Study Abroad Tales

“What’s Filter Coffee?” And Other Horror Stories 0.1


Everyone around me wanted to be an engineer. I, on the other hand, used to sneak out of physics classes and go to a bookstore. Before you think I was Matilda, the bookstore just happened to be close to Cafe Coffee Day, where the bad kids went. I couldn’t go there. I’d already used up my bad points sneaking out of class. So I spent my time clutching a random book and staring at the chocolate cake on display from across the road. I never crossed the threshold of an engineering college and I’m sure it will hiss at me if I do.

This was my first act of rebellion. I decided not to become an engineer. So the worst was over, right? It was, until I decided to take the GMAT and study abroad. Turns out my problems had just begun.

If you hated math problems about watermelons, just wait till you read these. Trains coming at each other at different speeds, people pulling colourful balls out of bags (and no one appreciates a well-timed “balls” joke anymore), letters and numbers stacked over each other like a children’s book gone horribly wrong—they’ve got them all. And if you thought the verbal section would save you, you’ve got another thing coming.

The verbal section wasn’t just about pointing out bad grammar (my favourite thing to do, and one of the main reasons you won’t see me at many parties). It was also about analyzing arguments – uncovering assumptions, finding ways to strengthen the argument, weakening the opposing argument.

To my horror, I began to enjoy solving these problems. “Underlying assumption” became my favourite phrase. I found underlying assumptions in everything. When I was driving, I wondered why I turned left. “What underlying assumptions are behind this decision?” I asked myself, staring off into space while trying to turn into the main road. I almost had my ears honked off my head, like a cartoon bunny.

Remember: the GMAT is designed to destroy every last ounce of self-esteem. Your answer to the first question will decide how easy the next question is going to be. So if your questions are getting easier, your score is going down faster than the drink in your glass after the exam. (Mine was chocolate milk. Another reason why you won’t see me at too many parties.)

This also means you can feel some pride as the questions become harder and harder. Then again, maybe your mind is playing tricks on you. Are the questions getting harder or are you getting stupider?

I didn’t need all this negativity. I’d read somewhere that the GRE was an easier version of the GMAT, so I decided to give that a try.

Now I watched a fresh set of troubles unfold. Eleven-letter words attacked me in every direction, and I felt like a cyclist on MG Road. I tried to slip these words in my everyday conversations – even in texts. Going by the laconic replies I got, I could tell my friends didn’t acquiesce in my decision.

I walked out of the GRE testing center with a better score and a sense of hope. I imagined about twenty journalists pushing microphones in my face and asking me what wisdom I’d like to pass on to my inferiors. Back then, I wasn’t sure what I’d say. Today, I know I’d tell them what their future would be like.

Kids, after three months of learning words like “obfuscate” and “lachrymose,” Americans will still be amazed at your ability to say “Good morning, I would like some iced coffee” without stammering.




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