Saturday, August 16, 2008
Here comes my first post from the United States of America. I'm here for my Master's in Computer Engineering at the University of Florida. I reached Gainesville, FL on August 5 making a journey of around 30 hours from New Delhi; with stop overs at New York and Charlotte, NC.
University of Florida, the "Gator Nation" is a huge university, 4th largest in the US having approx. 50,000 students. Its situated at Gainesville (pronounced, gain-s-will), a small town in Florida with a very small population, majorly consisting of university students. A beautiful and clean city, Gainesville has a plush green cover all around. The city has its own bus service - RTS, which is free for all UF students.
I guess that was enough advertisement stuff and I should move on to my experiences out here in the last 10 days. So, here am I to set up an all new life 1000s of miles away from home. I moved into a new apartment at Tuscan Bend with two other housemates. Its a 3BHK apartment fully carpeted, centrally air-conditioned with basic kitchen equipment. The apartment complex has a good gym and a swimming pool. Its connected to the university by the RTS bus service.
Our first few days went into buying some basic necessities. A large shopping complex, Butler Plaza is at walking distance from our apartment. It has stores of most of the large retail chains - Walmart, BestBuy, Publix, OfficeDepot, Lowe's and a plethora of eating joints. We buy our groceries from Publix and for most of the other stuff we go to Walmart, where we have been paying almost a daily visit, most of them being after midnight till dawn. There is so much variety for everything in stores out here. I remember how difficult it was to select a simple tubelight from Lowe's. There were more than 10 types of tubelights. It was so confusing to select one that we needed the help of a sales assistant who seemed to have a Ph.D in lights. He told us that tubeX is good for general reading, tubeY for working on computer, tubeZ if you wan't to read magazines and so on. It was such a pain deciding which one to take. Also, there's an Indian store nearby where we can get many common Indian stuff like spices, pickles, pulses, sweets etc.
Out here, I had to start doing things I had seldom or never done before. I lost my cooking virginity. Surviving on sandwiches and burgers was not possible, so had to start cooking. I never knew cutting onions wasn't that difficult ;). Apart from cooking, I have attempted doing almost all the daily household chores. From washing the dishes to cleaning the floor, I have tried them all. Living here is definitely not an easy thing to do.
Now something about the life outside the apartment. Here in Gainesville, we need to walk a lot. The only mode of public transport is the RTS bus service, which as any other bus service has limited connectivity. The buses are good and air-conditioned with friendly drivers. The university campus is very-very large. Though RTS provides service within the university, still to get around most places we need to walk, walk and walk. As pedestrians we have the first right of way, ie. cars would stop for us to cross the streets at crossings. All roads have bicycle and padestrian paths on the sides. At buzy traffic intersections, we have to press a button to get a signal to walk. Its very well-organized, calm and peaceful city.
P.S.: There's a lot more to come out here. I would continue writing posts about my experiences at UFL. Its on the special request of my friends in India, who asked me to do so once I reach here.