Walking Left to Walking Right – A Thousand Miles Away #6 (Life of an MS student)

You don’t get to experience major successes frequently. You shouldn’t. Otherwise you would stop valuing them. But you definitely need minuscule wins from where you can derive your energy from. Most people tend to overlook these wins – but once you start noticing them, at least once I started doing it, the level of optimism was a lot higher.


This month has been a mixture of interview preparation, incredible learning and following routines. I tried segmenting my thoughts the best I could:

  1. Keep the clutter out and curiosity in:

As I had mentioned multiple times in my previous posts, one of the most important assets you will (and should) find here are the people you meet. That being said, it’s critically important to keep the clutter out. Don’t surround yourself with pessimists and people who clearly add more negative than positive energy in your life. We all come across and deal with such archetypes everyday – it’s not easy. That’s why you need an overwhelming number of those who inspire, encourage and motivate you. It’s very hard for me to answer the question on, ‘Who’s your inspiration?’. My latest inspiration was a talk from this Product Manager from Facebook. Prior to that, I was inspired in one of my classes at how the Professor kept it engaging with ease. And before, I was inspired by this acquaintance of mine who has been working on a brilliant start-up idea for close to two years now (will be writing an article dedicated just to his work – must read for all upcoming graduates).


One of the few days when I saw morning light before sleeping

So in short, find something meaningful in what you do and keep the clutter out.

  1. Social Media and sacrifices:

I have always been an active user of social media – apart from connecting you with people and biting away your time (We’re all victims), it gives you a chance to voice out your opinions on issues you care about, learn about what is happening around the world in a fashion that is compelling, and use it as a medium to give voice to even the slightest idea in your head.


Over the last few months, I have slowly decreased my usage of it, knowingly as well as unknowingly. This is a trend that I’ve seen a lot of people fall into, and I hope I don’t. It is illustrative of the sacrifices that you have to make at every step of the way – something to keep in mind whenever you take upon more than you can handle. And you know when you’ve taken more when you realize it’s been months since you took time to enjoy by yourself.

  1. Preparation and play:

Honestly, you feel overwhelmed a lot thinking about your future. You have to keep pushing – and have fun along the way. From the few interviews that I’ve had here so far, I learnt more than I could imagine: ranging from SQL to agile project management. People think interviews are a key to fit the lock where your internships and jobs lie. They are not. They are key to unlock all possible doors in your sight where you get to learn the gamut of possibilities.


On the same note, trying comes with its share of rejections, even when everything in your sight goes as planned. Staying optimistic at such times is painfully hard – but, one of the traits of positive people is that they don’t worry about things they can’t control.


If anyone wants to know how an engineering block’s floor looks like late night

  1. Adaptability is key to success:

This might not be the case of everyone – but definitely of many. In grad school, most of the simple pleasures you took for granted previously are gone. Initially you start out learning to be a Chef in India (I tried), and the first month you’re here you try to replicate all the scrumptious meals you had back in the good days.

But with time, you realize how much of a luxury it is to go through the process of cooking, and your enthusiasm and care decreases linearly. It reaches a stage where you need just enough to survive.


The same curve can be applied to a lot of other needs and wishes – doing laundry, playing your favorite sport, exploring the city. (Once again, there are still exceptions who manage time well and get to enjoy these simple pleasures)

This is not a bad thing. You can’t make time, only sacrifices. If nothing, this only makes you more adaptable, a quality that is looked for in every company, industry and place.


Shine bright like a diamond?

  1. Delving deeper into randomness:

Untitled image (176)

I took a course on Psychology and Product Design this semester – the motivation behind picking it was influenced by many factors. But I ended up liking the course for different reasons. The Professor makes us read a lot, and I’m glad he does. I came across this concept of chance and randomness – the same old trite ‘You cannot control what happens to you (or anyone)’. If you assume that over a million events happen in your life over a span of 80 years, it is inevitable that at least a few dozen of them are extremely good (or bad).

