We never know what is written in our destiny. Who thought that a girl who never travelled alone will go to U.S.A and learn the biggest lessons of her life? Well yes she did. She went as an ordinary girl but when she returned, she was the hero of her family.
I would like to start my story with a little description of myself. I am Alle Sravani, B.tech final year student studying Metallurgical &Materials Engineering at NIT Warangal. I was always good with my studies and never bothered much about anything else. My parents always encouraged me to study hard and maintain a good cgpa. I used to hang out with friends, watch animes and TV series, read novels, play games on mobile and obviously study (one day before exams only). But yes, I did reach my parents expectations and stand topper of my class. In return, my parents do everything for me – right from recharging my mobile to booking train tickets just so that I don’t waste my time and take unnecessary tension. I was so used to spoon feeding, I hardly did things myself. If I needed help I would ask my parents or sister or my friends when I am well aware I can try finding answers on the internet. After joining this college, I did enter into extra-curricular activities and I thought my life is going great. This is who I was.
And then an opportunity knocked my door. I came to know that my college was ready to fund the topper of every department to do their summer internship in any US university. I was excited at first but was a little unsure of what my parents would say. They obviously were not interested to send their little girl all across the continent to an unknown place in USA all alone. So I gave up because I was not so confident myself if I could really go that far. But then thankfully my seniors who had gone to foreign internships that year made me realize that I was dropping a golden opportunity. I mean how many students get paid foreign internships in their 3rd year? Filled with new energy and enthusiasm I tried talking to my parents again to convince them. In the end they said it wouldn’t hurt to apply and if I got an acceptance from a good university, they would send me. So I immediately applied for passport and began my preparations for the bigger task ahead.
It was late February when a notification was released calling the toppers of every department to meet the Dean who would explain us about this program. In the meeting he told us that it was our job to get an acceptance from a university in US. The college will only provide funding. It’ll give any supporting documents necessary but applying to university, getting a Visa was entirely our responsibility. Now this was all new for me- doing things myself. Not only I had to get an acceptance and a visa, I also had to look for accommodation myself in a place where I have never been!!!! It was a very long process. I made my resume and started mailing professors. I was nervous as I was applying very late; chances of most professors in good universities to have a place left for new interns would be very less. Luckily, with the project I had from my 2nd year internship and funding, I got an acceptance real quick. It’s difficult to get an acceptance without funding in US but if you try mailing in early November or December, I’m sure anyone can stand a chance.
I had a skype interview with my guide and he gave me a student’s contact too if I needed any help. However I met an Indian girl on a Facebook group willing to rent her room for two months. I talked with her and settled the accommodation. Then I booked my flight tickets, arranged for a travel card and an international sim card. On 1st June, I landed in Chicago. I took a bus from airport to Purdue University. I had the company of a student doing his Masters in Purdue. He told me all about the university during the journey and I couldn’t be more excited to see it all with my own eyes. My friend who was lending me her room came to receive me. She herself was going for an internship for three months. She helped me get settled in the apartment and accompanied me to my department. I completed all the formalities to get an ID card and went to my lab. My guide was out of town for a week but he had left some work for me to do. My project was computational modelling in fuel cells. I also had a lab partner on this project. He was from Brazil and his major was in electrical engineering. Together we discussed and tried to clarify each other’s doubts. The ones which were difficult, we left it for our professor. Even after professor returned, he explained us about the details of the project, told us what the final objective, cleared our doubts and left us to work on our own. Now that was something I wasn’t used to. Because in my previous project my Guide used to tell me what I had to do every time and continuously checked my progress. But here on the other hand, I’m on my own. We had these weekly meetings for clarification of our doubts and submit a weekly report stating what we had done in the weeks’ time. Students from other projects under the Professor would also be present. Initially it was all confusing. But slowly I got adjusted to the environment there and I really began to enjoy it. The meetings were extremely useful. It provided a platform for open discussion and I learnt a lot from there.
What I liked the most about the research there was the freedom given to work independently and the flexibility to work any time. The only thing to remember was work should be completed on time. I had the keys to the main building and my lab so I could get in and out any time. Sometimes I used to leave early and at times I worked late till night 10 o’clock just out of interest. Being a girl, walking home alone so late is not advisable in India, but in US, it’s absolutely safe. Did I mention only about the research? I did so many things!!! I used to go to gym regularly for a month (later I didn’t find time). I used to cycle every day to the department and then to home. In the weekend, I used go to long rides on cycle with my friends. We used to go through trails and roam around in Lafayette. And then I also joined Salsa and Bachata dance classes. They were so much fun. Also my room mates in the apartment became good friends. We used to cook at home and also go out to eat sometimes. A girl who knew only how to cook maggie goes to US and cooks chicken curry all by herself!!! I love Mexican food too now. During my stay, I also went on a tour to Chicago with my friends.
In short, I enjoyed every second I spent there. I never felt so active in my whole life. I was always busy with one thing or another. I simply lost track of time. Two months just flew by. They say you realize the value of something precious only when you lose it. Amidst all those calls to India with family and friends, I realized how much I loved it back in India. I do like the freedom, the environment, the cleanliness, the opportunities and what not in US, but that doesn’t mean I would want to settle there. Sure, I want to go back and do my Masters, maybe work there for a year or two. But I love it here with my family and my friends around me. I not only got a celebrity-like treatment when I returned from US, I also felt like one. I learned to believe in myself, have strength and courage to try new things. I learnt to be independent, manage my time and money. I learnt to socialize better with people from all over the world. Apart from the technical skills and knowledge that I gained, I also got a new vision and a new outlook of life. I’m a brave and confident girl now, ready to take the challenges of life. This is who I am.
Thank you for reading my story! I do hope it inspires at least a few people. If you have the will and courage, there is nothing in this world you can’t achieve. There’s a whole world out there waiting for you, don’t be shy, just get out of your comfort zone and enjoy life!
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