A Year Of University, As An International Student

I have now lived twelve thousand kilometres from home for over 8 months now, alone, but the people and hobbies I have found here have made me feel closer to home than I could have ever imagined. I could not have pictured when I wrote the blog post High School to University that I would so quickly, and so happily settle in to this city and its attractions.

Captured this on MIT’s Campus in April

Sure, Boston is no New York City or London. But it doesn’t have to be. There is a special charm to this city that you begin to realize when you bike down to the Charles River and sit on the pier for a few hours, watching cars whiz by behind you on Storrow Drive, or when you walk into Faneuil Hall and look at the plethora of things to do within that building, which really does look much smaller from the outside!

The Lawns outside the Boston Public Library, taken by me 30th August 2018

I now find that I was right when I wrote about university earlier (I predicted that I would miss school, and I do.) but I don’t miss school regrettably. I miss school fondly, in the sense that I enjoyed every moment of it, but it was time for me to move on and to find new adventures, new passions and experiences and some great people that I’ve come to find and call my best friends. I have made friends from around the world, and yet come to find one universal truth: in that we are all different, but we are also alike in more ways than one.

I admit that I have cursed this city in the midst of its wretched winters, its pouring rain, but I have also admired it and praised it in the warmth of its summer sun. I suppose the question remains on whether I find myself a changed person than when I came here. As it stands, an entire academic year later: I am more true to myself now than I have ever been. Better? I cannot say with much certainty. That would require a philosophical debate on what it means to be a better person. Happier? In a way.

Happiness is something that is fleeting to me, in that it is easier for me to say that I am happy when I look back upon something. For me to say whether I am happy in this moment is harder. There is always something worrying or occupying our conscious in the long-term; perhaps an assignment we’ve procrastinated on which is coming up, or something as trivial as menial things like a laundry run or a homework session.

But this I can say without much doubt, I am striving to become the best version of who I am. As a kid without too many friends growing up, my validation for self often felt lacking. I had been finding most of it from the people around me. Coming to university made me realise that there is no greater joy in abandoning things that I have been doing because “other people were doing it” or that “I sorta liked it.” But it must be said that it is also important to find new things that you are passionate about to replace these mundane routines, lest you waste time on things that don’t make you richer in thought, pleasure or company.

Fall on Campus, outside the Stearns center

Do I have regrets about things in the last year? Yes, like any normal human being. While I have made many friends, I could always make more and I have sometimes given up opportunities to do so. Growing up as an introvert meant that I could never quite muster the courage to go up to someone and introduce myself, and though I have overcome this significantly, old habits, do in fact, die hard.

As an international student, I face a unique conundrum. Twelve thousand kilometres between me and home mean that the only time I see Mumbai again is in the summer or the winter break. As a kid, I used to be embarrassed when my parents showed up to school, but now I’d give anything to see them everyday. So to all those university students who can see their family in the Thanksgiving and Spring breaks or even over long weekends: make the most of it. It’s a privilege I took for granted. In a way, it was heartwarming to see students and their parents on campus. I may have seemed indifferent to you as I wore my headphones and briskly walked by, but deep down I wanted that too.

Yet, I have been fortunate to have family and friends around to help me ease into this process of starting a new journey in a new country. I’ve been to the USA more than 11 times since 2000, but as they say, it is a whole another thing to live here. To those people who made this so easy for me from the very moment I arrived here, when I was greeted by a joyous immigration officer, to my housing RAs, to my roommate’s parents, who were kind enough to send me Indian sweets every once in a while and to the occasional passersby who wore smiles, to you I say, thank you.

Thanksgiving and Spring break were the two times I could actually get out of Boston for good. I spent Thanksgiving in New York, in the presence of my lovely stateside family, and briefly my school friends (who it was lovely to catch up with after a semester of uni, I must add.) My first Thanksgiving was spent putting on the remaining quota of my Freshman 15, basking in consecutive Long Island turkey dinners. Spring Break was in the one and only City Of Angels (Why, Los Angeles, of-course!). More than a trip of teenage and collegiate depravity, I actually spent most of it looking outside the window of our AirBnB wondering why it had to rain on the few days I was there.

Oh, how could I not mention that I got my own star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame?

I write this from an empty dorm room, nearly laid bare, almost as I found it when I moved in for my first semester. Now, three days from moving out, one year later, I am nearly a sophomore. I can’t believe I’ve managed this, so far from home, but I have. If one year can go by so quickly, it won’t seem like too long that I will wake up and see my degree hanging on the wall.

And in a few months from now, I will head in to my Sophomore year and somebody will move into where I live now, and begin their own college journey. So to my university peers, if we haven’t spoken, come say hi. Lord knows my introverted nature will make me a nervous wreck if I try to do that, but if you see me around, say hey! With the speed at which this first year has gone, it feels like I’ll graduate in no time, and I’d hate to miss out on meeting and befriending the amazing people here at Northeastern.

Oh, and a subtle reminder (because sometimes we all need a pick-me-up), in the wise words straight from my dorm room wall:

Felt cute, might delete later 🙂

As always, thanks for reading. (And Stay Happy!)

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