I wanted to understand the relation of chance to the concept of fate a little further. While browsing, I came across a brilliant article that went in depth to talk about his relation – http://onewithnow.com/fate/

Researchers found that most of the processes (for example, breathing, moving, eating) are automatic, and are executed without much conscious awareness. Modern brain scans show that unconscious activity occurs a few seconds before the conscious activity arises in other areas of the brain. It appears that the subconscious mind decides first, even when we think we’re making a conscious choice.

When you look deeper at a Quantum scale, there seems to be no discernible order (remember the Uncertainty principle?). However, if we dig even deeper and go to the Plank state, order does seem to exist. What appears random or chaotic may be encoded into the most fundamental level of existence. This leaves little room for chance and choice. Who knows if we’ll ever be able to test this theory though. Cutting short this tangent to talk about science and fate, my underlying point was that if we accept our choices and agree that the consequences are indeed random, we save a lot of worry and time.

On similar lines, I love how this sentence covers it all – “Accept the things to which fate binds you and love the people with whom fate brings you together, and do so with all your heart. ~Marcus Aurelius”


I hope people never get tired of watching snow fall

One of my checklists for this semester is to release a video talking about the path followed to finding an internship, because I feel this is a prevalent topic that a lot of people seem to take immense pressure over. I would love any sort of ideas/suggestions! 




Walking Left to Walking Right – A Thousand Miles Away #5


Exchange Place

I have this bad habit of planning extensively before a holiday begins for what I should be doing in the break. It’s bad because I always end up not doing a few on the list and feeling guilty. This holiday was no different. Thankfully though, I could tick off a few things off my list. Reflecting on the past month:

  1. Roaming the City:

    For someone who rarely goes out to explore, this was indeed refreshing. Of course, it would not have been as adventurous without the cold draining the energy out of you slowly. We went to watch the NY city skyline from Brooklyn, tasted the best cheesecake from the factory itself, watched a house filled ostentatiously with lights and spent New Year’s running around in the cold near Central Park desperate to watch the fireworks.

  1. Random musings:

    As I sat down to read a little in the holidays, I realized immediately how much I missed it. I had written about this on my previous post too. Continuing on the same lines, one day I woke up and just knew that I had to start meditating. This friend of mine with over 10 years of experience was kind enough to sit with me for an hour and explain all about how it changed her life. I did it for a week – and like every good movie that comes to an end, this habit did too. It takes days, or sometimes months, to begin inculcating a skill. However, even as small a trigger as ‘I have to wake up early the next day so let me sleep early’ can completely kill it. Once I read an answer on Quora for this question, ‘What is your human superpower?’. This guy had replied saying he had the ability to change his habits overnight. At that time, I didn’t realize how incredibly lucky he was. Now I do.


  1. A semester in a week:

    I took a one-week intensive course named ‘Lean Launchpad’ that simulates a start-up environment and teaches you (practically) the tools needed for an entrepreneur when he/she is starting out. It was taught by Steve Blank, called by many as ‘The God of Silicon Valley’. The experience was nothing short of eye-opening. Not only because of the amount of learning you obtain in a week, but because I truly understood that age was just a number. On my team were two of my classmates, and two Executive MBA students. One of them had over 45 years of professional experience, and the other had over 10. The story of how we 5 ended up together is a series of dominos that, at the time, fell in the wrong places. Thank god it did. I had the best experience ever working with such a team. The first time I met my two E-MBA members, I was completely intimidated because of their extensive experience, and my lack of thereof. Once the meeting got over, I understood that it didn’t matter. As long as I worked hard, and brought something valuable to the table (or at least tried), they would be happy. Fast forward to the end of the week, I was walking away with a bucket of memories, and so much respect for those two that can’t be put in words. For giving us 3, the 20 year olds, the same amount of respect and admiration that one would give someone having decades of experience. Humility is everything. Having the ability to acknowledge that people much younger than you can surpass expectations is critical.



