Study Abroad Tales

“What’s Filter Coffee?” And Other Horror Stories 0.2

Getting on that plane

I’d finally put the GMAT and GRE and essays behind me. I was finally holding an acceptance letter. Life would be a breeze from here.

And then a wave of paperwork hit me in the face. At first, I felt incredibly grownup. I could say things like “I can’t meet you today, there’s a lot of paperwork to finish up” on a real phone while a real person cursed me out on the other end. People actually needed my signature on something. They weren’t just letting me sign because I asked.

Soon enough, the novelty wore off and I found myself wanting to play with four-year-olds again (even though I wasn’t allowed to after I yelled at them for not understanding the intricacies of Uno). These forms asked so many questions. What college was I planning to go to? What school did I go to? How old was I? Was I a convicted felon running from the law? If you think one of these is unlike the others, you and I are on the same page. My age is no one’s business. 

Once I’d finished pouring out my life to faceless strangers (yes, like Ginny Weasley), it was time for the next step. As my good friends at LMFAO so eloquently put it, “shots, shots, shots, shots, shots!” I had two sets of vaccinations to take – one as an incoming student and another as an incoming germy foreigner. I tried not to take it personally as I watched doctor after doctor stick needles into my arm.

If you’re about to move abroad, people will keep asking if you’re excited. Remember, it’s a yes or no question. I always needed at least twenty minutes to answer, and with time people didn’t seem to want to talk about my feelings anymore. So I’ll talk about them here.

It was a surreal experience, and it taught me how important my family is. We made a great packing team. My sister made sure the luggage stuck to the weight limit, my mother made sure my favourite snacks were packed and ready, my father put everything into the suitcase, and I popped bubble wrap.  

To me, these packing sessions were a time of bonding. I felt guilty for spending too much time with my friends and these stolen moments with my family were just what I needed to relax. But they thought of packing as “the most important thing” that required “concentration and planning.” My role slowly evolved from “wrap this carefully” to “here, go play with this in the corner.”

Before I knew it, my bags were packed, my documents were ready, and my head was spinning from all the advice. My family adopted a “just kidding” tone that barely masked the threat—don’t marry a foreigner (foreigners are evil), remember your roots, eat home-cooked Indian food every day. My friends openly displayed their aggressiveness—dating an Indian is a waste of an opportunity and eating home-cooked Indian food makes you a wuss. 

“The best way to deal with all this stress is to write about it. Keep a journal and write down whatever you’re feeling. Be blunt. Who knows, that could be your biography someday!” My cousin told me. 

This is not the first time I thought of writing a diary. I was very inspired by Mary Kate and Ashley when I was a teenager, and decided to do the “Dear Diary” thing myself. Back then, the dream was to turn my diaries into books so that I could become the Indian Mary Kate and Ashley. All I needed was an identical twin and TV fame. Before I got rid of them, I read my diary. It had three entries.       

“I don’t want to talk to her EVER AGAIN!!!!”

“I don’t have a crush on anyone!!!”

“What is a cease and desist?

At the end of the day, writing in a diary was the best advice I’d taken. Strangers always thought I was a serious writer. With my diary, big suitcases and travel pillow, I now painted the perfect picture of eccentric tourist and not crybaby in the airport.  

And that, more than anything else, made me ready to get on that plane.  



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