(This letter is part of a series in The Indian Express in which we share the experiences of students at various foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences, students tell us how different life is in these countries and what they are learning besides academics)
– Abhilasha Kumar
Coming from a family of doctors and engineers, I have always had an inclination towards creative fields. Because of my love of fine arts, I decided to do a film course in Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood. Hello, I’m Abhilasha Kumar and this is my story.
I was born in Mumbai, started my school in Goa and later moved to Surat. I graduated and postgraduate from Vadodara and then studied directing and filmmaking at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Los Angeles.
Since my family was full of scholars, I decided to pursue a degree in clinical psychology, and while I liked it, it didn’t feel quite right. I then completed my postgraduate studies in Mass Communications, but even then I didn’t love what I was doing. However, the one subject I enjoyed studying was visual communication, and that’s when I realized that I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. I’ve finally found my calling.
How I built my portfolio
My course started in February 2020. Although it was a one-year course, it was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am currently in the college internship program where I can work with production houses.
As a child, I would never have thought that I would study film directing, even in the USA. When I realized during my visual communication courses that I wanted to do this, I attended several events to understand the dynamics of this profession. I would shoot and edit all day and just be with my camera. I’ve attended the Vadodara marathon, the kite festival and everything that’s been happening in the city. This is how I built my portfolio.
Towards the end of my course I started thinking about how to achieve what I want. I talked to my seniors, mentors and people studying abroad. I did some research and when I had clarity, I appeared for the IELTS. I graduated from MSU-Baroda in May 2019 and started preparing for college admission in September.
Before applying to NYFA, I weighed my options, courses in other countries and then decided to study here. I emailed the college administration department to ask questions about admissions and they responded quickly. So I submitted my application. I had to submit my portfolio and a letter of motivation and show up for an interview after being shortlisted. I got a scholarship that helped me pay my tuition.
My parents were my pillar of strength. My living expenses used to be covered by my parents, but since I started my internship I have been managing my expenses.
diversity in teaching
I was a little overwhelmed before I entered college. While I was a beginner, my classmates already had a few years of professional experience. Although there were many Indians in the college and in our group, I felt intimidated at first as I was the only student in my class.
There’s a lot of diversity in NYFA. Many Asian students study here. I met so many people from different countries. There is so much to learn from them. I love the vibrant culture of Los Angeles.
Before joining NYFA, I had never traveled alone and had never been separated from my parents. Although I have lived in many places in India, I was concerned about the future before moving to the US. Luckily, the first place I moved to had Native Americans living there, so I didn’t get any culture shock.
I live alone
The day I got here I got to enjoy home cooked food. Ours was the “party house” because my roommates had lived there for a long time and therefore always had friends over. In the beginning it was easy for me as I didn’t have to set up the house or do the shopping by myself, but when I moved out I had to learn from scratch.
The pandemic hit as soon as classes started and I didn’t know what to do. As everything shifted online, we started working with webcams and shooting films online, using limited resources. As a filmmaker, preparatory work is a must and I was a little disappointed, but with this internship program I’m learning everything I couldn’t before – from technique and creativity to on-set experience.
How I deal
I have no plans to stay in Los Angeles for the rest of my life, I want to return to India after learning a lot. Until then, I’m happy where I am. It gets lonely sometimes, so I paint and dance.
For students I want to say that you will not give up your dreams, follow your heart and find your way. Start planning a study abroad program once you are sure of what you want to do. As a filmmaker, you have to be constantly on your toes. Learn everything you can.