Navigating Challenges and Yearning for Home: My Two Months in the USA
Two months into my journey in the United States, it's time to reflect on the highs and lows of adapting to a new country and academic life. This is a continuation of my previous post, "My Journey to the USA: The First Week Abroad," and it's been an eventful period. So, let's dive right in and explore what life has been like so far.
Course Dissatisfaction and University Hurdles:
Upon arriving in the USA, my initial enthusiasm was met with the reality of my university courses. I'm no stranger to adversity and hard work, as my previous experiences have demonstrated. I completed my undergraduate degree in civil engineering, a field that wasn't my passion and worked for a startup with grueling hours and a challenging commute. During that time, I sacrificed sleep and embarked on the journey of self-teaching, delving into advanced WordPress, programming, and web development frameworks.
Despite my background in overcoming hurdles and persevering through demanding situations, I found myself deeply frustrated with the nature of some of the coursework at my new university. Without naming the University, I was taken aback by the fact that nearly all international students, apart from a very select few, were enrolled in an English course during their first semester. This seemed redundant and counterproductive, given that most of us already possess proficient English skills. We've already proven our English competency through exams like IELTS, and many of us passed the rigorous visa interview.
Rather than diving into our core subjects, such as computer science or biology, we found ourselves dedicating a significant portion of our time to an English course. The aim? To fine-tune our writing skills, make sure we avoid grammar mistakes and construct slightly improved sentences. This emphasis on manual grammar-checking seemed archaic in a world where digital tools like Grammarly and Autocorrect exist.
In the professional sphere, productivity is paramount. Those of us working in the tech industry know that writing polished prose isn't as vital as crafting efficient code, devising effective strategies, or problem-solving. AI-driven tools, constantly advancing, have made it even easier to communicate professionally with clients, improve email correspondence, and bolster occupational writing. So why this emphasis on writing mechanics? It's a baffling question for me, and it seems I'm not alone in this sentiment.
It's worth noting that the tuition fees for this course are substantial, and most of us have availed of education loans to be here. This, understandably, puts many students in a financially precarious position.
To add an ironic twist to the story, my list of prerequisites was based on certificates rather than knowledge. In the world of academia, it seems credentials often trump actual skills. Coming from a background in civil engineering, I found myself assigned prerequisites for computer science courses despite having honed my programming skills. This put me in the unusual position of having to relearn material that I was already well-versed in. In an ideal world, I would be exploring subjects that genuinely challenge and excite me, but instead, I'm retracing steps through the alphabet of a language I already fluently speak.
The Frustrating Pursuit of Graduate Assistance:
In an effort to make the most of my time here and contribute my skills, I sought graduate or lab assistant positions related to my expertise. Despite demonstrating my mastery of subjects like Python and web development frameworks like Django and Flask, the potential positions I sought required me to produce an undergraduate certificate in computer programming.
This request struck me as particularly absurd, given my substantial portfolio and practical experience. I offered to prove my proficiency through testing or other means but was met with inflexibility. It's a classic case of bureaucratic rigidity superseding common sense. The result? I'm now listening to introductory Python lessons, which feels akin to learning the English alphabet from a fluent speaker's perspective.
I find myself in the midst of fellow students who have received graduate assistantships and lab positions but who often do not possess the same level of knowledge. It's essential to clarify that I don't look down on them for their differences in expertise. However, it can be disheartening for someone like me, who is passionate, goal-oriented, and highly skilled, to be subject to the strict adherence to rules that seems to overshadow merit. This situation leaves me feeling frustrated and constrained, as it doesn't seem to favor those who are most deserving.
As for food, I find myself missing the vibrant flavors of Hyderabad's street food and the culinary delights of its restaurants. The richness and freshness of the dishes back home have no equal to what I find here. The frozen and cold meals available are quite different from what I'm accustomed to. While I've only tried a handful of local places, it's challenging to make comparisons at this point. Moreover, the groceries available here don't match the freshness I'm used to, and they don't align well with my budget. However, the silver lining is that most of our meals are prepared in our rooms. This experience is gradually turning me into a proficient chef, and it's fascinating to see how my culinary skills are evolving. Adapting to living with loved ones is manageable, but living with roommates can be somewhat challenging. Nonetheless, I remind myself that it's not home and not living with friends.
Family and Friends:
Whenever I'm feeling down, I reach out to my friends and head out with them, whether it's visiting malls or dining at restaurants. I find myself missing my friends quite a bit. Despite our differences, I cherish the fact that I can be open and comfortable with this select group. They understand me, even when I occasionally ignore their calls, and that's what true friendship is all about.
Coming home after a long day at the office or university is bittersweet. Back in my home country, I was accustomed to the warmth of family members and having a private space to retreat to. I had the comfort of readily available food and someone looking after my well-being. I miss my family greatly.
Final Thoughts and Hopes for the Future:
As I navigate this new phase of life in the USA, I can't help but reflect on the challenges and uncertainties that come with being in a foreign country. The journey has been a rollercoaster, but I'm determined to make the most of it.
Ultimately, my hope is that this journey, though filled with its share of obstacles, will lead to personal growth and success. I'm committed to my studies, eager to expand my knowledge, and determined to rise above the bureaucratic hurdles. The adventure continues, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that, in the months to come, both my financial situation and my experience at the university will improve.