e0.1.0Updated June 8, 2022
You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.
A major life decision is never a choice but rather a realization that the decision has already been made.Doug Cooper
Can you think back to the moment you made the decision to study abroad?
I remember a lot of trivial moments from my life. The first time I had gelato, I was in a yellow and black checkered shirt roaming the streets of downtown Seattle at night. I remember the neon sign outside the store, the name of the store owner, and even the witty comments he made. However, I don’t remember the moment I decided to study abroad. It feels as though I have always wanted to. Now it’s hard to imagine a moment when studying abroad was not my aim.
The big decisions in life are never made in a single moment. They are akin to a plant growing below the surface of a pond, that emerges to be seen by the naked eye when the decision is finally made. Yet, it possibly took months, or even years, to slowly grow with experiences and mistakes. Deciding to study abroad is one of the more important decisions you will be making in your life. In fact, it is a privilege that students did not have, just a century ago.
Glad you asked! The history of international education is a long, yet sparse, one.* For the first 800 odd years, there weren’t many significant events. The coveted title of the first person to study abroad is attributed to Emo of Friesland, a Frisian scholar supposedly from the Netherlands who studied at Oxford University, England, in 1190. Knowingly or unknowingly, he paved the way for international education in Europe (and interestingly has a Facebook page*). Fast-forward about 600 years to 1792, the French educator Marc-Antoine Jullien* wrote to Louis XVI, asking him to institute a worldwide association for education composed of organizations from various European states. His wishes finally came true in 1952 at the World Fair in London,* where representatives from the U.S., Germany, and France met to discuss the possibility of an international education organization.
Over the next few decades, there was a slow but sure proliferation of students who traveled afar for brief summer programs. Although World War I and II were the epitome of international conflict, the aftermath of both helped highlight the importance of international education. In 1919, the Institute of International Education (IIE) was established and in 1923, America’s first officially credited study abroad program was launched at the University of Delaware.* Policymakers and leaders suddenly turned to this practice as a way to restore global peace, by exposing young students to international culture.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said that “a nation, like a person, has a mind—a mind that must be kept informed and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and needs of its neighbors—all the other nations that live within the narrowing circle of the world.” His ideologies helped in the establishment of the Fulbright Program by Senator William Fulbright in 1946.* Since the 1950s, the number of international students in the U.S. has grown steadily from 26,000 to almost 1.1 million in the 2018–19 academic year.* (Out of the 1.1 million, over 200,000 students were from India.*)
What began as a single man’s quest to study in a neighboring country for reasons unknown, has now become a childhood dream for millions of students around the world.
Does that include you? We want to help you answer that in this chapter.
There are many myths around graduate school and the notion of studying abroad. Too often, students leave their home country only to be disappointed or disillusioned with the state of affairs in the new country. When you leave your home country, you don’t just leave the physical landscape. You are also expected to leave behind the ethos and etiquettes that you learned over the last two decades. At the very least, you are expected to learn a new set of them, which in many cases will tend to contradict your previous experiences.
We could write pages just on the differences in day-to-day experience for someone who walks on the left versus someone who walks on the right.* To give a well-known example, it is very common for a stranger to ask you about your day when you walk the streets of America. People tend to be comfortable with, and even like, small talk in this country. Yet, it is rare to experience that level of superficial bonhomie in India. On the flip side, we have heard (and experienced) on countless occasions that it takes a longer time to make a long-lasting connection with someone in America than with someone in India, or your home country.
Is one better than the other? There is no easy or right answer. There is only a choice to be made.
With this book, we want to help you with your graduate school application process, but only if that is something you have decided upon after careful consideration. By the end of this chapter, you will either have a stronger conviction towards your goal of studying abroad or realize that you were trying to use the notion of studying abroad as a facade for another unrelated goal. If it is the former, we sincerely hope the rest of the book helps you in your journey. If it turns out to be the latter, know that you saved yourself thousands of dollars and dozens of hours writing essays and applications. Either way, it’s a win-win.
There are many reasons to pursue graduate studies abroad. You might want to earn a lot of money, learn new concepts, settle down over there, or just meet a diverse set of people. Whatever the reason might be, it all comes down to the following question: are you prepared to face the other side of the coin?
