Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Information and Media; Environmental Science and Policy @Michigan State University

Independent journalist -

Environment, Science, International

Bombay to Bozeman/Missoula - the journey so far.

Two huge bags of approximately 25kg slid painfully away from me on the conveyor belt as I proceeded towards the security check at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. 31 hours later, I was in Bozeman, Montana. Most people don't know what Montana is and where it is. The only way to explain the concept of Montana to someone in India, who is not unbelievably aware of geography, is to say "Yellowstone National Park". There is a typical raising of eyebrows that is followed by a long nod of approval which all starts to become rather boring when this whole process has to be repeated a few hundred times.

I had arrived. I had broken every promise I had ever made to myself about "never going to America". I had gone through the incredibly tedious process of obtaining a student VISA and what's more, I had been granted one. At that point on the 10th of August, 2011, I had a huge loan looming over me like an evil cloud, an extremely upset Labrador at home wondering why I hadn't shown up for over a day, and a surprisingly heavy heart. My phase of introspection had begun the moment I set foot on that Lufthansa flight [which by the way, landed at the world'd most boring airport - Frankfurt].
A couple days into being the promise-breaker, I was finally seeing the silver lining that I had convinced myself, was there. If all of Montana was like Bozeman, I thought, it must be way more beautiful than I think it is. In hindsight, if I hadn't spent those first five days in Bozeman with 'the mister', I would have taken much longer to acclimatize to the situation and would have been a rather unpleasant person to be around during that time.

For the last 22 years I've been used to waking up early on the 15th of August and attending the flag-hoisting ceremony as a part of Independence Day celebrations. This year, we woke up early to shift base to Missoula, Montana. I'll admit now, I felt like a child on a road trip, and looked like one of those dogs that sit in the window of the car with their tongues hanging on one side of their face, enjoying the wind in their "hair". A couple of pit-stops later, we were finally here- in Missoula. I was still getting used to not being in India.
We spent the whole day calling people, checking out houses and freaking out about not finding me a house [the guys were fine. I was beside myself]. I was awe-struck with the campus and the fact that two 'Bobcats' walked around the 'Griz' campus and said it was better than theirs, sealed the deal for me.

Campus was indeed, an amazing expanse to explore and feel good about. Then came the best part. Don Anderson Hall. That's when it hit me, "In two years I'm going to be a journalist. I'm going to be studying here. This place is awesome!"

From day 1 of orientation itself, we've been on-the-go. I'm still trying to figure out whether it was smart to choose the 12 credit pact over the 9 credit pact but either way, I could not be happier about breaking those promises. I'm absolutely loving journalism, especially because it's environment oriented and offers such a giant scope for progress and work.
One absolute relief here is the entirety of the education system. I know most of us back home have heard this time and again but you really never know for sure until you've experienced it. We're a class of 8 people, each from a different , diverse background, with diverse interests, and with an infectious amount of energy. Our faculty is just top-notch. They're like our support pillars. Our therapists. We can bounce anything and everything off them. They're human [and that's what's so comforting] as opposed to 3 years of "faculty" who believed they were god-sent miracles. These people here, are the kind of people you want to respect effortlessly, and you do. They make you work your ass off and you love it.

I feel great being in this absolutely corner of USA that no one has ever heard of or been to because: a) it's a small, cosy place with no traffic jams, no noise, and downright beautiful, (b) because it's 2.5 hrs away from Glacier National Park, 5hrs from Yellowstone, and moreover 3.5hrs from Bozeman[!!!], (c) because this is the kind of course and place where you are required to be working 24x7 if you want to fulfil those bags of dreams piled up in that corner of your mind, (d) I would go mad in any place that didn't keep me so frightfully busy all the time.

Another completely unexpected turn of events [and there were a lot of these "events"] was finding the perfect Fall semester time-table. That means, being able to register for the classes you really want to get into and it is almost as hard to decide on just what to keep and what to chuck, as it is to try and get a hard-core scientist to talk about his research in 500 words. No matter when you arrive at a "course consensus", you are always going to be wondering if you made the right choice, especially when you do miserably on one of the assignments for a class. But two minutes later you realize just why you don't care whether it's a perfect schedule or not. You took that class because you absolutely love its content and you will not let one grade shake your faith [in what, I'm not entirely sure].

Every night though, before you head to bed, your mind reminds you how blessed you feel to be here and to have learned in less than two months, more than what you learned in a whole year before. [After this it reminds you how you have only 3 more days to go till you can sleep for more than four hours before you have to wake up and get back to your assignments again.]

It is almost 2 whole months since I first set foot on US territory and I have to say, I'm glad I did, but irrespective of everything associated with being glad, I intend to remain a non-immigrant so I can head back to where I belong - on the banks of a river, studying crocodiles with the man, or just simply, in a word, home. 

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