The first thing I felt after landing in the US – sleepy.
My friend and I had a comfortable flight, but still were groggy eyed, and we had to wait for sometime for the seniors to arrive for our “pick-up”. We tried calling them using the public phones at the airport, fumbling with coins, trying to decipher quarters and dimes! It’s been exactly one year since that day, and now we find ourselves planning pick-ups for the Fall entrants this year!
Roles change here, and quickly – The reserved newcomer in August, the settler for the next couple of months, the inquisitive traveler, the laptop-addict (read Youtube in my case), the cricket-player, the laundry-boy(girl), the amateur cook and of course the student, for the rest of the year. Life’s been good, I should say, coming to a new country amongst new people, with not-so-many desis, so to speak. I live in Amherst, a small town in Western Massachusetts and go to Grad school at the University ofMassachusetts here. The early mini-struggle for jobs, choosing courses for the Fall, getting a social security number, a cell-phone, an internet connection and a few more things – take up time, almost one semester, but at the end you feel good about having settled down well!
In the next few months at Amherst, I found several things amusing – people run a lot, on the roads with a music player and a beverage; most of them help you find your way if you are lost, and very politely; some of them will make a mockery of your name (most make one of mine!), the police cars, ambulances and LOUD fire engines try to scare you off, bus drivers wave at each other, cars stop for you if you are a pedestrian crossing the road(though, this almost never happens in the cities here!), students skate-board their way onto campus (sometimes right into class!), every food item has lettuce, tomato and cheese in it, and most importantly one will not find a single public toilet in case of an emergency!
What you might possibly find is, few Indian students trying too hard to make an impression – most commonly this means trying the accent but making it very obvious, criticizing India (this gets them a bashing, of course), trying to roller skate (but without practice, we know what can happen), changing voice mail messages on their phone every week with an accent that gets heavier with time! You will definitely find a couple of such specimen, but my friends and I just have a good laugh at their expense.
The biggest change one feels is that you have to do all your work yourself – Shopping for groceries, converting pounds to kilos and gallons to liters, long queues, dividing the shopping list amongst your roomies and finishing up quickly to get the bus back home on time(get a car!); washing utensils; cleaning your room, and the kitchen (the frequency varies drastically from house to house); ironing your clothes; cooking by guess-work(for the newbies, turns out alright, don’t worry) and other chores.
Seriously speaking, you just have to make sure you are doing things right, like paper work at the University administration offices, your taxes and legal stuff, and of course not getting on the wrong side of the law. Look for a house online before you arrive so that you don’t spend a lot of time here and staying at other places for too long. I would also suggest that newcomers share apartments with themselves, as it just helps each other to get along better. Just an opinion.
All in all, I would just say – the key is to find like-minded people to stay and interact with, go out and explore new places, talk to people and just be yourself.
You’re all set! (I bet you’ll hear this phrase time and again).