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Coffee With Raghuram – Founder of HappySchoolsBlog

21 November 2008 7 Comments

Hi All,

Its been a while since I interviewed a fellow blogger. And today I am glad to interview Mr. Raghuram of Happy Schools Blog, striving to help students achieve their dream of studying in US.

Coffee With Raghuram, Founder of Happy Schools Blog
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
RR: Raghuram

Me: Hi Raghuram, Welcome to Coffee With Sundar!! Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?
RR: Hello Sundar, It’s my pleasure to introduce myself to your readers. I completed my Bachelors in India(Coimbatore) and Masters in UT Arlington(2005). Currently working as Senior Software Engineer in North Carolina.

Me: What is Happy School Blogs all about? Who are your target audience?
RR: Happy Schools Blog is about all about my personal experience in U.S.. I started gathering information about GRE, U.S. Universities, when I was in first year B.E. Engineering. That gave am an head start among my friends. But, it was fascinating to learn about various schools. I started Happy Schools Blog on July 23, 2007. But, I was doing same thing what I’m doing with Happy Schools Blog offline before that. I was providing guidance to  my friends, family members about university selection, job search, visa preparation.

Every International Student has to go through the following stages

1)      Make decision to study in U.S. and take GRE Exam

2)      Prepare for GRE and TOEFL

3)      Select Universities, prepare documents to apply to universities

4)      Decide which university to attend, if there is more than one admission

5)      Prepare for student Visa interview and visa stamping

6)      Packing for travel and landing in U.S.

7)      First few days in U.S. in most enjoyable to few, but very tough for some.

8)      Classes, thesis, project, part time job, searching for scholarship, …

9)      Internship Search

10)     Job search after graduation

11)     Applying for OPT

12)     Applying for H1B Visa ( lottery in H1b, other immigration issues)

13)     Car Buying, renting apartment, buying home, building network, …

Me: What ignited the spark in you to start this ? How did it all begin? What are some of issues you faced, the progress you made etc during your early days?
RR: Articles I write in the blog tends to reflect what I went through and how I could have done things differently. Studying in U.S. is completely different experience. I have observed how one’s lifestyle changes based on first few friend students make or associate with in U.S. once they reach U.S.  It’s not just a blog, I use it as a medium to build my network. I have been in contact with students who was initially chatting with me 1 year back. I forward them internship and job opportunities that I come across or from my network.

I initially started a website, but I had to put in so much effort to develop from the scratch. But, I was reading lots of personal finance blogs, then I realized, why not use Blogger platform to start a blog. It took me 2 minutes to come up with the name. I didn’t know anything about blogging when I wrote the first post.

Initial challenge I had was to drive traffic. Within first few days, I did realize, it was not easy to get visitors.  I had about 10 articles published, created an Orkut profile and added few students to IM. That got me going.

Me: How would advise a new blogger in terms of growing his traffic? What should he/she focus on?
RR: Content in the King. That’s what every famous blogger in the world will say. If you need to get traffic, you will need to have great content. It’s not possible for someone to write contents in field/area they are not familiar with and don’t have interest. Initially there is nothing much needed more than interest in the subject.

A blog can be also collection of your ideas and information. Contents must provide ‘value’ and anything you wrote about – there are visitors who are interested to read. Challenge is to find where people of similar interests hang out. In my case, it was Orkut communities (Universities, Semester) and forums.

But, in long run, you will develop your skills in Search Engine Optimization, Internet Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Persuasive Writing, other skills to drive traffic to blog. After first 3 months, I moved to wordpress from blogger.

Me: What is your typical work day like..? How many hours do you spend on HSB? How do you manage your time..
RR: HSB is  like hobby( or part time). I get comments like “reading your articles made me feel, I’m almost there in U.S.”.  I personally know that information I write is not available in one single place in other blogs. I haven’t seen other blog in my niche, in last 1 year. As you can see from 13 items listed above, each topic could potentially have one blog dedicated to it.

I spend equal time in content research, creation, website marketing, learning to blog and networking. I have standard routine – morning 1 hr, then off to work ( 8 to 10 hours), back home and spend about 2 hours. I tend to write contents in weekends and spend weekdays on other activities.

Me: How do you define success? Both in personal life and interms of HSB
RR: Success is subjective to events I’m working on currently. HSB was getting 9000 page views in January 2008 and it ad increased to ~ 104,000 in September 2008 and set to increase coming months. But, I measure success in HSB in terms of impact it makes in students life. Each good comment I get from students, brings smile in me.
In personal life, instead of living life as it comes, I like to define what I want to achieve and measure progress towards that. I might get there, I might not, but considering the feeling “I have put in  best possible effort at that moment”. At end of the day, I need to the feel that there is nothing more I could have done. This applies to saving money, spending time with my family, friends, co-workers, job, ..

Me: Excluding yours, what other blogs or sites do you admire the most in this domain?
RR: I have been trying to find similar blog for some time now, but one I enjoy the most is app2us.com. There were other few blogs, but it’s not active anymore. I follow DailyBlogTips, JohnChow and 10 other blogs that thought me how to create and maintain the blog.

Me: Is there any thing else you would like to share with CWS readers?
RR: I stumbled across CWS and spend some time reading articles and other interviews. It was interesting to read success stories and experience. You are doing great work, keep it up. If your readers are looking for information about U.S. Schools or about the process, I will be more than happy to help them. My Email Id Raghuram@happyschoolsblog.com. I have published an e-book ‘Students Guide to U.S. Universities” (available at homepage sidebar)  that will give an idea on what to expect from GRE preparation to getting student visa. I’m working on second e-book ‘Extreme Job Search Methods’ which should be available in months time.

Thanks Sundar for providing this wonderful opportunity to connect with your readers.

Me: Thank you Raghuram for this interview.




  • Jennifer said:

    HI Sundar, This is a great one! I have been following HSB for about a year now. It’s fantastic. Nice to learn about the experience of international, especially Indian students in US. Thanks for doing this interview so we can get to know Raghuram from another angle.

  • Ajay said:

    Awesome post…

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  • Rohit said:

    Hello sundar, I’d like to thank you for letting others to know about the author of HSB. It is a great site helping many students. Once again thanks for your efforts…

  • app2us.com said:

    Hi Sundar,
    You are doing a wonderful job. Nice interview and what a great honor for app2us.com to get praised by fellow blogger. 3 Cheers to you and Raghuram.

    – app2us.com

  • metawing technologies said:

    I’m not that much of a internet reader to be
    honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. Many thanks

  • Dyna Wilson said:

    Hey Sundar,
    Great post.Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts and the tips for students.Keep updating.