With Steve Blank

Apart from the team, I learnt a few lessons inside the class. Two most important ones were this –  If you do extraordinary things, you attract extraordinary people.


The importance of the role of an advisor/mentor cannot be overstated. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a few people who I could turn to for advice. And since it’s a cycle, I also want to try to be a good mentor to as many as I can.

  1. Back to the hunt:

    With the semester comes the obligation to begin looking for internships. It’s been well over a dozen rejections so far in my case. And I recently had an interview which ended with them saying that they were looking only for Bachelors students, after knowing very well that I was not. Strangely enough, I feel absolutely no bitterness after all this. A year ago, I would have taken it too seriously, spent a few days moping and would wallow in self-pity. I’m pleasantly surprised at how things have shaped up. For anyone applying right now, or would be applying in the future – you shouldn’t feel bad when you keep getting rejected. However, if you genuinely feel you learnt nothing from that experience, that’s when you should sit and rethink. There’s this famous quote whose meaning I realize now – “We can’t control what happens to us. But, we can control how we react to it”. Keep replaying this in your head, and stay foolishly optimistic!



When you eat 12 fortune cookies

My semester began just a few days back, and already I can see the tasks being thrown from all sides. Your first two weeks go away in simply figuring out your schedule – or as they say ‘shopping for classes’. I would advise people to not go by what the seniors did blindly. Rather, ask them questions. ‘What field are you interested in, and how did the class help you?’, but don’t ask them, ‘Was the class useful?’. Once you enter this program, specifically Management Science and Engineering, it is unavoidable that your classmates would all concentrate on one career niche. You would see consultants, data scientists, data analysts, product managers, and the other a-z titles. You can see the trade-off that happens here – you are balancing having the ability to diversify vs confused and not focused on one niche. Whether you see it as half glass empty or full will decide the fate of your enjoyment level in the program!


Saw this beautiful sign while walking across Macy’s

P.S. Always choose the latter.

Reflecting Backward and Looking Forward – New Year 2018

2017 was a year full of surprises and transformation. It is only fitting that we reflect on all the things that we are thankful for, and wish did not change in 2018.

1. Family: We should all be thankful to our family,  and say it out loud once in a while. I am deeply grateful to my Mom, Dad and Brother for all that they have done. Only when you are in an environment where you experience equality do you realize the opportunities you have been missing so far. It is not easy to send your child thousands of miles away to a strange environment, and not every parent do that.


2. Friends: It’s pleasantly surprising how you can form bonds quickly, especially when you didn’t expect to. Grad school, among a melange of things, taught me that it’s possible to do that. It’s not enough just to find people with whom you click, it’s important that they all are motivated and passionate about something. Surrounding yourself with such people enhances your lifestyle. I am also thankful towards all those from undergrad who made the worst of days bearable. The juniors who constantly provided energy and support. The teachers and professors who anchored my conviction to study further. The people around the world who inspired me so much in ways that can’t be explained.


3. Books: We don’t realize this often, but we owe a lot to the books we read, and the authors who took time to craft them. It’s been long since I sat down to read a novel, and finally I got the chance to do it in the holidays. A few pages made me realize why I miss it and why it’s crucial for everyone to read. It takes you into a world of solidarity where all that you’re aware of are the author’s thoughts and his/her message that registers in your head. One of the best lessons that I learnt this year came from a book. When you’re faced with a problem, think of the worst-case scenario. If the domino fell at all the wrong times in all the odd places, what would be the result? Now learn to accept this result. Have you accepted it? Good. Now that the weight of fear is off your shoulders, come up with ways to mitigate the repercussions.