We’ll go through a few reasons where it’s worth pointing out the other side, and make you think harder about your decision.
We all seek prosperity in our career; for good reason. There are various studies* that draw the correlation between money and happiness. A study conducted at Princeton University* broke happiness down into two parts: emotional well-being and life evaluation. The former refers to the quality of someone’s daily life—a measure of how often one experienced joy, anger, stress, and affection the previous day. The latter alludes to a more zoomed out perspective of how one evaluates their whole life when asked how satisfied they were. The results found a strong correlation between money and emotional well-being until a threshold of US$75,000* is hit. Beyond that, more annual income did not necessarily equate to more day-to-day happiness. However, there was still a correlation between money and overall life satisfaction.
While wanting to earn is a natural human instinct, let’s look at the cost you are putting in to get to this goal. The average tuition fee of a master’s degree could range from $30,000 all the way to $120,000,* if you plan on pursuing an MBA. The range is so wide because it depends on numerous factors concerning the university: public vs. private, in-state vs. out-of-state, location, and so on. (Taking the average to be $50,000, that amounts to a little over 35,00,000 INR using the average exchange rate from 2019.*) Now, let’s add to this the cost for housing, healthcare, food, books, travel, and other activities. Assuming all of this comes to $800 per month, that amounts to almost $20,000 for 24 months. Finally, there are the pre-admit costs involved including fees for the GRE ($205) and TOEFL ($180) exams, applications, and visas (~$350)* which could amount to $1500, assuming you submit eight applications with a $75 application fee per university.
statsAdding it all up, the average cost for pursuing a master’s degree abroad ends up at $71,000 (almost 52,00,000 INR).
Another critical piece of information commonly discounted by students is the opportunity cost in pursuing a master’s degree. Apart from spending thousands of dollars, you also forego income that you would have otherwise earned by working in the two years you pursued your master’s degree, which could add another 10,00,000 INR to the estimate above.*
It’s not all bad news, though. Pursuing your graduate school abroad will help you secure jobs with a higher salary compared to a student with a bachelor’s degree. In fact, the data shows that the jump in your market value as a potential employee increases proportionately to give you a great potential return on your investment. The more qualified (by level of education, such as bachelor’s or master’s) you are, the higher the increase in your expected salary.
statsBased on the 2018 salary data from the U.S. Department of Labor, a worker with a bachelor’s degree earned a median weekly salary of $1,198 whereas someone with a master’s degree earned $1,434, an almost 20% increase.
This percentage increase also seemed to vary greatly between majors, ranging from a mere 2.5% for a degree in journalism all the way to 24% for a degree in computer science.* For someone with a doctoral degree, the median weekly salary was $1,825, a 52% increase over the bachelor’s salary.
You can also offset the cost through scholarships, part-time jobs, and assistantships (which we’ll get to in a later chapter).
Pursuing higher education abroad clearly has its merits. It improves your market value without a doubt. What we don’t want you to forget are the costs involved in the process of getting there. Assuming you earn $80,000 after graduating with a master’s degree, it might take you between three and ten years to pay back your education loan, depending on how much you manage to save every year.
dangerWhen you calculate expected salary, don’t forget to take into account the taxes you would incur at the federal and state level, which can add up to a sizable amount, between 15% to 25%,* pretty quickly.
Fair enough. We can resonate with that sentiment. However, there is an important bridge that connects your dream of studying in a country to settling down over there.
That bridge is called jobs.
Only a handful of universities in the U.S. boast a close to 100% placement rate. Even the ones that have high numbers have them because of the way they calculate it. Rather than looking at the percentage of students who got a job before the end of their graduate school, they might calculate the percentage of students who got one within three months after graduating,* since that is the buffer period you get before you have to leave the country. A survey of over 1000 international alumni by the World Education Services (WES)* found that only 33% were employed before completing their graduation, but this increased to 87% within six months of graduation.
dangerThe National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2018 Job Outlook report* found that only 23.4% of employers who responded mentioned that they’re open to hiring international students, a 4.1% decrease from the previous year.
The good news is that most of the top tech firms you hear about do recruit international students, which makes up a sizable portion.
