(An XLer on Xchange Series by Madhumita – Read previous posts here)
November began with Barrack Obama winning the presidential elections and the terrors of Hurricane Sandy still fresh in the minds of Americans. Luckily for me, Sandy did not really hit Charlottesville. It just caused temperatures to drop and cloudy skies to prevail. However, we did have a long weekend with Darden declaring official holidays on Monday and Tuesday. We were told to be prepared for power-cuts and so I went to the nearest 7-Eleven (department store) and got myself some candles and tinned soup, just to be safe. My parents, though, were terrified thanks to all the media coverage given to Sandy in India and I had a tougher time with convincing them that “All is well” than I did with the Hurricane! And then came the election voting countdown and seeing that on TV was a really different experience, what with the emotional drama that unfolds before your eyes and then President Barack Obama giving that fantastic and unforgettable victory speech.
Just as we were settling into a pattern in the chilly November weather, came the Diwali celebrations at Darden (Darden has around 50 Indian students who come together to organize Diwali in the college). There was yummy Indian food as well as beautiful performances and Darden lit up like a bride on that evening. It was a pleasure seeing how the rest of the college got into the celebrations and had a blast. Close on the heels of the same came the Bollywood Night party where I got to dance on Bollywood songs and even taught a couple of international students who were my friends some desi dance moves!
Parallel to the same my classes were going on strong and I had selected some very interesting subjects, foremost among which was a course on Post Merger Integration. I loved the insights that I received from that class and it reinforced my love for Strategy. A captivating project that I was doing during this time was on Product Innovation based on Consumer Segmentation and I got to go to different organic food stores and actually gain customer insights in the USA! I loved that experience as much as I loved working in a team with two very talented and brilliant girls who were from different parts of the world than me.
November is also the time when America celebrates Thanksgiving and it was no different in Charlottesville. Darden organized an official thanksgiving dinner for all its International students and gave me my first taste of turkey with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie! This is also the time when the college gives a week off to all its students to celebrate this beautiful festival with their families. Since I did not have close family in the US, I decided to do the next best thing - go and visit my college friend and Avaya colleague (where we both had worked for 2 years) Akshat Asawa at Raleigh, North Carolina where he was completing his MS from North Carolina State University. He and his friends welcomed me to their house and showed me around town. On the next day, the two of us rented a Dodge Avenger (a sexy red one!) and went on a road trip to Myrtle beach in South Carolina.
That was an awesome experience especially because of the sheer beauty all around us as we drove across state borders and into the South Carolina countryside. Myrtle Beach, in itself, was a ethereal vision. Smooth white sand and deep blue sea with picturesque houses, stores and boardwalks made me instantly fall in love with the place. We roamed around the different beaches, did a little fishing on the Pier and went to Broadway at the beach where there was plenty to see and do. We tasted Mexican food, found ourselves an Indian restaurant out there and went to the famous Johnny Rocket diner to have hamburgers! At Johnny Rocket you could request for songs for 5 cents and all the waiters there would dance (in their pristine white clothes) to the same to delight you! That road trip will always remain etched in my memory as one of my favourite experiences in USA.
Back at Darden, December was upon us and the Christmas season was about to begin and since I was part of their music club Cold Call Chorus, we did a special holiday performance in the Piano room of the popular Christmas Carols. Also, this was the time for 'SALE's and shopping and I indulged myself with some really pretty clothes and shoes (after all, have you ever heard of a girl who doesn't shop?) It was also my time to bid adieu to this wonderful place and I started wrapping up the world that I had created for myself over last three months.
All us exchange students were given a memorable farewell lunch by our Associate Director from the Office of Student Affairs where we given silver cups (called Jefferson cup) with Darden engraved on it, as mementos. I was also taken on a farewell dinner by some of the most wonderful friends I had made there. My last day in Charlottesville dawned and I looked at my packed bags knowing that it was now time for the show to end. A Japanese student at Darden, Shun had been very kind to offer to drive me to the Dulles Airport in Washington and I went on one last road trip from Charlottesville to DC. That is the last memory that I will have of this wonderful place - the kindness and love of the people there who offered me so much and were such a big part of my life’s greatest adventure!
I am a Bengali whose home is in Anand, Gujarat. I did my engineering from NIT Surat and then worked for two years in the R&D wind of Avaya Telecommunication in Pune. I am currently pursuing my MBA in HR from XLRI. I did my summer internship in TAS and am currently on exchange to Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, USA. My hobbies are reading fiction, cooking and public speaking. I am a classically trained singer and have a senior diploma in painting.
(An XLer on Xchange Series by Madhumita – Read other posts here)
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