In the weeks leading up to my flight across the Atlantic to study abroad in America, I realized that my decision had raised many eyebrows. I had a well-paying job, and like my friends often liked to point out, my personal life was all settled. The reasons were many, but the strongest of them dawned on me only after I had completed the first leg of my journey.
My flatmates-to-be and I had planned the journey well in advance. I was looking forward to spending the long flight hours bonding with them and becoming friends before we even set foot in our shared apartment. It was the perfect plan. Except, it all went downhill from the moment we landed in Dubai. Being stranded at that airport for almost a day (as an aftermath to a nasty flight accident the day before), with less than two hours of sleep in more than a day and just a bunch of muffins to keep my sugar levels from plummeting, I realized that I had done something that had been so unimaginable for me just a week ago. I had been apprehensive — my mind clouded with the fear of not having what it took to go through with the plan. Yet, here I was, and my body and mind had naturally coped. That’s when I realized that familiarity not only bred contempt, but it also fed complacency. I had to get out of my comfort zone and take a leap of faith to discover I could do much better than I thought I could.
Deciding to go to grad school wasn’t for a fancy degree; I was seeking new experiences to humble me and snap me out of the dull bullpucky of life. And it has been one hell of an adventure so far. From ending up in L.A. with no bags (Yes, you read that right! Emirates took more than a week to get their act together), finding help from friends, friends of friends, friends of relatives and practically everyone with a good heart, to getting locked out of the apartment on an ill-fated night, it has been quite eventful. From discussing French movies aboard the Paris flight with a French woman with a Math Ph.D., to conversing in Hindi — a regional Indian language — with a Native American DPS officer in L.A., I have had more meaningful conversations in the last few weeks than I can recall in a long time.
It’s been over a month since I started college now, but there are still a few things that I haven’t quite gotten a hang of. I still can’t wrap my head around the American clothing sizes, fiddle with miles to kilometer conversions in my head, and still get hopelessly lost inside the huge USC campus ‘cause, well, I’m a bit directionally challenged! Before I got here, most of my friends told me that California sun is everything fun, but since landing here, I’ve found the weather to be pretty weird. During the day, the sun is so harsh you can’t think of stepping out without sunscreen and a cap or sunglasses. Come evenings, it is suddenly too cold and windy. I need to carry around both my sunglasses and jacket all the time!
Despite all of that, I’m in awe of student life here. It’s so cool to see students zooming in and out of campus in all types of skateboards and scooters imaginable! Every nook and corner of the campus radiates beauty. Every fountain with its own charm never fails to enthrall me. Every building with its own unique architecture has a story to tell — and I want to know them all! But with the start of classes, piled up assignments and the mad pressure to chalk out a career path, I am afraid I might not be able to do that. Yet, no matter how nerve-racking it might seem, I am excited to be a part of this story and to see how it all unfolds.