4. Every single failure: When I applied for Universities in my final year of undergrad, I had a very different dream of where I’d end up for my post-grad. Of course, things did not go my way and I had a period of utter demotivation and ego-stripping. And I’m sure a lot of people would go through the same stint. Quoting a very smart guy who you must know, ‘You cannot connect the dots by looking forward, but when you look backward, they would already be connected to form a beautiful picture.’ There were countless minor failures too. Things that you ruin your mood, wipe off your smile for a few hours and make you wish when the next day would arrive. I don’t wish for happy days, and neither do I wish for sad ones. I wish for mundane days when I get to go through a routine, with a coherent shift of emotions guiding me throughout the day.


2017 was also a wonderful year on a grand scale. This article outlines 99 events that make it a year worth remembering: https://medium.com/future-crunch/99-reasons-2017-was-a-good-year-d119d0c32d19

I want to start 2018 by keeping a checklist of things that I wish I did – first one being either skydiving or scuba diving. I do believe in resolutions but not in the conventional way. I find it impossible to shred yourself off of the old habits and inculcate new ones in a span of 24 hours. My resolution is to change one simple habit every month that would help me in the long run.

As the holidays slowly come to a close, it is time to again kick-start another semester filled with hectic schedules, monumental learning and hopefully lot more memories. Holidays help you not just to take a break and relax. They also show you why you love the high of working productively. Wishing everyone an amazing New Year!


Walking Left to Walking Right – A Thousand Miles Away #4

The Harvard Study of Adult Development has been working for the last 80 years to find out what makes an individual happy, and how to lead a healthy life.


I recently watched a TED Talk by Robert Waldinger on this topic, and it got me really interested. 80 odd years ago, the scientists at Harvard began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores during the Great Depression. Out of those, only 19 still survive and they are all in their mid-90s. This is one of THE longest research happening in the world right now. The topic that they are researching on is so important, that I feel everyone should know the result obtained so far.

Money. Power. Status. Job Role. No, none of these help you lead a happy and healthy life. Good relationships – those are what matter at the end of the day (or, at the end of your life). Those are what help you feel sane when everything around you seems to crumble. This is what the study has discovered. If you are interested, you should definitely watch this TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KkKuTCFvzI

Looking back at the last 30 days, I vividly remember doing the following:

  1. Doing something that you never should – Overthinking.

This is (legit) an underground passage that leads to the Burke Theological library at Columbia.

I kept mulling over my past and future a lot. The concerns revolved about both professional and private life. Am I going behind job roles that I really want or just those I think would help me build my Resume? Did I say something wrong? Should I be the one to apologize first? Am I wasting too much time on things that don’t help me?

It’s good to be inquisitive and ask yourself these questions from time to time. But after a point, I found them extremely self-destructive. If your mind is a living room, start removing the clutters. The things and people that make you feel small. Take a paper and start listing out activities or people that truly make you happy, and focus on that. There’s just NO other solution.

During undergraduation, you know you have four years in your hand to build relationships and find ways to build your hard and soft skills. Graduate school is so short that I’m baffled to realize 1/3rd of my experience is over. There is so much going on all the time, you cannot be an all-rounder. No point of being one. In my opinion, here, the best lesson you can learn is how to streamline your time to only do the things you absolutely care about.

  1. More networking:


If you had read my previous post, you would remember my craze for networking. As December arrives, the number of interviews drop down exponentially and a kind of subtle dormancy begins to settle in. When you see recruiters becoming unresponsive, you subconsciously begin to decrease your effort. I fell into this trap too initially. Thankfully, there was one good day when I went all out and reached out to all of my unresponsive contacts in my excel sheet.

In hindsight, I’m very lucky that I did. Many of the leads that I have now came from there. You might think getting an interview call is the hardest part, until you realize half of the work lies on the other side of it.

  1. Catching up to deadlines:

There was a week where I had to wrap up two projects, complete a major assignment, prepare for one of the most important presentations and still learn to breathe. Looking back, it’s such an exhilarating feeling to be productive (disclaimer: being productive is very subjective though).



I realize now that the number of events that I attended went down significantly compared to the first month. You can only make sacrifices here, you just cannot make time. I remember having a conversation with this alumnus who concisely explained how grad life would be: “You have three pillars – Study, Sleep and Socialize. You can only be a master of two out of three.” The veracity of this statement is uncanny.


