As soon as my feet had left the ground to take flight for Penn State York, I knew that I was leaving a lot of things behind me -my home, my people, my city, and most importantly, my heart. Twenty years was a long time and though life in Mumbai, India, was not even close to perfect, it was beautiful. A solitary tear rolled down the dry skin of my cheek as the lights of the cabin dimmed to hide my sorrow in its embrace. The only saving grace probably was my wonderful set of friends who were taking the same journey with me. However, I was sure that none of them would understand me. I had always been the sensitive one. I looked out of the window to my right. It was dark outside. I could still see the clouds though; thick and intimidating. They were full of uncertainty. The craft wobbled as it met them but always emerged out on the other side, piercing them with a touch of grace and finality, leaving them behind only to meet a new herd of clouds. But they too would fail to stop us and ultimately, we were high up above them, cruising comfortably leaving our obstacles far behind. I remember telling myself to learn from the wisdom of the airplane.
“Absorb its qualities like a sponge. See how proudly it flies! See how tirelessly it fights! So shall you on this testing path that you have set out on. Never look back for if you do that, you can never march ahead.”
On my first day in York, I realized that there was something about the place that I really liked. I could not put a finger on one thing but I realized that away from the deafening noises of the huge metropolitan city of Mumbai, York was a perfect foil for me. This sleepy town allowed me to get in touch with myself. Its beauty, its simplicity, its freshness and the smell of the dewy morning grass calmed down my senses. Being so close to nature was definitely a welcome change for me. York was so quiet and peaceful. It encouraged thought, expression and certainly gave me a sense of mental freedom. I could not wait for my classes to begin.
As students who had just flew in from a foreign country, we had no furniture in our apartments. I remember that Dr. Somya Dwivedi, instructor in biology and international students ‘adviser, was there to receive us on the very first day. She was really nice and helpful and even got us cookies! She, with Monica Grigera, now retired, and Dr. Sharon Christ, director of Enrollment Management and Strategic Recruitment and Retention Initiatives went out of their way to help us with the furniture and other utilities. All of us will be eternally thankful to these three women for being the sources of illumination when the lights in the room went off.
I still remember sitting in my first ever class at Penn State York. It was macroeconomics which was one of the subjects that had fascinated me for a long time. In the first few minutes I realized that the way things were taught here were a lot different from the way they were taught in Mumbai. For starters, here, though the professors are extremely knowledgeable, most of them are down to earth and entertain all kinds of questions from students. They do not damage the confidence of the students. This according to me is very important because I believe that confidence is a key element in any learning process because it opens up your mind and allows you to retain more information. Another important thing was the well rounded education that was offered here. I think the General Education courses were amazing knowledge building experiences for me which really developed me as a human being and from an intellectual standpoint because it opens up a lot of interesting, new perspectives.
Soon, I learned that at Penn State York, I could rekindle my love affair with soccer. Without a second thought, I registered for the team and was soon on the team roster. The Penn State York soccer team was such an amazing experience. I fell in love with my team and the game all over again. I made a lot of good friends in the team. I travelled with them throughout Pennsylvania and represented Penn State York against other Penn State campuses. I did that in my next year as well and in the end, I won an All Academic award from the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA).
In the spring semester of my junior year, I realized that I could pursue two majors at the same time. I decided to pounce on this opportunity because my only aim behind flying halfway round the world was to gain knowledge. I expressed this wish to my wonderful adviser, professor Emily Wenk, instructor in information sciences and technology, and promptly, I was registered for a double major. This recklessly crazy move would have been impossible without Dr. Orsay Kucukemiroglu, professor of business administration, who helped me plan my entire business major even though he was not my official adviser. This was not very easy because it meant that I had to put in twice as much effort as before if I had to graduate with my other friends who had left India with me a year back. I had to take an extra summer semester and I loaded it with 26 credits which was surprisingly, fun. I use the word fun because it literally killed me but at the same time, it taught me that I was capable of a lot of great things if I was willing to put in the hard work.
I remember waking up at seven in the morning to get to the campus library to study and staying there till nine at night. After the night classes, I had to walk home because I did not have a car then. Every night on my way back, my body felt as if it was broken. My mind felt battered. But that pain made me smile. It made me aware of my existence and my struggle to achieve something beyond the ordinary. Sometimes, I used to get lucky as Dr. Ali Kara, professor of business administration, would drive by in his Toyota and offer me a ride home. I owe a lot of my success to him. Every time he dropped me home, he saved a lot of my energy which spurred me on to put a brave smile on my face the next day and face the same ordeals all over again. In the end, I persevered. My semester grade-point average (GPA) was 3.91 and I was pretty happy about it.
I think the summer semester was really important because it taught me to work hard. Professor Kucukemiroglu once asked me, “Do you want to be ordinary or extra ordinary? If you want to be extra ordinary, do not do the easy things. I believe that you are not destined for easy things.” He smiled mischievously. He instilled the belief in me that hard work was extremely important. I drowned myself into more and more work and it made me really happy. I thrived under pressure. For many years, I had known that I had many hobbies, but just one passion. That passion was writing.
I absolutely loved to write. But I never had the confidence to write something on a large scale. But I think professor Kucukemiroglu was instrumental in opening my mind to the possibility. Soon, without me trying hard for it, inspiration knocked at my door. It was the inspiration which every artist recognizes; waits for. As soon as it came to me, I decided to let it guide me. The result was a plot for a seven book series the first of which I have already completed and it is in the process of being published. Writing is what I do best and that is what I am going to do for my life. I think if it was not for Penn State York, I would have never realized it. Everything happens for a good reason.
Today, when I have the luxury of hindsight, I can happily say that I could not have worked harder. I have given it my best shot. I came here from India, and with the help of these amazing people that I have mentioned above and more that I have not, I persevered. I am graduating in May 2012 with a bachelor of science in Information Sciences and Technology, a bachelor of science in Business, an Academic All-American award in soccer from the USCAA, and a book published in my own name. I did all these things and still somehow managed to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.8.
I have to say that I enjoyed my journey so much that I was not even worried about the destination. Now that the destination is just round the corner, I am sad. My romance with Penn State York is about to end and that makes me not want to complete this journey. Now I prepare for the real world. The honeymoon is over now and the harsh married life is about to begin. Tick Tick Tick.
-Mihir Lalit Jadhav