me when I start my career.

The IST program provides students with a background of the core technical areas of networking, databases, programming and system integration. In addition, students are trained in key business areas, such as project management and organization theory.

“The classes teach me how to work efficiently in a day-to-day environment and how to tackle obstacles that will come up during work,” said Pandey, an active participant in classroom discussions. “The professors here are just excellent. They are well qualified and have the entire knowledge about what they are teaching.”

Pandey expects to earn his bachelor’s degree in 2014. He plans on entering the workforce while going to graduate school to complete a master’s degree in IST. Starting his own business is a part of his grand plan.

“The moment I graduate I will be qualified enough to be a project manager or to work in a similar position,” Pandey said. “I want to work for three or four years and then start my own technology business either in the United States or back at home in India.”

Academic excellence is not Pandey’s only quality that brings prestige to the campus. His South Asia football acumen was on display in the fall for the New Kensington’s men’s soccer team. At Thackur, Pandey was a gifted goal scorer, leading his collegiate team to a championship. For the New Kensington Lions, he was the leading scorer on a team that reached the Penn State University Athletic Conference Final Four. Soccer provided the lynchpin that eased the transition to a foreign country.

“My parents and I were nervous on how hard and long it will take to adjust to living in the United States and mix up with people out here,” said Pandey, who scored eight goals for the campus team. “My soccer coach (Pat Cavanaugh) and teammates helped me meet other students on campus. The experience has been heartwarming and wonderful since the moment I arrived here.”

When he is not in the classroom or on the soccer field, Pandey enjoys the life of a typical college student. He spends his leisure time with friends either hanging out in the student apartments or participating in campus activities. The Student Life office sponsors a variety of events throughout the semester, including movies, comedy acts, bands and intramurals. The weekly Get Rec’d Nite in the Athletics Center is his favorite pastime.

“Get Rec'd on Tuesday nights is super fun with all the students on campus meeting together and playing a new game every week,” Pandey said. “The most enjoyable part of campus life is that you do not get bored because there is always some student event going on at the campus in which you can participate and enjoy with your friends.”

Pandey is not averse to learning a new sport. Ice hockey has piqued his interest, despite the NHL lock-out that has canceled games through mid-December. He plans on lacing up the skates and learning a sport that is not indigenous to the India subcontinent.

“I have played hockey at home but that was field hockey,” Pandey said with a laugh. “Playing it on ice while you skate will be really different.”

Although Pandey misses Mumbai -- parents, friends, Indian cuisine -- he is not homesick. He credits the congeniality of the campus community with making the area feel like home.

“Everyone here is so helpful and sweet that I never have a chance to miss home,” Pandey said. “Right from the first day I have enjoyed and loved my stay here.”

Western Pennsylvania’s weather may be the only negative mark on his campus grade sheet. Pandey thrives in tropical conditions. His hometown is located on the west coast of India, on the Arabian Sea. Its location ensures moderate temperatures throughout the year. Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, has three seasons: winter (November to February), summer (March to May) and monsoon (June to October). Regardless of the season, the weather is warm. The current nightly temperatures for the middle of November were running in the 70s. Upper Burrell, on the other hand, had overnight lows in the 30s during the same time period.

“The weather here is freezing for me as I have never lived in such a cold climate,” Pandey said. “In Mumbai, it never gets below 50 degrees. But I am slowly getting used to it.”

Despite having to double his wardrobe to accommodate the region’s capricious weather systems, Pandey is content with his decision to travel a third of the way around the world to attend Penn State New Kensington. Quality academics, intercollegiate sports and campus activities validate his choice to relocate in Upper Burrell.

“I have really loved my time at this campus and it has only been three months,” Pandey said. “I have met some of the sweetest people ever. Everything just makes my decision to come up here at this campus so correct.”


  • Ashutosh Pandey juggles academics and athletics. His research on speech recognition was published in an international journal and he was the leading scorer of the Lions soccer team that reached the PSUAC Final Four.

    IMAGE: Bill Woodard

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 05, 2012