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International Voices

My First Day in America

My two-year long struggle: preparing for entrance tests, applying to various American universities, facing rejections, all of this while struggling to keep up with my dwindling start-up finally concluded with the arrival of the acceptance letter from Temple University. Studying in the United States of America was no longer a dream! My journey had finally culminated in a one-way air ticket from Mumbai to Philadelphia; the ticket I had been waiting for so long was finally saved as a PDF on my phone. Things were looking so positive but, what I didn’t know then was that it was just the calm before the storm… and it was one hell of a storm.

All excited for America I boarded my flight on August 15, 2016 and landed in Philly the very next day. Although I made it safe and sound on the American soil, my luggage did not arrive. I paid $5 for a luggage trolley expecting to push my luggage with ease to my cab but, all I could push on it was my cabin bag. I waited near the carousel for hours,  clinging on to that $5 trolley but, with no sign of my beloved check-in luggage. I filed a claim and as compensation all I received was a toothbrush; with that toothbrush in my hand, I looked towards the claim officer with just one question on my face: “what do I wear?” She assured me though that my bags would be delivered in a day or two maximum. With that unpromising  assurance, I went to my apartment tired and hungry. There goes my first day in America. I never thought it would be so excruciating.

That night my roommates and I  went out for dinner and when I tasted the food from the food-truck I almost forgot all about my difficult day. Good food is almost magical, in the way that it wraps around you and takes you to that place, the happy place. Yes, one can say that food gets me high, high enough to forget my sorrows. Food has been a constant motivator for me. When I was low, food used to get me back on track, happy times were enjoyed with food and of course when there was nothing else to do, food kept me occupied. I slept like a baby that first night due to 25 hours of long distance travel.

The very next day my kind room-mates took me on a campus tour and then we went to Walmart because I really needed some essentials to survive till my bags arrived. It was my first ride on the subway and it was an amazing and new experience to travel underground. We have trains in Mumbai but, all are either above the ground or way above the ground. So, yeah, my first claustrophobic train experience: neat!

One full week later finally, my luggage arrived and with that arrived all my things. Although I had missed it a lot, the time I spent in Philadelphia without it was not bad at all. I made new friends, had some great food, went to new places, and had funny experiences. All for all life got back to normal and things started to look even better. Our school, Temple University took us all on a trip to Washington D.C. the following week. It was truly a heartwarming trip with all the monuments and the history; a peek in the past.

Sometimes life throws you into places you never want to be but it’s important to reflect on a challenging experience afterwards and ask yourself what you learned, or how you grew What did I learn? Well, material things do not make a person happy, a positive and open state of mind does. Not having the important materials around me did not stop me from living, I still made a lot of memories.  Being materialistic can distract you from experiencing great things in life. Had I let losing my bags negatively impact my mood, I probably wouldn’t have explored as much in that first week. The first day, the first week in America is something I’d always look back to when I’m stuck in similar situations. Until that time, it’s going to be a great ride.

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