Sunday, August 31, 2014

Life of a Indian Graduate Student -- My first month in Commerce,Texas

The Jet-lag was gone. The enjoyment in the weekends watching Prison break was over. Before I realised, the final orientation for the college had finished and everyone was taking the 3 days gap in between to decide on what subjects to take up. Before that, there were also other things which needed priority

I never imagined living with strangers before, but after coming here, I had to search for 3 other like minded people like me who are vegetarians, yes sounds crazy but what to do! I thought It is better to stay with vegans, as we all can cook in cycles. ( Yea cooking , my mum still can't believe that I cook).  

Apart from cooking which would only happen once we took an apartment, we had to search for one. Not having a car meant that, we four had to split up, go around places, get the best reasonable prices and decide to move in. There were more than a hundred students coming in this fall, so we had to make some quick decisions (What if all the apartments were booked! Where were we gonna stay? ) Thoughts like these gave us some tense moments. Commerce is not a big place after all, so empty spaces could fill out quickly. 

This guy actually stopped his truck  even while I was on the pavement.  

Corporate america and the clauses in between

The whole economic system in the United States is a complete reverse of India. While India follows a mix of both Socialistic and Corporate , the US is completely corporate. Want to take a new bank account? There are tons of clauses for everything. It will take some digging to figure out what kind of a bank account you would require. The apartment which we rented did not come with an electricity provider, so guess what? Search for the best reasonable rates in terms of KwH and reviews and sign a contract for one year. (What the heck! Welcome to corporate America ;D  ) 

One of the many power tarrif plans. It's so vast and confusing actually 

So I kept  skimming through this site called "power to choose". Hundreds of offers on board, lot of combinations between "Offers" and "Price" . Finally zeroed in on TXU power (They provide Free nights from 9 PM to 6 AM) .

Maintaining the monthly Budget :

Getting together was one thing , discussing and buying, sharing the rentals and groceries was new to me . I realised this  during my visit to Walmart. It is such a mammoth!  . At first, you would feel like buying what you wanted.But once you go there, careful fellas! The "Low Price" gimmick of their's kicks into action. You will end up buying more than what you wanted. Meanwhile, I was also searching for an efficient way to share the budget of the house. After two days, I found "Splitwise". The UI is clean and I find it to be an easy way to share the apartment expenses amongst my friends. 

Getting over the Cultural Shock : 

It took me a couple of days to get stock of things. Why? Because I was surrounded by people from the same country as I. The college did not start at that time, and I was with my seniors, going there quite often, enquiring about things, getting used to the dry Texas heat. Enjoying the outdoor walks where there would be no dust/smoke , or honking noises like India. The time spent at the library during the first ten days was also quite significant. I was loving my frequent visits to taco bell where I would munch upon bean burritos and  potato tacos. All was well until I shifted to the new apartment. We were only 4 now instead of the many seniors with whom I've lived.  It brought a sense of loneliness sometimes . Meanwhile, I thought it would be prudent to attend some/many of the on campus events for all the Fall students. This was my way of assimilating and adapting the good points in the american culture. 

Luckily, the counselling centre in the college sent an email regarding a cultural exchange program.Seats  were very limited to just 10 students, so what better opportunity than this to move along with the flow? My inner self advised me to do this because, I wouldn't want to stay as an alien in a far distant land. I wonder what will happen to me when my India visit happens next year. Dunno... 

Studying after a gap of 5 years : 

While I was still thinking to take about the subjects, people were already discussing about OPT'S and CPT'S and what not! . No worries, taking a deep breadth and staying calm was my way of reaching the "goal" . My short term target is to score good grades in the first semester. Travel to the east coast in December, come back and begin my second semester. 

Apart from all of these, some other things which I've realised till now : -

* No Chapatis to eat? Forget it, either get frozen one's or adjust with Tortillas
* No Vegan/ Limited options outside? thinking of going subway? that won't happen everyday ya know! Or better prepare your own food. 
* When will I learn the Texan accent? Is it really needed?  Ya gotta be kiddin me fella! 
*Crossing a road? Pedestrians are given more priority than cars. They actually stop their vehicles for us to cross over. Imagine what happens in India when you try to cross roads, lol 

* First day at college, went to USPS, the lady over the counter said "watcha want?" I was like huh?
*If you don't have a car, walking outside is quite dangerous. Sunscreen lotion,Shades,Cap are a must. Otherwise burn baby burn - literally! 
*Coke is more cheaper and free sometimes once you buy a glass of it. heck,what about water? 

The journey for me has just begun. I wait to see what's up next. Or should I say wassup man! :D  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My first week in America - There is still a long way to gooo

The decision to go back to school after a gap of 5 years was not easy. And having faced a lot of hurdles, I finally got my visa and landed in the US about 10 days ago. After travelling for 31 hours, which was equally divided between day and night, I felt as if I was a dream once the plane landed in Dallas . First impression? No people on the roads! Like Seriously? Where the people? There are mostly cars everywhere! Once in the apartment in commerce, I noticed that it was 7.30 in the evening, but, why was the sun still rise and shine? Well, this was another world so it was just the beginning.

Yea 8.30 in the "night" 

So I just dozed of that day, the Jet lag had overpowered me. I slept for  36 hours while getting up in between for an hour or two . By the time I got adjusted to the new time zone, it was Friday . There was an  air of TGIF!! around me. So it was a  weekend well spent with the seniors watching Prison break for 8 hours straight! That happened for two days lol. So what was the next thing to do? Explore the places around me? Nada  -  Texas is damn hot. 

It was my belief that, the heat here  would be peanuts  when compared to the tropical temperatures of India. Yes, I am used to 46C of heat, have walked around during those soaring temperatures. But what I didn't know was that, Texas has a kind of dry heat. When I landed in Dallas at 2 in the afternoon, I was happy that the temperature was around 34C, but surprise surprise the heat was almost unbearable. The AC in the car seemed to be of no use at all. <sigh>

Wish people in India were allowed to show their patriotism like this 

People here love to eat meat,which means that I have limited options for food. Best thing for me to do was to get the groceries from Dallas and start preparing my own food. It wouldn't happen so well all the time, but hey, everyday is a learning process. Mum trained me a bit during the last 20 days of my stay. And yea I did make some curries and chapatis successfully. It would probably take a while for me to prepare everything perfectly but I do have the time now so that should be fine. For making any kind of curry,the funda remains the same.This ten day free period would also be the perfect time to hone my culinary skills

Made something 

I've been going to the college everyday, to know about the place. Everything is sinking in slowly, but it will still take some time for me to get used to things here. Commerce is also the home of the Lions. I don't play Rugby, but really look forward to watching a sporting event here. Sports and I don't go well, but who knows anything might happen once the classes begin!