One of the biggest—and less cited—challenges in finding a job is the lack of contextual cultural knowledge that one needs to form connections in a foreign country. In India, it is a common occurrence to see companies visiting universities to recruit a predetermined number of students. The student’s task here is to prepare for the interview and show up on time on the day. In the U.S., it’s a little more complicated. There is a heavier weight placed on networking with employees and attending career fairs to first secure an interview, before you can prepare for it.
Until I came here, I never cared to actively reach out to people on LinkedIn to request time for a coffee chat. I didn’t have to walk up to strangers in events and ask about their job, hoping to get their email address. Or worse, stand in a room of 500 people during a career fair and wonder anxiously how to make myself stand out. In the end, all those experiences helped tremendously. I just wish I had known about the culture shock.*
Finally, even if you end up getting an offer and your employer is willing to sponsor your H-1B visa, your name needs to be picked in the lottery. The WES reports that, “Across the board, from enrollment to professional contexts after graduation, international respondents still in the U.S. reported that work authorization was, alongside the effort to forge professional connections, their biggest challenge.”
The H-1B is a type of nonimmigrant visa awarded to those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher and end up in specialty occupations in fields such as engineering, medicine, architecture, science, accounting, and more. Every fiscal year, the U.S. makes 85,000 such visas available. However, since the year 2013, the number of applications has exceeded the number of slots,* leading to a lottery system where the chance of your name getting picked is decided by mathematics. In the year 2020, over 275,000 applications were received for the 85,000 slots.
Not exactly. These 85,000 slots are split into 65,000 and 20,000. The advantage for master’s and doctoral candidates is that the 20,000 pool is reserved only for them, and cannot be consumed by those who graduated with a bachelor’s.
One piece of good news came from the Department of Homeland Security on January 31, 2019,* when they announced that the order of the names getting picked would be reversed. Previously, applicants with an advanced degree were picked first for the 20,000 pool and those who did not get picked were added with the rest of the bachelor’s applicants to be picked in the 65,000 pool. Now, everyone is entered into the pool for the 65,000 slots first. Among those not picked, applicants with an advanced degree get a second chance in the 20,000 pool.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates that “reversing the order that the lottery takes place should result in approximately 16 percent more lottery numbers going to eligible candidates with the U.S. master’s degree.”*
Based on a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, we discovered that this increased the chances for an advanced degree candidate to be picked from 51% to 55% in 2019. Not too bad.
Tying all this together, if there was one piece of advice I wish someone had given me before I came to the U.S., it was the following:
Anticipate difficulty and prepare early.
Some students think the hardest part of the journey is over when they get the admit. They delude themselves into the false expectation that as long as they’re studying in a university that is well-recognized, things will fall into place organically. This delusion is broken within the first few months of arriving. We say this from personal experience as well. There is just so much more demand than supply for jobs.
So go abroad with the expectation that it will be a difficult journey before you get to settle down.
But also an equally rewarding one.
Talk to any agricultural expert, and they will tell you how important fertilizer is to the yield of a crop, which in turn yields high returns. Yet, historical data will show you that the usage of fertilizers have always stayed lower in Africa compared to Asia, leading to greater agricultural yields in Asia. The solution seems simple, right? The governments simply need to give away the fertilizer for free, or heavily subsidize its cost, so everyone has access to it.
In fact, Stephen Carr, a former World Bank specialist on sub-Saharan African agriculture, said, “The rest of the world is fed because of the use of good seed and inorganic fertilizer. This technology has not been used in most of Africa. The only way you can help farmers get access to it is give it away for free or subsidize it heavily.” Seems pretty consistent with what one would think is the panacea here. And that’s exactly what many governments did. In India, for example, fertilizer subsidies amounted to 0.75% of GDP between 1999-2000. In Zambia, the subsidies consumed almost 2% of the government’s budget.*
Yet, in western Kenya, simply giving away fertilizer for free or under heavy subsidy did not solve the problem completely, nor was it economically sustainable. Farmers tended to use too much fertilizer, leading to a low yield of the crop. In some cases, they purchased it only to resell and make a profit. Rather, the solution that seemed to work better and also be economically cheaper involved three steps:
doling out a small subsidy on fertilizers for a limited time period right after the harvest season
delivering it for free
educating the farmers on the importance of using fertilizers.
