Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All That Glitters...

[...since you'll never know if what you see is what I see too...]
If the world were my oyster, I'd wash it down with wine. The closest I can get to that at the moment, however, is free pizza and extra-strong lemonade! Welcome to grad school, the world of sleep-starved poverty and overwhelming expectations. Add to that a mirage- an abode of angels in the dreary desert- and we have the beginnings of a plot my friends! One that is shared by a significant fraction of  Hollywood movies.

Sadly, we have to leave the award-winning screenplay aside for now. This article is upon request, and it must adhere to exactly what was requested: "Good stuff about UCLA"! Yes, I need to review my request acceptance policy. No, I will not repeat the university brochure. So, without further ado, here's my best effort at not being sarcastic about this place.

The most amazing thing about being a grad student at UCLA, without doubt, is the salary you earn on graduation. I can go on about this forever, but I can't shake off the mental vision of the one who requested this article shaking his head indignantly at my realism(and the "holier than thou" section of my readers following his lead). So I'll move on to more intellectually acceptable reasons with only a mild reminder that rainbows and butterflies don't pay your bills.

Well  rainbows and butterflies are a good starting point, actually. This place is beautiful. Be it the manicured lawns or the flower-lined walkways, it all looks glorious in the California sun. The nights are enchanting with swaying branches casting magical shadows under the street lamps. Not once have I walked through this campus without marveling at its ability to be beautiful in the most unexpected ways! It refreshes me and fills me with the quiet happiness that human company rarely provides.

Now that those of you with a reasonably strong imagination are smiling, let's move on to fashion! To put it simply, I love checking people out here. People here have their own sense of style and wear exactly what they feel like. For someone who has been exposed to the herd mentality of Indian engineers a few years too long, this is really impressive. The fact that an engineering classroom does not preclude the possibility of wearing a pink lace dress will continue to fascinate me for eternity!

Next on my list is the appreciation for talent! Don't get me wrong, my undergraduate institute was home to some of the best socio-cultural performances I have witnessed. It is the approach that fascinates me. This place is devoid of the cut-throat inter-hall competition that defines extra-academic activities in IIT. People here hone their skills out of love for their art, and get applauded for the joy they bring to those around. Your only aim is to outdo yourself every single time. The sheer beauty of it makes me wonder what inter-halls would be like without the n-th rendition of "Charandas Chor"!

To stay on the topic of self-reference, academics here is tailored exactly the same way. While we abuse the quarter system and lament the lack of research opportunity on a daily basis, it is truly all up to us. We get as much done here as we strive for. We get as much out of this place as we attempt to achieve. Everything from easy A's to world class research is laid out before you. It is a buffet, and you choose exactly what you want on your plate.

There I listed out four awesome things about this place. I am seriously impressed with my achievement. Believe me it is extremely difficult to find such things to write about when you have so much going on! I mean I hardly have breathing space between a roommate who shares my love for the outdoors, another who shares my love for literature and a third who understands my introversion. Add to that a beach, a couple of good museums and just the right pinch of bed-time stories - and we have the beginnings of a plot my friends! One that no Hollywood movie can ever match up to.

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