Let me tell you all a story that wasn’t all hunky dory. The start of my life as an international student was less than perfect for many reasons. I took a year off after my undergrad to gain some work experience in the field of molecular biology so I would get a better idea of what my life as a scientist would look like. My family was in a supreme panic about me getting married on one side and I was in the same panic about all my peers having started their masters so I frantically applied to world ranked institutions everywhere in an attempt to escape both, with a hope that step to study abroad could be the right solution in this situation. I had really upped my procrastination game at this time and I was really pushing the timeline on when to start writing my statement of purpose. It all started one regular hot Chennai morning at a regular family breakfast. I waddled out of my room in my pyjamas to the dining table. There everyone was… my six-member family and their smug faces. I knew something bad was coming my way. I debated whether I should head on to the table of doom or sneak back into my room but the smell of freshly made dosas (Indian staple diet) made me keep going. “So Nishu”, they began, “we were just discussing and we felt… that it’s time to start preparing for marriage.” Dun dundunnnnnnnn. I saw it coming and I fell right for it. I deserve this. An intense “discussion” ensued for the next hour or so, “discussion” being the operative word because it was more of a badgering in my opinion. It was me against the elders.. I was doomed from the start.
If nothing else, this at least got me scared enough to start sending out applications. I sent about 15 applications in the next three hours and sat and waited. One unsuspecting morning, I got in! Into my very first choice too, the University of Queensland (UQ). The quest didn’t end there, unfortunately for me. You see, I received my acceptance letter on the 23rd of December. On the 24th of December, I paid the enrolment fees to secure my seat. On the 25th of December, something of note happened centuries ago that was less than convenient for me today. The UQ office was closed for Christmas break for the next two weeks and I didn’t receive my Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) which I needed for processing my Visa. I developed a nail biting habit at this time, what with racing against my family’s intention to get married and my own intention to somehow finish my education.
FINALLY on the 21st of January, I got what I needed..or did I? UQ is a world class university that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes but when they do make one, it’s on my already overdue CoE. They got my course dates wrong and I couldn’t use it to apply for a visa so I wrote to the university in what was a mixture of anger and anxiety. Being the sun worshipping South Indian I am, I was used to waiting for weeks (or months, god forbid) before I could have my paperwork fixed. Uni was almost starting, I didn’t have a visa or a plane ticket, my family was just around the corner with marriage proposals and I haven’t done my masters. After 30 minutes of pure agony, I received an email from UQ with and apology and MY CORRECTED CoE! 30 minutes flat if you can believe that! So I applied for my Visa and waited. Most people got their Visa within the week but the universe decided I’m made of tougher stuff. The 20th of February is the mandatory student orientation. It was already the 19th of February and my plane tickets had been changed twice. My desperation was only matched by that of my chief minister at the time – Sasikala as she awaited her jail sentence for money laundering. Finally on the 21st of February, it was here! Luckily I had been packed for months and so I booked my tickets for the same night and left my family still recovering from the shock that I actually took off. There are three lessons to learn from this. Don’t wait to file applications till it’s the rim of the holiday. Don’t buy 6 bars of soaps and three bottles of shampoos because they simply will not fit and you don’t need them. Always, always, ALWAYS keep your university informed about problems as they will help you keep it together. Goodnight from Australia!