  1. A few beautiful memories

Snow. Oh, such beautiful snow.

This could be trivial to most people. But there’s something hauntingly beautiful about watching an aggregation of ice crystals sneakily falling upon everything around you.


Do you wanna build a snowman?

The first day it started snowing, my roommate came rushing down screaming. We spent an hour going to the park and playing with it. I really hope I’m as excited about snow every single year from now.

The four seasons!

Look at the change that a tree undergoes in a span of one month – there’s something sad and unique about that.

Thanksgiving. Christmas. And the holiday period in general.



On the list of things I love about this country, one of the top would be the conducive nature of people, especially around holiday times. Holiday lunches, dinners, stress-relief puppy parties, midnight free pancakes are commonplace events around this time. I vividly remember the night we went to a magnificently decorate church for pancakes and cookies. The environment that I witnessed in that room that day – watching people huddle around tables, laughing, writing sweet messages on Christmas cards – can seldom be replicated again.


In just 8 more days, the University will be declared officially close for the winter. And in 16 more days, another year gone by. If every year was a book, we are in the last few pages. We should make it worth it.

P.S. As always, a few funny (?) snaps.

Walking Left to Walking Right – A Thousand Miles Away #3


Have you ever felt that you were driving down the road, and you knew exactly where the destination was and where to go for the next few kilometres, but after that you have absolutely no clue what lays ahead?

There is a feeling of knowing exactly what you want to do on short-term (next few months) and long-term (7-8 years down the line) but connecting the two bubbles seems impossible. This past month, I felt this way more than a dozen times. Last year this time, it was a battle against choosing Chemical Engineering and X (the X being Management Science and Engineering). This year, the battle still persists, only the players have changed.

In this article, I wanted to talk about few things where most of my time was spent the last month.

  1. Midterms:

My place of solace to study

Fortunately (or unfortunately), my subjects were spread over three weeks. Hence it was three weeks of continuous preparation, practice and patience. In hindsight, I can easily say I studied much more than what I did in undergrad. And I thoroughly enjoyed studying two out of the three subjects (third being Probability, which is NOT in my interest area).

For anyone considering the Management Science course at Columbia, your most challenging and demanding course would be Operations Consulting. You are put in a multi-cultural team and made to work with 3 clients from companies in New York for a year. As you start navigating the problem statements, developing team dynamics and having client meetings, slowly you’ll develop certain habits of a consultant.

What’s interesting about a midterm is the integrity that students uphold while giving the exam. Even when you get the question paper 10 minutes before the exam begins, you should stay true to your ethical values.

  1. Networking. And never stop Networking:


I did not consider this to be top priority my first month. I kept thinking, ‘Let me focus on my academics and honing my skill-set this semester, internship search can wait’. Apparently not. Many companies have a deadline by the end of fall, hence it’s important to stay ahead of the game. Initially I thought of allocating a few hours every week to focus on this – but as the weeks went by the number of hours increased and it became a routine now.

What the hell is Networking though? People keep using this term ubiquitously. In my view, it is to do the following:

1. Constantly finding new people who add value to your previous cache of knowledge – you could find them via LinkedIn, at a professional event or even at a deli.

2. Following up with those who you have established a network with already. In the US, what never fails to surprise me is the benevolence of people when you reach out (hopefully if they see the message/email). As someone who constantly forgets to things on time, I definitely needed an organized way of keeping track. I created an excel sheet 3 months back, adding a few people who I knew in the US. Thankfully, I have been following up so far, constantly updating it every few days and always keeping it open on my laptop, so I get reminded every day. Google’s Keep and RemindMe apps have also been my best friend.

3. Researching on your own about the various roles at a-z companies. When you are trying to get into company X, it is important that you know more about the firm that what the first para in Wikipedia shows you. You need to know if they were in the news recently, what their latest product/projects are and what employees feel about working there.

