Four years ago, when I received the opportunity to temporarily work in the United States, I wasn't thrilled. The thought of being over 8000 miles away from my home of India made me emotional. It meant I could no longer take the next flight home if I was ever upset, unwell, or in need of delicious homemade food. My family, though, was overjoyed with the news. They told me that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that I should go for it. Their opinion made no sense to me at the time. But, over these last four years, I have understood and experienced the significance of what they meant. I am so thankful I heeded the advice of my loving and encouraging family. Without my family's hard work, sacrifice, and love, I would not have had the opportunity to come to the U.S.. And I am ever so grateful to many people I have met along the way who have given me the finest and most pleasant experiences this country has to offer. I am humbled as I share some of these experiences which have been indelibly etched in my heart.
- Friendly and approachable people - When I first landed in New York, I had to clear immigration. Blame it on too much movie watching or my wild imaginations, but I expected the immigration officer to be a serious, stern officer whose job was to find paperwork flaws and send the visitor back to their home country. Small wonder I was praying fervently when the officer called my name. To my surprise, he had the most welcoming smile and a cheerful expression. He enquired whether I was an engineer as he went through my papers. I smiled and said yes. I wondered if he was a psychic He mentioned he deduced it from the manner in which I completed the custom declaration form, where I had clearly broke down the cost of each article. He welcomed me to the U.S. and wished me luck for my stay and my job. For this experience, I thanked all the angels and saints especially for helping me meet a kind and jovial immigration officer.
- A systematic approach to everything - For a newcomer navigating my way from one destination was an easy experience. Thanks to the well laid out road network and the uniform standard adopted for naming roads, it was ever so easy to find my way to the downtown office from Hennepin and 8th. If I was ever lost, all I needed to do was ask someone. I was always greeted with a warm smile and a friendly tone when I had to do just that. The warmth of the people made a world of a difference to me. I never ever felt like a stranger in my new country. Running a Google search, I could easily know when the bus would arrive at my stop. I learned to keep time. One minute late and I would be running behind a bus until the next stop. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was walking on the, roads especially while crossing a signal. I was surprised to know that I did not have to dodge to avoid passing vehicles. Pedestrians had the right of way. Phew! This meant I could reach my office in peace knowing that I never needed to run for dear life.
- A chance to fulfil every desire – One of my lifelong desires was to learn western music. It wasn't easy fulfilling this while in India. So I was ecstatic when I went for my first music class near the University of Minnesota. A chance to watch Cirque Du Soleil perform in Vegas, being humbled by Niagara's beauty, shopping from dusk to dawn on Black Fridays, watching the first ever snowfall of my life, ease of access to the amazing four-story Hennepin library, I now know why they call America the “land of dreams”.
- Work-life balance - During my first few days at work in the US, I didn't know what to do with my five or six hours of free time after work. I was inspired by my Aunty taking calligraphy lessons every Thursday after work. I would notice many of my friends heading to the gym immediately after reaching home. I slowly began to make use of my free time reading (something I rarely did in India), learning to cook (another rare occurrence for me), watching famous TV shows and visiting the many lovely lakes Minneapolis is blessed with.
One year my sister wanted to visit me so we could spend time traveling to a handful of major cities in the U.S. We needed two weeks leave to achieve this. I never took such a long vacation prior to this. I spent a few days rehearsing my conversation with my boss. Instead of asking me to apply a "discount" on the number of vacation days, tears welled up in my eyes when my boss happily exclaimed, "Yes!!! Sure! Go for it. Go create the memories you can cherish forever!".
These are just a few of the many wonderful moments and experiences I have had a chance to realize during my stay here. Every single day I am most grateful to the Almighty for providing this opportunity to live in the United States of America, the land of dreams and opportunities.