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With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.
To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we've asked students who are already studying abroad to share their experiences.
Today, we share the story of Ajay Pal Agarwal, who studied at Canterbury University in the UK in 2002. He has a Bachelor's of Engineering in Telecommunications and Electronics and an MBA in Engineering Management.
It turns out, we weren't so fortunate as we first thought. We soon found that Rimpy Aunty was a 'super-cop'. She asked us to go to our rooms early and didn't allow shouting or dancing after 11:00 pm, even on Friday and Saturday nights!
The first few weeks left us all heartbroken and irritable. We missed home, had little money in our hands and constantly worried about the next month's food and rent. Our meager savings were taken by the evil landlady as an advance, and the rest was spent stocking our home with food and other basic necessities.
Every day, the four of us prepared lunch and dinner. Ranganathan was a good chef, though his south Indian food was quite chilly and spicy. Unfortunately, Ranganathan didn't like north Indian cuisine, so he usually prepared the meals. Also, none of the north Indians in the house could cook.
For example, on my first attempt, I managed to start a fire while frying onions in oil. I saw flames climb towards the ceiling while the fire alarm rang throughout the house. We all ran to outside to save ourselves, but luckily the fire died out in just a minute or two. We were worried that the cops would come and investigate, but nothing happened.
Living in a country where all the street lamps are equipped with cameras and the police are always on patrol, I expected an immediate response. This part of life in the UK is very different from India -- the cops are adequately funded.
At night, we discussed our financial problems and wondered how to find part-time jobs. Initially, we stayed in two separate rooms -- Surinder and I shared one room while Ranganathan and Micky shared the other. Eventually, we all brought our bedding down to the floor and stayed in one room.
These were the best times, even in the midst of pressure and tension. The four of us, lying on the floor, discussing issues for hours and hours. We used to review all the happenings of the day, laughing and enjoying our time together. But our chat sessions at night were always interrupted by Rimpy Aunty, who reminded us of our mutual tenancy agreement and told us to be silent.
At night, Rangathan told south Indian jokes and Micky and Surinder told Punjabi jokes. The funniest thing was that Ranganthan learned a bit of Punjabi, and took relish in certain Punjabi jokes.
I will never forget those nine months living with Rimpy Aunty and my three friends. We lived together, cooked together and had countless fights, make-ups, parties and birthday celebrations. Everything was full of twists and turns. Everything taught me a little more about myself.
Finally one morning when I woke up, I found my three roommates packing and departing from the house. It seemed like a dream, as I packed and looked around at the now empty house. Within two hours, we were dragging our stuff and heading for temporary accommodation.
All the while, we went to classes and earned good marks. The first few months, everything was so strange in the classroom, but I soon found my place. I made an agreement with myself that I would always work hard at my studies, even if I missed home or felt lonely. Even if I was low on money and worried about finding new accommodation, I would always do my assignments. This was a good decision and I found myself with solid marks throughout my experience in the UK.
With time, all of us found our way in the UK. We added good contacts, saved money and repaid some of our tuition fees. As I became more comfortable, I had money to pay for living expenses plus extra pocket cash. Also, we were experienced veterans, so we helped the new Indian 'freshers'. I did my best to carry on the Indian students' tradition of helping and welcoming guests. We even allowed them to stay with us and gave them good food in their time of need.
One lesson I have learned from this experience is that Indians, irrespective of caste, colour, religion and belief, can unite and live together in any part of the world. We are our own best friends in times of crisis and uncertainty. We can tackle any problem together; all we need is a little cooperation and honest effort from all sides. All we need is someone to initiate this spark and the rest follows naturally.
I have been in the UK for four years and seven months. During this time, I went from pampered to self-sufficient. During this time, I worked the lowest jobs while being a qualified professional. I possessed a Bachelor's degree in electronics and was working towards my MBA in engineering management, but still worked the most menial jobs.
The worst was working for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I picked up litter and cleaned tables in front of customers (including MBA classmates from other countries). Also, I worked as postman, carrying heavy bags from 4:00 am until 9:00 am. Then, I had to actually run to my classes, which lasted until 5:00 pm. At the end of each day, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I cannot dream of doing these things ever again in my life.
But the great thing is that I have returned to my proud roots and beaten my poverty. Now, my friends and I work in management in the UK's biggest company. Our co-workers respect us as clever tech guys and intelligent minds. We have raised respect for our home country through our hard work and knowledge.
I am now working on major plans to create a large company back in India. My experiences in the UK have taught me that nothing is impossible in this world.
Part I: 'We slept in a public park on benches'
~ Are you a student who is studying/ has studied abroad? What advice would you have for other students who may soon be pursuing studies in a foreign country? What are your experience as an international student? What were the things you wished you knew before you left home? Write to us at email@example.com and we will feature your experiences right here.
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