Monday, August 31, 2009

The Fall Semester is upon us.

Greetings to all! I don't know about the rest of you, but my Summer flew by pretty fast. I made a valiant attempt to take two ART class via the World Campus. Unfortunately, I dropped them because they were not as flexible as the previous ones that I took. Never the less, I kept myself busy by working on the basement and finishing my cigar room. It is not completely trimmed out, however it is operational. I just finished a nice CAO maduro and finished reading two journal articles. Hopefully this newly constructed room will help to make my studies a lot more bearable.
I attended a cigar/dinner event in Allentown and met Rocky Patel who is the man behind my most beloved cigars. Rocky invited me to Honduras to check out his entire cigar operation in October. The only paradigm is it is during the week of the Penn State v. Ohio State game. This is more tormenting considering that I already purchased a pair of tickets for the game. Two of my good buddies are the recipients of those tickets. I am also planning on going to the Syracuse and Iowa games. If you haven't been to a game, I strongly encourage you to go to one. There is nothing like getting up to Happy Valley at 8:00 am and cracking beers for a noon game. Beer and eggs are a winning combination for an excellent tailgating experience.
So, what are my plans for this fall? I am taking six hours of internship at York County Prison. This is especially beneficial to me as I am employed there and I can use my work hours as internship hours. On the other hand, it will be challenging because it is hard to write about something that is such the norm. Well, if there is something that I can do well, it's writing BS. It has carried me this far in academia, it can carry me through another semester. I am also taking an 400 level HD FS course. This one should be interesting as I do not have the prerequisite course and it does not have a book. So far, reading the required journal articles are just as lengthy as a chapter. The benefit is not having to pay for a book that is referenced lightly in the course. Time will tell if I really needed the prerequisite course. Oh well, too late for what if's.
I have also had the pleasure of assisting Dr. Christ with some of her Adult Learner open houses. I believe that Dr. Christ is giving pay back for fixing my admissions and such. I never knew that I would enjoy trying to entice others to be part of our campus. Earlier this Summer, I took it upon myself to set up a meeting with local veterans and Penn State-York administrators to discuss why many of these veterans are eligible for educational benefits, yet few of them are taking advantage of them. This meeting was in hopes of enticing them to enter the class room and taking advantage of benefits that these veterans earned. To date, none have enrolled at Penn State-York although several plan on enrolling for the Spring semester. You can lead a horse to water.....well you know the rest.
I was also inducted into the Alpha Sigma Lambda national honor society. This was a very meaningful achievement for me as I never had above a 2.7 GPA in high school. I think that I had a 2.4 my senior year. The induction was meaningful to me in that all of my sacrifices and effort was noticed. I am not one who needs a gold star to keep me driving towards my goal, however a pat on the back and a kick in the ass is needed from time to time. First week down, many more to go. I hope that everyone has a fantastic Fall semester and maximizes their potential.

For the Glory!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The pre-departure seminar

( Corey, Im really sorry to upset you, I didnt upload the whole thing, but now you know what kind of reaction it generates in reality)

In the last few weeks before departing for the United States of America, generally all Indian students are given a pre-departure orientation. This orientation seminar usually has not changed for decades and even in my short experience with it so far with my cousins and myself coming here to study, I now know what is said and fed to the students at the tip of my tongue. Here are a few quotes from this seminar:

‘You are all representing the great country of India; the reputation of our motherland is at stake’

‘We are culturally superior to the Americans’

‘If you are approached by an American, please follow the following protocol –

1. Throw a dirty look to indicate your displeasure

2. Whisper to your Indian mate that you are going to pretend to be friendly\

3. Settle down and convince yourself that if they say “Whats up?” the correct reply is “ Not much, whats up with you?” ( even though you might prefer to conveniently ignore it)

4. Put on the most fake smile in the world and pretend to be cool.

5. Say something in Hindi in front of them just to make a point that you can curse and get away with it.

6. Go home and then tell you mommy and daddy on Skype how dreadful the experience was and great Indians are.

‘Indian food is always the best in the world, there is no food that comes close and its perfectly acceptable to complain, frown and make puking noises in front of you gracious host who spent 3 hours cooking up the otherwise delicious Amish potato salad and Stromboli.’

