Monday, September 06, 2004

Under-graduated, over-excited

I was at the State University of New York at Buffalo yesterday, en route to the Niagara falls. I was driving over from Akron, Ohio, which is a 4-hour drive from Buffalo. The intent was two-fold. One, to meet Avinash's sister, who has recently come for her Masters, and two, to start early the next morning for Niagara falls, before the crowds start to swell.

It was a terrific experience to meet up with Medha and her room-mate. They turned the clock back four years for me. For most, coming to the US is the first stab at leading an independent life. When you come to the United States as a graduate student, it is a mixture of many things. An adventure, a responsibility, an exploration of self, charting a path in life .... they are all bedfellows in your stay here, and you are more than likely to meet them at each step in the way. The attitude with which you approach this experience is the most important ally you will have in this country. The key component is facing this with an open mind. Everyone has one gripe which is more painful than the others. Some are homesick, some worry about funding, some have issues adjusting with room-mates ... the list is huge. How you tackle this is the best learning experience you will get. For me, the experience here was a Masters in Becoming Independent.

I was really happy to see the way Medha has adjusted to this life. Extremely enthusiastic, terrific zest for life, and the satisfaction of having worked hard and coming through the initial period of struggle. She brought back memories of my intial days in my Masters. Deciding whom you are going to stay with, the initial days of staying with seniors with 15-20 days before we got our own apartment, our adventures with cooking, scavenging the trash can areas for used furniture, those Friday night dinner parties, walking the campus in the harsh sun looking for jobs, that rehearsed speech "My name is Parth Pandya and I am an international graudate student who have come this Fall ....", those blunt refusals, those polite refusals, those refusals, the 'inside information' about an open position, the trips to Walmart to set-up the apartment .... the list is long. I realised how far I have come from 27th July 2000 when I stepped onto the plane to come to the US. I guess I have mellowed over time, the enthusiasm tempered with experiences I have had, and the maturity that comes with the experiences you face makes you less of a child. But meeting those kids was great. Their enthusiasm was infectious. It wasn't circa 2004 any longer. I felt I was back in July 2000 and within a matter of a day, relived the first few months of my stay in the US. ......"My name is Parth Pandya and I..." :-)

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