I remember a day when I had 5 calls with people from all of these amazing companies, and I ended up feeling absolutely overwhelmed. The work does not get over with that call; it begins with it.

  1. Settling in and feeling like home:

When you move to a new city, especially one such as NYC, you might not feel at home right away. But now after spending almost 3 months here, I finally feel like I have begun to adapt.


One of the less-interesting and more-responsible works during your grad studies would be paying bills – phone bill, WiFi bill, electricity and gas bill… so on. It is crazy how many mails you get every week. As you start spending money every day, you start keeping track of all accounts. And as you do that, you become more conscious of how much you spend (at least in my case). This subconsciously helps in shifting from being a student into an independent person working on his/her own.

  1. There’s nobody but yourself who can do it:

I took this picture after a very steep climb while rushing to class, when I finally reached the top.

People outside USA keep hearing all the time, ‘Getting a job in the US is not going to be easy’. I did too, but I never took it seriously. Now having been here for some time, observing the trend and going through the process myself, I can say that it is mind-numbingly exhausting.

Most of the times here, I feel extremely positive about where I am, what I am doing and how much I’m learning. However, there are times when I wish it was a little easier. If someone tells you Graduate School is hard, believe them. It is. There is a funny saying that goes like,

“Getting a job is a job itself”


And while doing this job, you are supposed to manage your academics, social life, part-time job, sleep and anything else that you take upon yourself. But if you stat loving every bit of it, this will be the best experience of your life. Whenever I feel down, I keep going back to the speech given by Steve Jobs. It never fails to inspire, even when I know the lines by heart. Hearing him say it gives it a whole new dimension.

Link to speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHWUCX6osgM

As always, the University tried its best to organize amazing events for us to relieve the much-accumulated stress.


Sakura Park. Fun fact: 2500 cherry blossoms (Japanese meaning of Sakura) were donated by the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York to this park in 1912.

This has been an exhausting and amazing month so far – stronger bonds were made, and the harder side of being independent was experienced. And I hope I have something to write about every single month.

P.S. As always, here are some nice snaps below.





Walking Left to Walking Right – A Thousand Miles Away #2


It is 4 AM right now in NYC (which has apparently become my sleep-time) and I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have the opportunity to be studying in a good school, where I get to learn something new every single day. The past month has been extremely productive – in terms of exploring new areas, forming bonds, networking with people from diverse backgrounds and just understanding how unaware and dumb I am (meeting too many smart people has that effect).

Blog 2

Columbia at 4 AM

The first few weeks after grad school shoots you in the face with assignments, classes, projects and events. Some students buckle under pressure, but most tackle it with grit. Sadly, your neat and tidy to-do list becomes exhaustive and ugly very soon. Here are just a few learnings on my part over the past few weeks:

  1. You need good people around you:

    Within just a month of beginning grad school, I see people buckling under pressure and I feel I am barely holding on. After a long day of studying, thinking, writing assignments and attending classes, when I go home I want to be able to talk to my friends about my day and their day. I want to engage in absolute nonsensical talk because that’s what helps you shake off your daily stress.

I cannot stress this point enough. So, when you enter grad school, or if you’re already in one, make as many friends as you can. Value every single morsel of people in your life.

  1. You study a lot:

    That seems quite obvious, but it’s one of those sayings which is much easier said than done. When I say the above, I don’t just mean sitting down in one place for 3 hours to study. I mean sitting in library morning to night, going into the next morning to learn the new concepts and finish your assignment. The silver lining here is that you would never (hopefully) do it out of obligation – as long as you were wise in choosing your major, you would love doing it.



By now, library has become my first home. One side note: In my undergrad days, I never understood the seriousness of girls not being able to use the facilities outside hostel after 9:00 because of curfew. But here, after going home at 3:00 and 4:00 AM in the morning, and being able to do that, I see how much girls are being deprived of in certain colleges in India.


