When you decide to move from India to the US for grad school, you naturally try to gather as much information as you can. Here’s the kicker – no one tells you what it is actually going to be like. Either they themselves are in denial, they don’t want you to know how hard it is, the struggle is worth it or maybe (the rare case) it truly is as chill as it all seems.
So in my uncertainty, I went to graduate school and there it all happened. – Ted Nelson
Assignments (Used the app Prisma to edit the photo)
The picture depicts how I spent my two years at school and how I felt. All my emotions were just a big medley of hormones. I felt blurred most of the time. Maintaining a long distance relationship while trying to figure out who you are, socializing and finishing up assignments will drain you out. A brand new country, with no one to be your anchor, no one to fall back on, no one to confide in and everyone competing with each other. For me, trusting and letting someone else get close is very hard. When you realize you are an island, it can be empowering but it is also an all consuming loneliness. The loneliness doesn’t ever really go away. It becomes a layer all around you lurking just below your skin, threatening to take over at the slightest provocation.
I will let you in on a secret. It wasn’t my idea to attend grad school. It was my mom’s idea. I wasn’t very stoked on it until my then boyfriend convinced me that it was the right thing to do for our relationship. Living in different countries was supposed to be good for us, there’s a red flag if there ever was. I am not complaining, things turned out great for me… eventually.
The two years spent at grad school should have been the hardest of my life. Everyone talks about how school work is going to consume you. Honestly, looking back now, grad school was not nearly as hard as the rest of my journey here has been. There are two ways to approach grad school – you can learn all the practical skills you need to be good at a job or learn all the theoretical information and never worry about if this will actually help you with a job. Unfortunately, I chose the latter. I wasn’t aware that’s what I was doing. I had so many other things to deal with. It was my first time living alone, I had to manage my finances, cook for myself, clean up after myself, all while being an adult and finishing up the coursework; not to mention meeting new people, handling relationships and the heartbreak and pain that brings. If you want to attend grad school, remember, the two years are not the most stressful. What comes after is what will turn your hair grey – job hunt, interview preparation, excelling at your job and finally keeping that job.
Sometimes, I feel I might have squandered my time at grad school. If only I had known, if I had had some job experience or if I had an idea of what it meant to uproot my life. Although I never felt I belonged in India, living in a new country did also feel isolating. I was surrounded by Indians most of the time during grad school and it didn’t really feel like something different. The isolation and feeling foreign came once I graduated and moved to a different city.
On my first day of school, I was unpacking and found my notebook from college that I used to write part of a book. Just like many college students, I thought I should write a book about my life. As I sat there reading it, it hit me how juvenile it all was. All I wrote about was pain caused by petty things. I had written that only about a year ago and it felt trivial. I also started to reflect on my personality in high school and in college. I was very stubborn and egoistic in high school and college, I was dependent and spoilt. I decided I was going to use my time at grad school to also grow as a person.
In spite of the stress of coursework, pain of betrayal and heartbreak, confusion of an early 20-something new adult and the loneliness of a new country, I grew as a person. I became independent and learnt to be more understanding of people. I learnt to not judge (how could I after some of the things I had done), to put myself in other people’s shoes and let go of my ego. I am glad I had the opportunity and I am blessed to have come out of there with two wonderful friendships that are still pretty strong to this day.