Why did this solution work?
Because it tackled the right problem.
The farmers, to an extent, did understand the value of using fertilizer to improve their yield. They also knew of the subsidies given out by their government. By any rational estimate, one would assume that all the farmers would take advantage of it. However, they did not. The real issue fell in the domain of psychology. It had to do with the fact that they procrastinated purchasing the fertilizer throughout the season, and in the end, when time was limited, the utility cost of going to the store and purchasing it seemed high enough that they became impatient and abandoned the idea altogether. This was exacerbated when they did not have enough money to purchase it at the very end of a post-harvest season and weren’t aware of all the benefits it provided.
The real problem wasn’t just the lack of money. It was a combination of a lack of money, appropriate education, and much-needed motivation. Hence, the limited time subsidies with free delivery and education solved the problem in a manner that was economical in the long term.
More often than not, not liking your job or environment is not the problem itself, but is rather a symptom of a problem that is yet unknown.
Understanding the root cause of unhappiness has been the topic of countless articles around the internet,* so reading a few will begin to give you an idea not of the answer, but rather the questions you can ask yourself to arrive at the right answer. Famous computer scientist Alan Kay said it best: “A change of perspective is worth 80 IQ points.”
The most serious mistakes are not made as a result of wrong answers. Rather, they are a consequence of asking the wrong questions.
One of the more influential books I’ve read in my life is Flow* by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced me-high cheek-sent-me-high), a renowned Hungarian-American psychologist who invented the concept of flow. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
He bottles 25 years’ worth of research on happiness into 300 pages, where you will find quotes from writers, violinists, mountaineers, and basketball players describing their experiences when they engage in activities in their field. One of my favorite quotes from the book is the following:
Flow is a loss of self-consciousness. [This] does not involve a loss of the self, and certainly not a loss of consciousness, but rather, only a loss of consciousness of the self.
In the book, he also plots what has now become a famous chart, known as, you guessed it, The Flow Chart.
It is a simplistic plot of skill vs. difficulty in accomplishing a task. If you are just beginning to play tennis and decide to compete against a veteran player, you will lose the game as well as your motivation to learn it further. You will continue to doubt your abilities and enter a state of anxiety, which is detrimental. However, if you are the veteran player, and you keep competing against players who still have a long way to go to match your skill, you will enter a state of complacence, and eventually boredom, since the activity will not excite you anymore. Neither are helpful for long-term happiness.
Csikszentmihalyi posits that in an ideal scenario, you will remain in that narrow state of flow. How do you do it? By taking up tasks that are challenging yet achievable if you put in enough effort. Eventually, you will be more skilled, and take up tasks that are more challenging. This way, you will be in a state of flow by moving both horizontally and vertically, but not so much as to leave this state altogether.
How would you know if you’re in that state? Like all good questions, there is no easy answer to that. You need to read about others’ experiences, and compare them against yours.
Do you feel like quitting because your job isn’t challenging? Or because you don’t see yourself forming a lasting bond with your co-workers? Could it be that you are just having a bad week? Understanding the root cause is in no way a simple problem. And attaining a lifelong sense of fulfillment doesn’t happen by default to some. You need to work towards it by making necessary changes to your life and observing your response to those changes.
The best things in life aren’t free, after all. They are obtained through an exhausting and exhilarating journey.
Flow is just one of the many concepts out there, such as the five whys,* that you can utilize to figure out the source of your problem. If it turns out that you are indeed unhappy with your job because you yearn for the academic environment, where intense learning happens every day, and you wish to study in a strange new country, then by all means, we’re rooting for you!
storyThe first day I landed in New York was probably one of my saddest days at Columbia University. I landed at 9 a.m. in the John F. Kennedy airport, after a 25-hour-long flight with a moderate fever. I was traveling internationally for the second time in my life. The first time was when I came to the U.S. through a summer scholarship. I had spoken to a lot of people that I was about to meet during the day over WhatsApp, in the two months leading up to this day. We had, as I’m sure you will soon, a lively group where questions were asked and answered every few hours. We also had a separate group just to engage in innocent chitchat. As soon as I entered my apartment, which in itself was difficult to find at first, I was greeted by my two roommates who had arrived earlier. We met through WhatsApp. Within the next hour, I was whisked off after a quick bite to spend the entire day outdoors with a dozen others, traveling to Staten Island, Times Square, and more places that I don’t remember now.
