Thursday, April 30, 2009

Graduation, and crossroads

Almost two years later, and I am 2 days away from graduation. These two years have probably been the most amazing of my life. I have changed a lot in many ways (weight being one) and have re-affirmed my ideas and beliefs in certain other things.

When I came here to the US in Fall 07, I knew only 3 other people well enough in the city. The fourth, was my future roommate, whom I had spoken to and met before in India. And the fifth was introduced by a common friend. Though, none of them is one my best friends. And I thought making good friends was difficult. Getting to know people and travelling within Florida is probably what I'll remember most about these two years. I had a TA in my first semester, which made me a reckless spender. And impulsive rent-car-to-go-to-some-random-place guy.

I probably have a keen sense of easy courses. All four of my semesters here have been light on course load. Only two courses were challenging enough. I found one of them simple, due a fortunate coincidence of having had a similar kind of professor in high school and because I have been kind of a nerd :P. The other was a subject I detest and do not understand (or the other way round - i do not understand and hence detest). Unfortunately, the professor who taught it at UF wasn't the best and I couldn't master this subject :(.

Working at Einstein Bagels has been another fun journey. I started working there because I had lost my funding. My hope always was that I would not need to work the "next" semester because I would get funding. Hasn't happened yet. Fall 08 was a terrible time though. My schedule clashed with my training for the Gate River Run with Gators for ASHA, and I worked really less. And my finances went for a toss. Work was also not fun then. But now, after almost 13 months here, its fun. I'm one of the guys who knows stuff :P.

The most interesting thing of this past year has been the Gate River Run. Its a 15km run in Jacksonville, and some volunteers of the Gators for ASHA group at UF run in it to raise awareness about their organization. I decided to run with them, and raise money, primarily for my fitness. I couldn't run more than 500m before and aiming for 15 km was something daunting. I wanted to aim for something high and achieve it. So starting October, Tuesdays and Thursday evenings were booked for the 3 mile runs. In order to do the long runs on Saturdays, I reduced my shifts at Einstein's. Tough decision, but I had decided my priorities. For some reason, I got also involved with the HSC and their staging of the Ramayana. It was supposed to be a musical, and I had initially volunteered to be the first-sage-that-gets-killed. But things happened, I got more involved and ended up being the Sound-tech guy. It was 3 nights of cobbled up songs from various movies and the internets that played during the show. :D It also got me some of the best friends I have in Gainesville- old friends got closer, and new great friends.

By January, I was broke, finished with research, had no courses to take for the last semester, finished with my Phd applications, had seen another TSF Gator Nights show (I had been watching most of the Gator nights' ones since probably November 07). In that particular show, they said that a new academy was being started and that anyone could join for free. :D This was my last sem, I had nothing to lose and had loads of free time. Tada!
I can never loosen up easily, especially when its a bunch of non-Indians. I get tongue-tied, hide in my shell, and so I did not get up to perform in the games for a long time. Probably for a 3-4 weeks. Also, my practice runs on Thursday gave me reasons to not go to the thursday jams. But one day, it finally hit me, that I wasn't making use of a good opportunity. So I first started going to the thursday jams after my run. I used to be there only for an hour, but a smaller group helped me start off. I remember my first performance was for 12 Hours of Improv and I was cast into Radio - a game I do not like because - I'm an introvert, I can't sing and I don't follow music much. But I guess people found this combination funny.

I haven't been involved with everything that TSF does, but it has come to influence my decisions. I'm about to graduate with my Master's degree and I plan to do Phd. A year ago, I wanted to get out of UF and go to a "better" school. Now I'm only waiting to hear from UPenn and INRIA. I basically rejected an offer from Stony Brook. The project and money was decent, but I dont think it matched the independence, comfort levels and general atmosphere that I have available here at UF. The chance for another Gate River Run, more TSF and Florida itself have biased me. :D

Though, if I do hear from INRIA, I will probably want to move to France. But I know I'll miss a tonne of stuff about UF.

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