  1. Learn to adjust – Integrity in Diversity:

    The ability to adjust with people who starkly contrast you and maintain good relationship with them will take you a long way. And that is mainly because it’s one of the hardest soft-skills to accomplish. As much as you want to be amicable, arguments do spring up occasionally.

People here have strong convictions and will not agree with you always. It could be your roommates, project mates, class mates or just a bunch of people you met on a hiking trip. You need to understand that not everyone has the same exposure or values as you do, and try to adjust. Most importantly, the age gap here is huge. My department has people ranging from 21 to 30+ – think about the accumulation of experiences that every student has there. Thriving in such an environment, and learning to forget the age difference, is critical.

  1. Geniuses all around:

    I am constantly amazed at certain people I meet here, and how precocious they are. You feel dumb and question your educational value every day – but it makes you want to be smarter and work harder. I see people who already have start-ups, people who have 7+ years of work experience and people who can complete a task in 30 minutes when it takes you 4 hours.


You just need to understand that the outcome has an equal proportion of talent and effort (probably more of the latter), and try to leverage on one of the two.

  1. The why matters more than the what:

    People value genuineness and personal effort a lot Hence, you should forget the concept of copying or ripping off of someone else’s work. Every single assignment or project is considered sacred. I still remember one of my first assignments in a subject took me 3 days to complete – with at least 3-4 hours invested each day.


But it’s a great feeling knowing that whatever you did, is solely your own (with occasional help from peers).

  1. Professors match your excitement:

    This is very subjective to departments, but overall, I find the quality of teaching almost satisfactory. To be brutally honest, I wish some subjects could be better – but it might be too soon to say. Keeping that aside, one of the best classes I have sat through happened a week back. The class stretched for 5 hours (which is a routine), but I felt more energetic after than before.

The most wonderful moment is to see your professor match your excitement for a subject – or even better, lift up your enthusiasm.


Tried my best to do justice

Almost all the people in my closest friends circle here are those who are extremely motivated and take their courses seriously. Sometimes I realize how lucky I am to have that, because when you have passionate people around you all having solid aims in life, it enhances your level of thinking and determination. And I hope everyone has such a circle in their grad school.


I encountered so many ‘first time’s the past month. The first time I went to a karaoke bar, first time I had the famous Insomnia cookies, first time I made pasta, first time I gave a presentation in front of one of the most intimidating professor, and so on. And I am sure I will encounter many more such.


I still can’t believe this


To those who are already pursuing their Master’s and PhD, I hope you take away as much as possible. To those whose dream is to go to grad school, do not waste the next few months. Spend as much time as possible learning about the zillion programs out there, make a list of universities you really wish to apply to and re-think it over and over. Spending a couple of hours every week to write your SOP and Resume will help you more than you can imagine later on. There is a fine line between getting selected and rejected – don’t let it be a couple of hours of research and hard-work.

P.S. Free advice: Learn to enjoy the most trivial of things.


When you have friends who know you love cookies


Walking Left to Walking Right – A Thousand Miles Away

Sometimes, years pass faster than days. And weeks pass faster than hours. I can describe exactly what I did in the past one hour, but when someone asks me to do the same for the past week, I am at a loss.

It’s been almost a month since I landed in New York City – the Big Apple, the City that never sleeps, the greatest city on earth where dreams come true. And I still miss India. When you leave your native country, you are not just leaving the geographical place, you are leaving behind the people that you have ever encountered there, every single place that you have visited that has your physical and vocal footprint and the sense of familiarity and belongingness. I wanted to shed some light on the major rite of passages that one would go through while entering a new land.


When patriotism enters the kitchen

I want this to be the beginning of a series of articles to follow that describes the glamorous as well as not-so-glamorous parts of living the life of a graduate student.

Disclaimer: My views might be biased towards living in a big city and this particular article might not talk in depth about grad life (as classes began just yesterday).