' if you ever eat beef.....consider your Indian passport invalid'

‘It is ok to forget to say words like “Thank you” ,”Please” and “ Sorry” because hey, cmon yaar! In India, anything works’

‘Whenever you see another Indian in America, get excited and worked up as if you were Will Smith in “ I AM LEGEND” and you just met another person who wasn’t an infected zombie’

' If you need to do research on the natives, switch on your laptops and open a file called A.M.E.R.I.C.A.N P.I.E. 4 - T.H.E. N.A.K.E.D. M.I.L.E'

‘Good luck on your mission soldiers, the Government of India will reward you greatly* if you survive your stay in the enemy territory. ‘ (* conditions apply)

There are really so many misconceptions that we as international students, besides being Indians, or Pakistanis or Africans or Europeans, carry when we come to a foreign country like the USA which is so open to diversity. As discussed in my earlier posts, I certainly do not think leaving family friends and your natural comfort zone behind for 2 years or more is a small step, and neither should it be ever portrayed as one. But in no ways does that make the international student a superman compared to the American who just drives 2 miles everyday to the campus. It is hard for me to understand that when an Indian comes to Penn State York, a prestigious educational institution and a product of the USA, he/she does not even have the simple common sense to respect and acknowledge the opportunity given by the States to study here. Credit to oneself should be given when it is due, but not always. Whatever happened to’ When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’? Now it’s all about ‘When in Rome, make fun of the Romans and live in a bubble’
Its really painful to see this kind of thing happening being an Indian. I have never understood the concept of one race being superior to another, and I never will and never want to. I can unfortunately testify to have felt this first hand in this past year. Never would I have imagined (especially after that enlightening seminar) that the Indian people would be the ones who would cause me so much hurt and loss of respect for my own fellow countrymen and then for an American to become my pillar of strength and her family to make me one of their own. I have realized that national barriers do not exist if only we accept everyone and look at everyone for what their values are and how they are as people, not because of their color, passport or caste. ..can never forget those moments when the only solace I had was one in the faceless sheet of my pillow as I buried myself in my bed, afraid that I would crack if I so much as looked at my fellow mates, their hostility moving the very air around me. It was in these dark moments when I so wanted to go home, be with my true friends, and in the arms of my mother, that an average American person became my friend, her family became mine, and they carried me through it all.

The Snyders have been the one reason why my mother does not have her blood pressure raised everytime she sees me upset and angry. It is because of them and the support of PSY's incredible faculty and staff that I could survive and put on a happy face when my mom saw me on camera. During the whole of last year, and there have been members of the faculty who can attest to it, I went to them in desperation because I couldnt find one friendly face on campus. I lived in denial, even refusing to face my problems in my personal life simply because that support from back home was essential to my sanity here. But even then sometimes it wasnt enough. Even though I am an Indian, it hasnt been hard to feel what an American student would feel when a foreigner comes to the States and then makes fun of him/her in his/her own country because I was made to feel like that myself, by my own fellow Indians.

And still the madness continues. After a summer back home, it was really a deep desire to see things fall back in place. The new apartment, new semester, new roommates and the Snyders have really helped me rejuvenate myself. But again I guess me being so close to an American girl doesnt really qualify me for any gallantry awards back home, does it? At least thats the vibe given here by my Indians.
Remember the pre-departure seminar I talked to you about? Its not all just nonsense and arrogance. It does happen, those values and teachings are drilled into everyone who comes here. And proof of that was delivered just 3 days ago. Well, I already knew that because of my own experience, but now so does the average American.
It was a sick moment when 2 Indians made fun of and harrassed the one person whom I am indebted to for changing my life and making me feel loved and wanted here. Just because she was wearing an Indian dress which I got for her and shes a typical fair blonde.. thats why these 2 people chose to corner her and really make her cry.....

