Friday, December 08, 2006

End of Chapter One

It's the last week of my first semester studying in the US. I am visiting my cousin in Connecticut for the vacation. The semester was fun, I am not sure how much I learned about Human Computer Interaction Design, but living in another country is an education by itself and I think I've grown, working with people and making friends here. Not to forget that I've also taught. Once, teaching Linux commands, I got to the finger command, when the exerise was to use the command to find information about their neighbor. Unwittingly, I said "finger your neighbour", only to realise its other connotation when I heard giggles. Being a foreign Teaching assistant can lead to many of these situations, like somebody replying "It sucked" when asked about a previous assignment, and I having little clue how to respond to it.
Thanks to the teaching experience, and the numerous presentations in my own classes, I 've improved, so it seems, at speaking in public. On the first day, during orientation, we were asked about our greatest fears, and I said speaking in public. The professors are rather observant, and I had a couple of them tell me later I wasn't bad, friends have also told me that I've been improving. Needless to say, I like all the attention, and that's why I like this place the most, the people are nice and friendly. Surprisingly, I haven't felt very homesick, thanks to the people I've worked with and the Indian junta when I return home here. The timely hellos from friends back home in India, and weekly calls home ensured I felt good. It's interesting how I've improved at public speaking over the years. At school at an elocution competition: "Books are the ships on the ocean of life ... Books are the ships on the ocean of life ... Umm..", taking a sheet of paper out, "Books are a great source of knowledge", closing the sheet to realise I wasn't any good from the second line either, "Thank you". I then progressed, to finishing a speech without breaking off mid way, closing my eyes or looking away to ensure I wasn't intimidated by the crowd, the former working well at a competition for reciting Sanskrit slokas. I then progressed to the "superfast express", where I have my eyes open and looking at the crowd, but the speed of my voice expressed my desire to get out soon. Now, I am able to notice my speed and correct it to ensure I speak clearly. At school, my jitters would begin a week in advance. At IIIT, it would be a day in advance of the presentation, and here the jitters would begin just at the start of the presentation, my heart would begin to pound faster, but I would finish it making sure I made my point.
The projects were fun working as I was in great teams. The frequent parties organised by people from the class, once a Winter white party, where everybody's dressed in white, and eats and drinks only white things, once a christmas party, once a get-together at a friend's place or once a potluck party, ensured that the people in class knew each other well. Though, there still were some confusions about who was who, when one day everybody was asking me how I was doing and offering me candy, apparently I had fainted the day before. It was somebody else in class, but somebody thought my name was his, and everybody was talking about me. Oh well, Indian names can be confusing I guess. I am called Bala here. I have a feeling shorter calling names ensure better socialization. At IIIT, I would be adamant about being called Balakrishna, but haven't felt very close with people until they called me Balak or something similiar.
I was also involved as a photojournalist for the student newspaper, I got 7 photos published, averaging one a week, as I had planned to do. It was fun, and I'll be doing it again next semester. It was a quick semester, and it was fun. Hopefully, next semester would be even more fun.