One step at a time, take baby steps this is what I recited to myself every single day, ever since I heard about my selection for the yearlong fellowship at ATLASCOPRS for what seemed like a long wait for me. The news came to me only 4 days after one of the biggest days of my LIFE, my wedding (as most of you already know by now). One would say what more could a girl ask? My response to that would be permission to go from the new family. It seemed to me one hurdle is over, and a new one is knocking at my door. I was excited and at the same time truly confused on whether I should even try and discuss it with my new family (with thousand questions running through my mind- Do I really need to go now? Should I go now? What would my in-laws think? Would my husband allow me- to this one I knew the answer, of course he would). You see marriages in India are not between to individual but two families. I guess one would say I am one of those lucky one’s who has the best of both worlds. Not only did they not have any problem with me coming to here, they also encourage me to aim for the sky, never settle for anything less.
My most important concern was not the visa or stuff related to the travel plans, but instead like a good Indian Bride it was how would my husband manage without me? I know it sounds ridiculous especially when he has been independent and living alone for past 7-8 years. On the last day instead of packing (I know I was waiting till the last moment, maybe hoping that he would come with me). So in short I was trying to stock up the refrigerator with all the newly acquired skill of mine (cooking) and cleaning the house for the last time, while my husband was busy screaming at me to go pack my bags (and dumping all I would need into still completely empty suitcases).
On arrival to Washington, after the never ending customs line I came out to find that Nicole my point of contact was not there (well actually she was there, but both of us were looking for each other in wrong directions) then the panicking kicks in, until I find her.
Soon enough after being safely put into the cab I arrived at Hostelling International. My room 617 was a 6 bunk bed room. There were 3 other girls already in the room that welcomed me. The journey from there on has been smooth enough, never once have I felt that we were all strangers, meeting each other for the first time in a new country. Everyone has been accommodating and understanding.
Only in a couple of weeks, we the fellows (with some difficult names that I still cannot pronounce properly) and the Atlas Team are like a big family united by their thoughts. I am comforted by the thought that we all share similar passions and thought process. One does not feel like an alien or an outsider as you did sometimes back home when everyone thought you were different or weird because of things you did and the decisions you made. I have learnt a lot from other fellows, about their work, their ideas and their plans for future and their countries (actually a lot about their countries). We are all different yet so much alike. I am sure I can rely on most the fellows in my class if I need help. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this fellowship and have met some truly amazing and inspiring people across the globe with something in common as me. I am looking forward to many more adventures that this year promises to offer to me.