Friday, August 03, 2007

What's up, Part-II

Part-II (in continuation to Part-I)
No matter how much I write about this whole ordeal of applying and accepting admissions to US universities, I won't be able to cover every damn thing! Nonetheless, I'm not discouraged from attempting it! So, firstly, why wasn't I shraing this... simply because things were very very tentative back then. And besides that, I wasn't very sure if I'll get offers from univs I had applied to. I didn't want to spread the word unnecessarily. I've been through this kind of experience once already. Plus, with too many resignation rumours going around in Nevis, I didn't want to take a chance. I was all dejected as I kept getting rejects... all rejects to start with, then 1 waiting list, and only 1 offer. I was all gloomy and aloof, confused wheter to accept it or not. I wasn't enjoying work at office either.

Then, on one auspicious, Thursday I guess, I got an email, with that title that had been racing my beats for past 4 months: 'Admission Decision'! Every night, at odd hours, I used to get up and check if I've got any replies from univs. I was just too desperate for a break, to study, to move out of Nevis and do something better with my life. And BINGO! I got the admit to CMU-INI! It was THEN that I decided I'm definitely going for masters. But yet had a LONG way to go: Transfer of Tech at office, pulling finances together, applying for visa, visa documentation, getting visa, etc. By no means, any of these were megre and easy tasks! It's real PITA to go through all these. But, in the end, I believe it's worth the time and effort spent. And I can write on and on non-stop on each of these and still not cover everything.

After the visa preparation ordeal was over, came the much anticipated day of visa interview. I drove from Pune early in the morning at about 0511 hrs, reached VFS lounge (US visa consulate's facility) at 0745 hrs. I was scheduled for interview at 0901 hrs. After waiting for 2 good hours, I was usherd in @#$@ed up unventilated swampy room. With no fans facing me. After sweating like a pig for 1 more hour, we were taken to another room, the so-called AC room, which was no better then the previous one, only that it's situation in basement made it even more choking. Then came call for people scheduled for interview for 0901 hrs. I got a chance only in 3rd lot. The bus drove us to the consulate, where I had to wait for another 45 mins or so. Then, after harrowing checkup, I finally got a token! Thank GOD! I could at least see Visa Officers now. I'm nearing my goal, I thought! I was called within 15 minutes, and my interview was over in 31 seconds flat! Only questions I was asked were:
1. Why are you goin to US
Ans: Duh!!! You are holding my I-20, can I go for anything other than studies?
2. Which course?
blah blah...
3. How are you managing finances?
another blah blah....
4. Why is your sponsoror intrested in sponsoring you?
more blah blah....

All the time he was doing something on his PC. Then he said, so sounded like: 'Congratulations! And wish you great career ahead. You are granted the visa'! WHAT? I couldn't hear him :( But the smile on his face, and the fact that he kept my passport with him gave me a clue that I've got the visa! Yupie!!! I thanked my VO from the bottom of my heart, not once, but twice, and left the room! The fact that my interview was over in 31 seconds was not sinking in yet.

Apparently, a buddy of mine was standing in the queue JUST next to mine! And I didn't even notice her :( She did notice me, though. But probably she was VERY NERVOUS with not in a mood to socialize in such an unsocial enviroment of visa interview. Only when she told me I came to know she too was there for her visa interview. I was done by 1245 hrs and I wanted to take passport the same day, which meant I'll have to spend 4-5 hours lingering around. Then me, mom and daddy decided to go to Charni Road Chaupati, our favourite place from the time we grew up in Mumbai. Had lunch there, a stroll on the beach in the with scorching sun, took a long drive around Marine Drive, and then back into the queue! I was thrilled to get the visa.

