Unlike a majority of students, I chose to live on campus. Yeah, I faced the questions that you might be guessing now. "Don’t you think it’s expensive to stay there? What do you do about the food…ohh… you go to the Commons... Yeah...? You must be a rich kid." I mean, seriously, what is this logic? Staying on campus + dining on campus = rich kid? Give me a break. I see people staying off-campus in groups of four or six who have to get in the ordeal of cooking everyday, cleaning, and washing. Then there are problems of who will do the dishes, who will make the food, the timetables are not followed and then there are fights. These were some of the common things that I had heard from my friends who had been to the U.S. earlier, so it was better for me to reside on campus.
In fact, staying on campus has its own perks. You get to meet so many people from so many different countries (I am staying with a gentleman from China). That’s the diversity that I like about this place. Speaking of diversity, a random guess to this question… Students from how many countries stay on the floor...close to 10 countries. That’s right. Ten. It's an interesting mix of various cultures staying on the floor. Although there have been some of them with whom I hardly had any conversation, the ones I speak to are really epic. And by epic, I mean, insanely crazy but really awesome people.
I remember, we were hardly a month old in the university, and I had my birthday coming up. Until that time, I hardly knew anyone on the floor and there was no expectation whatsoever from my end that I would be celebrating my birthday. So here I am, just at the stroke of midnight, I opened the door to head to the washroom and what do I find? The people that I met and talked to were standing in front of the door to wish me. Trust me, I was taken aback. Hardly knowing people for a month, and here they are right at the doorstep to wish me a happy birthday. It was a great gesture by all of them, and I will always be thankful for the whole lot because this was the first time I was celebrating my birthday outside India.
Speaking of India, I had already started receiving calls since the earlier day afternoon because my birthday had already begun back home. So realistically, I celebrated my birthday for close to one and a half days. Coming back to this wonderful bunch of people who visited me, they were not only the people from the floor but some of them came from State Street Village (SSV) as well as Carman Hall. I was really honored by their gesture and yeah… it felt a little sentimental. Back home, you have your friends coming at midnight to cut the cake and spoiling it all by decorating half of it on your face. This time around it was different. A simple bar cake with a couple of muffins from the on-campus 7-Eleven was my birthday cake. But it did not matter since what mattered most was the emotions, the feelings, and the joy associated with it.
To the lot that visited me on my birthday, a big thank you to all. It was because of you guys that the special day became more special. I am looking forward to celebrating more such occasions. Speaking of occasions, we have a big Indian festival that is celebrated during the month of September called Ganesh Chaturthi, where we worship Lord Ganesha. Back home, it is celebrated with great fanfare. But little did we know that the same festival is celebrated here as well. Many of my colleagues' roommates actually bring in the idol of Ganesha and worship it for 10 days. The feel of this great Indian festival here was really very pleasing, soothing, and very satisfying to say the least. Not only did we come to know that there are many people who worship the idol but also there are various places in and around Chicago where the festival is celebrated on a big scale. So, it was time to explore the suburbs of Chicago especially Devon Street.
Photo by Tarang Vaidya (He/him)