  1. Socializing: You enter the event, grab a drink (read: non-alcoholic, for me), go stand next to strangers, wait for them to invite you in (which they will), introduce yourself and your department, and hope that the conversation continues for at least a minimum of 5 minutes.

Repeat this all over again.

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I remember having done this more than a dozen times now in at least 5 events that happened, in 2 weeks. For an introvert such as me, this is a very daunting exercise. Being in a room filled with people is a fear in itself, and approaching strangers adds the cherry on top. However, I have noticed this: The beginnings are hard, you never know whom to approach. But if you look at the situation 30 minutes into the beginning, the atmosphere would have changed. Almost everyone would be having a good time – they would have either found their own friends or found people who they could connect with.

Overall, I loved doing it. Even though the conversations are superficial, it teaches you something. Disclaimer: Ending it is always scary.

  1. Diversity: There is only so much I can say here: seeing it cannot be paramount to saying it. When I take a walk down the streets (and there is SO much of walking involved here), I see people at least from 5 different countries within a stretch of one street. After a point, you do get used to it, but the excitement of talking to them never goes away, at least not yet.

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One of my professor is Swedish, the other is Half-Morocco + Half-Greece, and one more is Indian-American. So, when they talk, you can sense the difference in accent and behaviour.

  1. Quality of teaching: I had a taste of the quality of teaching through the orientation classes. We have a Professional Development and Leadership course – simply mind-blowing. When you are in a classroom, you are supposed to feel alive. You are supposed to feel inspired. You should learn new things every minute. And these classes did exactly that. I hope I feel the same once the official courses begin.


P.S. The profs here come for drinks with the students.

  1. Independence and Freedom: Coming from a conservative south-Indian family, and having lived in a city such as Trichy for 4 years, freedom comes with some disclaimers. Roll-calls. Curfew. Restrictions on where you can go, who you can go with. The list goes on.


However, when you’re living thousands of miles away from home, all on your own, the freedom and independence is unparalleled. Often, people misinterpret freedom to mean ‘you-have-no-boundaries’. In my opinion, as you let someone become more independent, they become more responsible and less outrageous. I go for walks at 11 PM here along the riverside. Nothing can beat that feeling, ever.

  1. Schedule gone wrong: I already feel the pressure of time-management starting to burden me. When I landed on August 14th, I had a to-do list neatly written down on a tissue paper (couldn’t find normal paper on plane). And now, that tissue is stuck on my room wall, a memory of how it was when I had things go according to schedule.

The first week was a mess – I made plans every day, but something new sprung up and I had to make sacrifices. Time is a luxury here: You can only make sacrifices, you can’t make time. I feel now it has become better – but it’s only uphill from here.

  1. Learning on the go:
  • You will find restaurants of every cuisine on the world in this city: It is an established fact that if you eat at a new restaurant in New York City every day, you can eat without repetition for the next 65 years.


  • Fitness freaks everywhere: America is considered to be a country rife with obesity (2/3rd of adult population are obese and more than 1/3rd of people aged 20 and older are considered obese). However, at least in New York, I see people taking fitness very seriously.

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  • You meet the most unexpected of people with the most interesting stories at times – it could be in the metro (subway), in a restaurant or at a clothes shop (I met at all three places). People here like to live life to the fullest. They are not bound by cultural norms or superstitious barriers. At least most.



  • Entering a grocery store is like entering a maze – a maze filled with a dozen varieties of the same product. And of course, coming from India, you find everything to be outrageously priced, and do a quick optimization of cost vs calories.

That section was just for yogurt.

  1. Culture shock: Finally, the big one. This is something that every single of you will face, even those who transition from a very open-minded niche in India.


The biggest advantage that you can reap by studying in the US is to learn to mingle with people from other cultures. I still find it very hard, and am learning every day, piece by piece. My most favourite memory so far has been taking a walk with my friends late at night to the Hudson River, sitting on the rocks and listening to the water gently lull against the brightly lit landscape.


Hudson River (not good at night photography)