It was a strange feeling. Being an introvert, speaking to someone over text messages was something I had mastered. However, meeting them in person and spending an entire day with a group of people who I had known for two months, yet did not really know at all, was really hard. I felt completely out of place and wanted to get home quickly. After roaming for ten hours, I decided to give in to my intense fatigue and return home sooner, and left the group to travel by myself through the subway at 11 p.m.. Even on a good day, I wasn’t good with directions. So you can imagine it was only likely that I ended up at the wrong destination, many blocks away from my home, in a location called Harlem. A location popular for its crime rate.
Add to this a dead phone and chilly night. With only a vague knowledge of my address, I began running in a direction that seemed right, constantly keeping an eye out for muggers and rogues. There seemed to be many that night, thanks to my vivid imagination. Fortunately, I finally reached home a little past midnight and spent the next two hours sobbing uncontrollably, wishing I had never come to this strange new country.
Of course, if that was the end of the story, I wouldn’t be writing this book right now, enthusiastically helping you to study abroad. I only say this so you can be prepared for such experiences; experiences that push you so far out of your comfort zone that your comfort zone’s radius increases. If I move forward sixteen months to the last day I spent at Columbia, I was still sobbing uncontrollably, but for all the right reasons. Many of those that I met on the first day went on to become my friends, along with others I met in the period in between. I had a lot of firsts at Columbia, and in New York. Apart from finding my passion in becoming a product manager and writer, I also learned to be more fearless and outgoing from my time as a graduate student.
Graduate school in a new country will not be merciful. You will feel homesick. You will carry an imposter syndrome on your shoulders a lot of the time. Your perseverance will be tested to its limits. You might feel out of place a lot. However, you will also form lasting bonds in a short period of time. You will meet people who will take your breath away with their intelligence. You might experience 2 a.m. karaoke sessions for the first time. Embarrass yourself in public but not really care because really, no one else does. Sit in classes taught by professors who are among the most distinguished in their field. And professors who breathe life into the topics they teach.
You will experience freedom in a way you haven’t before.
In my case, for the first time, I learned what it felt like to walk home at 4 a.m. every night from the library, after studying and working for hours on end. That was a privilege I did not have during my bachelor’s due to the gross gender discriminatory policies followed in many universities in India and elsewhere. People misconstrue freedom with irresponsibility. I know from my experience that it’s the other way round. You will learn to be much more responsible, since there is no one to take care of your daily needs anymore. And finally, when you get your job or internship offer, you will experience a deep sense of relief that is reserved only for those who have worked really hard.
So the question you need to ask yourself is: does the good outweigh the bad? Studying abroad is neither rosy nor dreadful. It has its fair share of ups and downs from which you will learn, regardless of the expectations you set for yourself. However, it is a big decision that needs to be taken after careful consideration for all the reasons stated above: it costs a lot of money, puts you under immense pressure, and has no guaranteed return on investment.
If after reading all this you feel like this isn’t aligned with your goal, or now is not the best time to study further in a new country, let us assure you that you saved yourself a fortune in both money and time.
One of the hardest feats to achieve as you grow up and surround yourself with many opportunities is the ability to say no. Something even harder is standing up to the voices around you and shutting them out when needed.
Although we’re sorry you spent the money to buy this book, you can always give it to someone else who needs it. On the other hand, if this is aligned well with your goal, then by all means, keep reading!
Since this book is aimed at educating you on how you can become more educated, it felt fitting that we share a story on the quest for education before we dive into the crux of it. I read this short story in the summer of 2019, when I was devouring many books on creative non-fiction. In a true story titled The Ballad of Old Man Peters,* Jon Franklin, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author, recounts the life of an old man named Wilk Peters, who spent his life chasing knowledge and fleeing ignorance.
Wilk was born in 1900 in Trinity County, Texas, to John and Martha Peters. The 1900s were a period when racism plagued America. At the age of eight, he had six other siblings to take care of, and was an agricultural laborer walking a plow mule. Yet, he knew he wanted more.