Its not fair to me, and most certainly not to my friend, because she has the right to be at this university; the right to be in her home more than any one of us internationals. These guys wouldnt like it if you or me went to their houses and started taunting them over their habits and race and culture.. so why in the world would an Indian come to the United States and then make fun of an American? Because they eat beef? because they have a different taste in clothes and food? Because they arent 'reaally cultured'? How can anyone make that judgement? Corey's response to my half post earlier is the reaction of my friend too, when such an attitude was thrown at her in reality, and so is my reaction as well. I hate the way that we, as Indians or any other internationals can even think that we are so much more smarter and deserving than the Americans just because of something trivial. Heck, most of the people at Penn State York have been the best people Iv met ever. I cannot imagine a better father figure ( apart from my dad) than Dr. Rodney, our chancellor. It all trickles down from him to everyone else. Does this love for Penn State York thus make me a lesser Indian? A traitor? a rebel? in my view heck no! I am just a person who cannot see someone for their nationality or race or caste or color. True, I take time in making friends, but then if our wavelengths match, then its friends for life. Amongst the very closest people in my life is an American girl and her family where I go to church with them, enjoy their food, have fun with their dogs, and just feel at home. Is that reason enough for other Indians to therefore target my American friend just because she proudly wore the Indian clothing I got for her? Arent Indians wearing western outfits? Maybe someone should pick on them about that... I wonder how cool these people would have felt right now if the people at PSY hadnt shown them the support to adjust in the first place.

At some point, there will be a meltdown, and noone can take this treatment for long. Penn State gave us this opportunity to come and study here guys, dont shoot yourself in the foot...belittling everyone else is really belittling yourself.

The Senior Year begins

Hello all,
It feels very refreshing to be back here at York after a brilliantly refreshing summer back home in India. This will be my 2nd and senior year here at Penn State and I cannot imagine that I only have a year left here. Its taken time to settle down, and quite a few hardships to endure along with it, but its been worth it. Towards the end of the year, I met one of those people who change your life forever, and become one of those select gems that you just know are going to be with you forever. I was desperate at this time to go back home to my mother and my closest friends, who formed the group i just mentioned above, but definitely I needed a physical presence here whom I could count on, and all those bad times in the last year have been worth meeting this person.

And so I have begun a new life....a new apartment, new roommates, new location, REAL friends on campus, a new job at the Lion's Den and yes, NO ACCOUNTING 211 AND THEREFORE NO MATH!! YESS!

On another note when I went to India it was a great experience to help out my juniors in my program and thus contribute to bringing them up here to PSY and seeing them here.
We have 9 Indians who came through my twinning program this year and I hope we all will help them feel at home.
Shantanu G Rajadhyaksha

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Valley

Hello everyone,
(I forgot to post anything over the summer, shhhh)
It was a fun summer, I worked at Kohl's as usual and was constantly at Paul's house. Then there was the whole excitement over the USS Shiloh (Paul was one of the MIDN on board).
Of course then I had to focus on getting ready for my State College Apartment (if you haven't figured it out already I've transferred to University Park for my last two years)
Today is the third day of classes, we moved into the apartment on Friday so we've slowly become acclimated. Sunday we figured out all of the bus routes and how to get to our classes so that we were all prepared by Monday. My first class today was canceled due to the professor's migraine.
I have two Graduate student for profs this year and four regular professors. My PLSC 014 class has an enrollment of 300 students!!! Luckily the other classes are more normal in size, 20-30 students each.
I'll post pictures of the apartment once we get around to taking them but now I'm off to finish cooking dinner (fried veggies, grilled chicken, and lemon garlic pasta, yummy!)