Almost every day, there was that one moment where I braced myself for at least five minutes, wanting to say “Hi” to her.
But I didn’t.
I was too scared, perhaps. Maybe because of my perceived shortcomings: I'm not the quintessential popular frat boy who is six feet ((1.8 meters)) tall with massive biceps. I couldn't hold a conversation for very long. With my thick Indian accent, I found myself repeating everything, instead of actually making some sense.
Even an introduction was tiring.
My Indian name “Parth” turned out as “Bart” to American ears. It took at least three determined attempts to get the name right.
“Why am I not in India?” I sometimes thought to myself. Life would have been much easier without the added effort to have to adjust to American culture, customs and way of life.
I can’t lie. I wasn’t really homesick. I had already spent six years at a boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas far away from my parents. By the time my freshman year came around, I was used to living away from home.
Yes, I craved authentic Indian food at times, but I learned to suppress the cravings or eat out at an Indian restaurant. It's almost the same thing.
But things changed, and honestly, at this point, I couldn't be happier.
Happiness is a choice, surely. It doesn't come automatically. One has to try really hard.
The phrase “no shield” is a good approach to avoid homesickness. ((My friends will laugh at this. Because I keep on giving them the same “gyan,” or knowledge, as they say.)) It means to just let go. Without inhibition.
What’s the worst a “Hi” can do? They'll look at you, and frown or giggle or not talk to you?
So say that “Hi.” Meet people. Open up to them. And, make friends.
Next, step into many things in your first semester. No joke.
I’m not telling you to sleep for only four hours a day powered by three cups of coffee, but be curious. Try out different things to actually learn where your passion lies. And, even if you know, it's always great to build new interests.
The two biggest pillars of my life, journalism and theater, have sprung from that mantra.
Never in my wildest dreams in high school could I have imagined I would be writing for Voice of America, let alone pursuing a career in journalism. Or fathomed myself weeping on the floor at the death of my father, in Henry VI, Part 2, during a monologue in a theater class about Shakespeare.
I even took a baking class one semester because it was fun! Doing what I really like has kept me very happy.
And, finally, embrace.
Embrace yourself. Embrace others. Embrace situations.
In college, there are many moments to lament. But don’t. Find the silver lining even in the worst of problems. And be different; enjoy your uniqueness.
My time in the United States is echoed by the words of American poet Maya Angelou, and I have been happy.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
After bracing myself, I finally said that one “Hi.” We ended up dating for a year. Beautiful. And, we're still great friends.
Parth Vohra is a junior at the University of California-Berkeley.
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