Dare To Dream And Have The Courage To Follow It!!
It wasn’t long ago when I was still doing my applications for the Master’s study, for some American Universities.
I still remember the curiosity and enigma in the eyes and voice of the people who learned about my plans for overseas education. Though foreign education is no more any big of a deal in this globalized world, nobody in my nearest family had this opportunity. And more than me deserving that, the credit entirely goes to my parents, who sent their beloved kid, thousands of miles away, to an unknown land, at staggeringly high expenses, without ever questioning anything, just to fulfill my wish of studying in one of the best universities in the world. For most part, I had more questions and doubts which, as usual, they helped me solve. Despite doing fairly well in GRE, I could only manage University at Buffalo for my dream of the best university on earth. Luck, fate playing their game yet again!!
Every year, a horde of Indian students (literally thousands) leave their house, their families, their friends, their country to live the American Dream. A dream which probably started in the 90’s by Indian movies celebrating and showcasing their success and growth opportunities. Until this point, only the elite few and most talented of the lot could only dream about studying in a foreign land. But the 90’s movies made a big impact on the common people. (another example displaying immense potential of the medium’s ability to influence people) . A dream was seen. By the common man. Of a better life. Of better standard of living. Of the satisfaction. Of opportunities. Of the safety. Of the growth. Of happiness. And thus began what would later become an era of immigration. The common man dared to venture out of his comfort zone and took huge risks in migrating to new unknown places. Some seeking jobs, some seeking money, some quality education, some seeking challenges that could satisfy their intellect, some seeking better standard of living while some came in search of safety and security. And probably most of them had good success in finding whatever it was that they were seeking. Which is what led to the mass immigration happening today.
So like everybody else, I left my home, my family, my country to with dreams in my eyes. To live an American Dream. In the search of somethings. Something that wouldn’t let me sleep. Something that would challenge me. Something that could satisfy me. And ofcourse something that could fetch me enough money.
Everything sounds good. Looks like a pretty picture. Simple solution of making small sacrifice of leaving the comfort and closeness of home as well the near and dear ones in exchange for lifelong happiness. All roses and no thorns. Really??
This made me remember one of the first things I learned here. If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t!! And that’s exactly what I found out after living the American dream for more than four months now. It’s all a myth!!
The movies did show the bright side of an overseas education. But was it all real? No. It was exaggerated. The picture isn’t so pretty always. Also, it rarely showed the negative aspects of studying or living abroad. Things that I had no idea I was gonna be exposed to, rather soon.
The sadness of leaving home was pretty soon replaced by the excitement of future life in America, as soon as the flight took off from the Mumbai airport. The twenty-five hours of journey from my country to the most powerful country in the world was full of excitement. The thrill of the first flight ever and landing on what people describe as two the best cities in the world, London and New York, for the connecting flights just added to the excitement of my American Dream.
But the dream showed signs of disappointment pretty soon. I remember excitedly looking out from the airplane window for the famous New York skyline when the flight approached the JFK airport, only to see the small houses and parking lots with an endless number of cars parked in it instead of the skyscrapers.(It was only later that I found out that these skyscrapers are restricted to a very small area (about a tenth part of Mumbai). I never realized that this marked a beginning of a series of disappointments were about to follow me for the next few months and change the misconceptions that other people and movies has set about the America in our minds.
America is absolutely not how it is portrayed by most others or in movies. No culture or civilization can be perfect and America is no exception. And most of us already knew this before we even embarked on our journey to the US. The only problem is it doesnt lives up to the expectations set by various mediums in our mind and heart. American dream is not all that rosy as we believe. It has many small thorns on it. Like every rose, this rose is also equally beautiful and admirable. It all depends on how many thorns can you handle. Or maybe sometimes it’s just better to watch the beautiful rose from a distance in its natural habitat rather than trying to handle it. It’s your personal preference. I only wished after coming here and living the American dreams for quite a few months now, that somebody would have made me aware of the thorns that lie on the seemingly awesome rose that everybody admired, that somebody would have given me the true unadulterated picture of reality. So this blog is my attempt to answer this wish for those in the queue for their turn to live their American dream.
