How Mesa Community College became this Indian student’s home

Mesa Community College
Venkatesh found a home abroad as he grew closed with his late host father, William Johnson, and has plans to continue his studies in the US. Source: Girish Venkatesh

From a young age, Girish Venkatesh has always been passionate about sports. He played football in various leagues and tournaments in both India and the US. An interest in health and fitness began to develop, which led Venkatesh to study Exercise and Sports Science at Mesa Community College. His goal is to inspire others to take health and fitness more seriously. 

In Arizona, Venkatesh lives with a local host family, the Johnsons, whom he has grown close to. Last March, however, his host father William Johnson, passed away, which left Venkatesh feeling heartbroken and lost. He will always remember what the late Johnson said: “You’re living the dream of many young people who wish for an international education coming to the US, so give it 200 percent and never give up.”

We caught up with Venkatesh to find out more about how he’s doing, what Mesa Community College is like and his plans for the future: 

Why did you choose to pursue this course at Mesa Community College?

Girish Venkatesh (far right) with his family in India before he headed to the exchange programme in the US. Source: Girish Venkatesh

During 2014-15, I was here on an exchange programme: Community College Initiative Programme (CCIP). I did a 10-month certificate course in Business Management and Administration. I felt a connection to Mesa Community College, especially their staff and professors. 

The US is also known as the land of opportunities — I could see that during my exchange programme here. As such, I decided to return to the US and to Mesa Community College to learn more and explore the opportunities. 

Do you think it would have made a difference if you studied at a local institution?

Yes, it would have made a difference. When an individual is passionate about what they are doing, they can study anywhere and achieve their goals. As I mentioned earlier, I have a special bond with Mesa Community College, so I decided to continue my studies here.

Here Venkatesh is pictured with his late host father, William Johnson, who took him in and gave him the motivation to work harder. Source: Girish Venkatesh

What has been your most memorable class at Mesa Community College so far? 

My most memorable class was my Healthful Living class last spring semester. This class was full of fun-filled learning activities. We even had a potluck in class — I was paired with my classmate and my mission was to bring some healthy food and do a presentation about it. I was super excited for the food which was brown bread and scrambled eggs. My project partner and I aced the presentation with me, making this the most memorable class for me thus far.

Do you have any fond memories with teachers at your uni that has stood out for you?

During my exchange programme, I took a business class with Professor Preston Cameron, who is a top business lecturer. It was my very first class and this teacher made me feel so comfortable and supported me throughout all my studies.

I’m now taking a Psychology class by Professor Diane Elarde who is super friendly and ready to help all her students succeed. When my host father passed away, I was heartbroken and had no clue on what I would be doing in the future. This coincided with the spread of COVID-19, which shifted all my classes online. Professor Elarde really helped me emotionally and constantly checked up on me by calling and texting to show her concern. These two professors have really touched my heart with their heartwarming support. 

What are the practical learning elements in your course?

The practical learnings are all about exercise and following a healthy lifestyle, because this is something that cannot be attained overnight. It takes a lot of patience and discipline to achieve, which is what my class is teaching me. 

I apply all I learn in class to my lifestyle, like following a healthy diet and regular exercise regime. I also try and help my friends to do the same, so together we can create more awareness around healthy living.

What are your academic goals? Have you gained any skills thus far?

My academic goal is to become a strength and conditioning trainer with a high profile certification. Then, I want to create awareness on health and fitness back in India, as well as help people slowly transition towards a healthier and better way of living. 

So far, I have just finished one year of my associate’s degree. There is a long way to go, but I have gained some knowledge on a few topics on exercise and healthy habits which I’m implementing in my own life. I look forward to learning more before I start working with other people. 

Venkatesh has plans to pursue his bachelor’s and master’s degrees after getting his associate’s degree. Source: Girish Venkatesh

Any plans after graduating?

After my associate’s degree, I would like to pursue my bachelor’s degree. Then, I want to focus on athletic training during my master’s degree.

What advice do you have for international students looking to go abroad?

My advice for other international students looking to go abroad is: everything will not be like a  fairy-tale as you imagine. You won’t get anywhere without putting in some hard work. Be ready to grind, and stay focused. Studying abroad is the dream for millions of students, if you’re living that dream, learn to make use of it and explore. At the end of the day, the sky’s the only limit.