His parents, though not educated beyond grammar school, knew the path to emancipation was through education.
Wilk’s gift from his father was not a worn out tractor or a five acre farm; it was the dream that Wilk would become a doctor someday. He clutched onto that dream, intangible at times, and it kept him going when his father passed away, followed by his youngest sister. When he turned 18, he decided to finally move away from his family towards his quest for education.
As you leaf through the pages of this inspiring—and at times melancholic—story, you will realize the lengths to which someone can go, and has gone, to seek education. One of my favorite passages from the story alludes to the day Wilk finally stepped into a classroom.
“Wilk found himself, at age 23, a full-grown man with calloused hands and hardened muscles, sitting with his knees jammed under a tiny desk, wrestling with long division, surrounded by prepubescent sixth-graders. The effect was not what the admission officials had predicted. Wilk viewed his place in class as opportunity, not insult. If the children laughed at him he didn’t notice, preoccupied as he was with the serious business of fractions, with the parsing of sentences and the memorization of poetry.”
Too often, we forget the wonders around us. Just by being able to read this book, this passage, you have proven to be luckier than half of the earth’s population, being able to see, read, and comprehend the meaning of these words. As you try to seek further education, do not forget the privilege you enjoy in being a curious soul.
As for Wilk? He went on to become a librarian, standing at the gates of knowledge every day and guarding them so future generations could reap the benefits. He also found his love for traveling, and flew to 56 countries (that he could remember), and learned German, French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and so much more. He did not become a doctor like his father dreamed of.
But he became an educated man.
Re-read this chapter if you can. Spending a few more minutes now will save you heaps of time later when you look back with troubling doubts. Many of the students who leave their home country to pursue education abroad do not return, at least for a period of 5–10 years. That’s more than enough time for a lot of significant changes to take place in your life. If you were planning to leave your home country and study abroad primarily because you wanted to earn more, obtain a better social status, or dislike your current job (and situation), we ask you to think again.
There are struggles associated with the transition that cannot be anticipated until you get here (or wherever you go). You will be put in situations that ask you to act against your natural instincts. A lot of the social concepts you learned previously might seem irrelevant. The solution is not to abandon them all and adopt new ones. In fact, there is no right answer. It varies from one situation to another. But suffice to say, it’s not all rosy.
As long as you are aware of that, and are ready to face new challenges and opportunities, we are rooting for you. Take a page from the story of the old man Wilk Peters to appreciate the opportunities you have around you. It’s a wonderful time to be alive. If you have a curious mind and discipline to support that, there’s nothing stopping you from getting what you want!
Every chapter will have a few questions at the end for you to reflect upon. Don’t skip over them.
thinkWhy do you want to study abroad?
What is lacking in your life right now that you believe higher education will have a solution to?
What are you most grateful for in your life right now?
I will never forget how Richard Feynman described the instance he first encountered the cyclotron, a particle accelerator, at Princeton University.
MIT had built a new cyclotron while I was a student there, and it was just beautiful! The cyclotron itself was in one room, with the controls in another room. It was beautifully engineered. The wires ran from the control room to the cyclotron underneath in conduits, and there was a whole console of buttons and meters. It was what I would call a gold-plated cyclotron.
Now I had read a lot of papers on cyclotron experiments, and there weren’t many from MIT. Maybe they were just starting. But there were lots of results from places like Cornell, and Berkeley, and above all, Princeton. Therefore what I really wanted to see, what I was looking forward to, was the PRINCETON CYCLOTRON. That must be something!
So first thing on Monday, I go into the physics building and ask, “Where is the cyclotron—which building?”
“It’s downstairs, in the basement—at the end of the hall.”
In the basement? It was an old building. There was no room in the basement for a cyclotron. I walked down to the end of the hall, went through the door, and in ten seconds I learned why Princeton was right for me—the best place for me to go to school. In this room there were wires strung all over the place! Switches were hanging from the wires, cooling water was dripping from the valves, the room was full of stuff, all out in the open. Tables piled with tools were everywhere; it was the most god awful mess you ever saw. The whole cyclotron was there in one room, and it was complete, absolute chaos!
It reminded me of my lab at home.