To start with, you will probably be disappointed by all the hype that won’t come true about America. You won’t see the tall buildings every here and there unless you are in one of the few bigger cities. Other cities are just like any other town in any other place in the world. In this world of whites, you will probably find more blacks and browns. Especially, if you are pursuing something like an engineering course, you will probably end up in a class consisting more of Asians than Americans. Bars are the most important hangout spots. so if you are Teetotaler, be prepared for a lifetime of getting boredom at home. Worse yet, your being a teetotaler would become something like the most important topic for those around you. YOU DONT DRINK??? EK BAR TRY KARKE TO DEKH!!! YOU ARE MISSING ALL THE FUN!! And your woes get a compound interest if you are a vegetarian too. Your life would be full of misery. You would hardly find a place to eat. You will find that even the omnipresent, the evergreen, the savior, the Potato would be replaced by chicken. Now, there’s chicken in everything instead of Potato. Chicken rice, chicken salad, chicken noodles,…………….. Even the french fries looses in popularity to Chicken fingers!!! Don’t be surprised if you end up here spending more time on cooking and cleaning instead of studying. That happens to most students who don’t ADJUST to this new surrounding.
When you speak to your friends back home, they would be more curious to find out how many white chicks are you friend with rather than being concerned about my health and new surrounding. They would pester you with questions like ‘KITNI GORIYA PATAI BHAI??’, ‘WAHA TO MAST PARTY WARTY HOTI HAI, KITNI ATTEND KI??’, ‘AMERICA KI NIGHTLIFE JEE RAHA HAI TU, AUR KYA CHAHIYE JINDAGI ME’. To be honest, most people here don’t get to live this life in their student life. Especially if you are introvert like me. For the weekdays, you will struggle to keep up with assignments and projects and the weekends would pass away in a whisker before you even realize it while you are busy buying groceries,doing laundry, cleaning up the week-full of mess, cooking, catching up with things left incomplete or procrastinated during the week and skyping with your family and friends, back home.
America may be described as the land of opportunities, but it also is a land of opposites. For most people in the world, America would strikingly appear as the exact opposite of their place. Almost every standard here is opposite to what we are used to. To put things in perspective, here, your right hand becomes your left hand. Quite literally. Okay, not quite in literal terms, but it does in a sense. Where most of the world uses the left-hand system, the America uses the right-hand system. So you drive on the right side of the street rather than left. Okay, you knew this. 99% of people know this. But it is far more different than what the name suggests. The driver sits on the right side. Turns are supposed to be taken on the right side of the street. It takes getting used to, to this system and can be quite confusing and frustrating at times. Switch here is ON if it toggled up instead of down. Turning the handle clockwise might mean closing the tap or screw at your place, here it’s the opposite. So next time you find yourself fiddling with the knobs of the cooking stove, you know where the problem is. The American measurement will try to add more confusion to your life.. You now have to purchase your milk in gallons instead of liters. The distance will now be measured in inches and feet instead of meters and kilometers. And your weight suddenly becomes pounds instead of kilograms. And the anomaly for the units goes on for other measurements as well. Similarly, the list of opposite systems can go on and on.
When we think of life in America, we think of simplicity. It’s a developed country. Everything is advanced. easy. simple. If your thinking is similar, you are in for a shock. American life is far more complex with unfathomably complex rules for every walk of life. It is a country where you will be billed even for paying your bills. Even if you pay on time. Plus taxes. So if you have an electric connection at home and you want to pay your electric bill, you will be billed to pay that bill. Sounds crazy right? Welcome to America!! E-commerce may have started in the west, but it’s far better in countries like India. What makes me say that?? Try purchasing a $5 or $15 worth of an item from let’s say Amazon. Now unless you are a prime member at Amazon, it most probably would be delivered to you after week or 10 days. Plus you won’t get free shipping as its too cheap. And the delivery would probably be left at your door if aren’t available to collect it. Try buying a 100 rupee item in India, and the delivery guy would make three visits to your home within 5 days to delivery it in your hands. And the banking system. That’s too complex to comprehend. Try calling a bank in India for opening an account and next you will probably get calls from about 6 to 7 salesman, try to lure you to open an account in their banks, all with the comfort of staying in your home or office. Just sign at few places marked with a cross and give two three documents and bang!! Your account is opened. Try this in America!! You will end up making multiple trips to multiple banks and still trying to fathom what it takes to open a bank account here. Sooner or later, you will eventually be successful in opening the bank account but more confusion and frustration awaits you after that. It would take hours of research to understand the rules and so I am leaving the quirks of American banking system for you to explore!!
This is from my experience and from experience of people I know, people around me. Things may have been different for different people in the same as well as a different city than mine. I would love hear their experiences from them.
Finally, I would end this with a very small piece of knowledge. If ever you find yourself searching for drinking water in this part of the world, try searching it first near a washroom!! Drinking water kiosks here are mostly located right next to a washroom for reasons I cannot contemplate. I had a hard time finding drinking water kiosks every time grabbed a bite in a food court or college dining and every time I found it near the closest washroom.
Cover picture source : www.theamericandreamfilm.com