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Why I Chose to Study in the USA: Xinyi Ding's Story


The United States is well known for its excellent Ph.D. programs, and graduate students from around the globe often apply to their program of choice with the hope of living and earning their Ph.D. in the USA. Xinyi Ding, a Computer Science Ph.D. degree candidate, sat down with us to share his experience of applying for and studying in the United States. 

Xinyi found SMU's Computer Science Ph.D. program while working for program alumni at a startup company. Xinyi is not only enjoying the academic aspects of his program, but also the opportunity to get to know different students from different cultures. Read what he had to share about his experience as an international Ph.D. student.

Xinyi-DingTell us about where you are from and your educational background.

I am from China where I got my bachelor’s degree in computer science. I went to UT Dallas for my master’s degree in computer science and graduated in 2013. I came to SMU in the Spring of 2016 to pursue my Ph.D. degree.

What program did you apply to at SMU?

I applied for a Ph.D. in Computer Science.

What was your primary motivation for applying to an international graduate school?

I grew up in a small town located southeast of China. I always want to see the outside world. I love computer science and the United States has the best computer science programs in the world.

What made you choose SMU over other schools?

After I graduated from UT Dallas, I worked at a startup company which was founded by SMU alumni. I heard a lot about the computer science program and the professors at SMU from them.

Was there anything you found challenging about applying to an international school?

I think language might be the most challenging thing when applying to an international school. Also, the cost of several years of studying and living might be a big obstacle for students from developing countries, if they do not have access to scholarships. 

What advice would you give to an international student applying to SMU?

If you are applying for a master’s program, I would suggest you prepare early for your TOFEL and GRE test. If you are applying for a Ph.D. program. I would suggest you check out SMU’s faculty page and find out what research field interests you the most. Then send the professor an email to talk about mutual interests. Make sure you have similar research background (published papers) before you send them an email. Professors receive hundreds of similar emails and they probably cannot reply to everyone. However, if you are a strong match they will be more likely to respond.

What has been your favorite part of attending an international school?

I think my favorite part has been a totally different environment, which forces me to stay curious and pushes me to learn. I have also really enjoyed meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures. Learning about so many cultures, helps you to look at things from different angles. 

What is one thing in Dallas that you would recommend to all international students attending SMU for the first time?

As a Mavericks fan, I recommend watching an NBA game in the AA center. There is a big difference between watching a game on a TV and actually being there yourself.

Is there any other wisdom you would like to add? 

Attending an international school is about more than acquiring knowledge. To me, the experience of living and studying in a totally different environment is equally important. You will learn to be independent and to see things from a different perspective. I think attending an international school is the best decision I have ever made.

If you are interested in learning more about how to apply for a Ph.D. program as an international student or the logistics of studying abroad, explore our guide — The International Applicant’s Guide to a Ph.D.

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