Then came the tickets booking. The agent refused to take check, and I didn't carry cash of that order to buy the tickets. My agent is in Mumbai itself. After endless calls, and failed attempt to manage that much dough, we managed to convince him that we'll send him demand draft the VERY NEXT DAY (I wasn't carrying any ATM cards either)! Thank GOD, he agreed. I couriered the DD, and to my horror, even after 3 days it didn't reach him. I was panic striken :( As much I was worried about having to shell extra bucks for tickets, I was worried about NOT getting the tickets of my travel date at all. After 100s of calls to DTDC, talking to, God know how many dumba$$ a$$h__e regional managers, managers, deputies of DTDC courier in Pune and Mumbai, all the information we got was: 'Your courier is on it's way for delivery'! !@#$ you! I know that, I can see that online myself. They all kept playing blame game, since 10 in morning to 2 in the noon. It was then that I got a call from my agent that he's got my DD! Phew! I was soooo relieved! I've sworn that I WOULD NEVER use DTDC now! And would advice you the same!

With tickets issued, there's another, what I would call, BIGGEST, of tasks: Money, Finance, $$$s! Showing ability to pay for princely fees at CMU and actually paying it are completely different! While I sit here at Heathrow Airport, I don't have a DD for my fees, I'll get it later, once I reach Pittsburgh, hopefully IN TIME to avoid any problems.

I really envy people who have got their admits in very early, done with their visas within a month, followed by their finances in place, already a step ahead in registeration process, and shopping done, tickets booked! And all set to move, 3 months well in advance!!! All I can say is, some people are just darn lucky.

As to journey, flew with Jet Airways from Mumbai to London (Heathrow), and in United from London to Washington and Washington to Pittsburgh. The flight from Mumbai to London was smooth, except that at London you are allowed only '1' hand baggage, and I was carrying 2! Somehow I managed to sneak in with 2! Thank GOD! Otherwise they would have asked me to check-in the extra piece of baggage. With 3 pieces already checked-in, the fourth would have costed me a BOMB! Flight operators are notorious for charging princely amounts for extra baggages. But I was lucky to not get into that trouble.

At Pittsburgh, a buddy of mine was promptly waiting to receive me at the airport! On the way long journey back
in bus to this apartment, where I'll spend few days before I get my apartment, he pointed me to every important place I might have to visit during few initial days. He was more than helpful in making me feel at home! Just today he gave me a guided tour of the CMUniverse!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's up?

So... why sudden online disappearance!!! If not all, then most of you are wondering so!
No updates on blog, you don't find me online on yahoo messenger, GTalk...
Sluggish email responses....
Well, don't worry, I wasn't abducted by sone aliens! Neither was I underground to save my a$$ from some bombings and kick-a$$ terrorist attacks!

So what's the deal???
Well, I've quit Nevis, about 3 weeks back now, and for a good cause... I'm going for my Masters to States! Yes, you heard it right, MS to Carnegie Mellon University. In fact part of this post is edited at the London Heathrow Airport, while I wait for my connecting flight to Washington.

Past 6-7 months have been full of frenzied activities: application plus office work. None even slightly considerate of human limits. I have spent sleepless nights over shortlisting universities, going through list of professors, understanding the courses, their requirements, preparing Statement of Purpose (SoP), getting transcripts form college and university (this is no small feat), readying resume, consolidating finances, and preparing package for each of the univs, with it's own unique requirements! And then the online applications! Phew! It was one hell of an experience!
And for good part of 3 months or so, this was the state of my room (my bro's room actually, which I capture/sabotaged for that duration!).

To quote you one hellish experience... due to my field of specialization, I had very limited choice of universities. For 2 univs I decided (GOD knows for what !@#$ing reason) to apply ON the last !@$#ing day!!! And guess what... the website started rejecting my credit card payment! Hell! I was scared to death, my face white as chalk and hands freezing cold, on the verge of shivering, and beads of sweat glistening on my forehead (the next day they told me there was a glitch at their end while they were upgrading my card). After too many failed attempts, I started calling buddies at unearthly hours for their credit cards. None of them had it :( I'M DEAD! Just then it occured to me to call Arun (aka Anna) who's out there in USC. Fortunately, I caught him just before he left for the office. And being there just for 3-4 months, he had managed to secure a credit card with enough credit left! Thank GOD! He paid the online fees and my registeration was complete! (Sad part is that I didn't get offer from any of these 2). But that 1 hr spent on application was the LONGEST!

But why didn't I share this openly... this post has gotten too long so I'll post it next time.
Keep reading....