Since the moment I obtained of my undergraduate dregree, I knew I wanted to pursue my postgraduate education in America. This dream turned into reality when I received admission to The Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago. My semester commenced in all its glory. It was my first time out of India, and I was immediately taken aback by the beauty and the architecture of this city. I have been to downtown Chicago more than 100 times, yet the skyline never ceases to amaze me. However, as the semester progressed, my amazement soon turned into despair, and the coursework began to take its toll on me. I’m sure many can relate when I say that even though we have friends here, homesickness has a very subtle way of creeping into our everyday lives. Be it in the form of reminiscing about our mom’s food while we struggle to put together a quick snack before class, or dreading our newly found financial bounds. Until finally one day I decided that while Chicago might be my new home, Delhi, India would always be my first love. Within an hour, I booked my tickets.
The following month can only be described as an excruciating test of my patience. I remember I used to cross off days in my calendar until finally the counter hit zero. I couldn’t believe it. I was finally going home after six months! I couldn’t fathom which idea excited me more – seeing my family again, or that there was no need to wash dishes for a whole month. Fast forward 24 hours, and as soon as the stewardess announced “Welcome to India,” I could no longer control my emotions. With teary eyes, I exited the terminal and within a second spotted my mother’s warm face waiting impatiently for my arrival.
December 2022 can be described in two words – too short. Everything went by in a blur, from meeting my relatives to playing with my dog again, to finally getting to sit in the driver’s seat again! I remember thinking how much the city had changed in a mere span of six months – the air quality was better, the traffic seemed more disciplined, and the winters didn’t bother me anymore. Of course, the latter could simply be a by-product of experiencing the shrill winter weather of Chicago.
If someone asks what I missed the most in America, it would be Delhi’s Street food. Naturally, as soon as I settled in, I made a week’s culinary itinerary, and I am proud to state that I crossed off every single cuisine on my list. This year’s New Year celebrations turned into a bittersweet moment, for on the one hand, I was with my loved ones, but I knew my time was limited and the endless cycle of studies, cooking, and doing laundry would start soon.
Toward the end of the first week, my parents dropped me at the airport. There was a singular point, just before we reached the airport, where I wanted to interject and say, “I don’t wanna go back.” But I held back my tears and nodded yes when mom asked if I was excited to return. Frankly, I slept through my entire India to Chicago flight, and when I woke up, I heard the sentence I was hoping I could postpone, “Welcome to the Windy City.”