My First Night in the USA

Yashwant Prakash Vyas, an international student from India shares the experience of his first night in the United States and the very important lesson he learned.

International Student Voice Magazine prints two issues each year, one in the fall and one in the spring. In addition to articles featured on our website, the printed issues allow us to take a more in-depth look at the experiences international students and study abroad students have. We also feature our scholarship winners, immigration updates, and much more.

My First Night in the USA is a special feature in the fall 2015 issue of International Student Voice Magazine written by Yashwant Prakash Vyas from Texas A&M University. Usually this article would only be available to those who subscribed to International Student Voice Magazine, but we made this a complimentary feature on our website so we can share with our entire community.

International students learn many lessons inside and outside the classroom while studying in the United States. But very few expect to learn such an important lesson right away during their first night in the country.

In the article below, Yashwant having just arrived in the United States learned an important lesson he shares with our readers.

A special treat with this article is that Yashwant reads a few lines from his article in the video below. Please take a moment to watch.

As a complimentary feature, we shared Yashwant’s entire article from the fall 2015 issue below. To read more articles like his you can subscribe to the printed edition of International Student Voice Magazine.

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My First Night in the USA 

By: Yashwant Prakash Vyas, India

Texas A&M University

I have a story to share, an Aggie story.

My first night in the United States was full of adventures and so is my journey after that night. But before I start, here is a little background you need to know.

During my first year of Bachelor of Technology degree back in India, I realized that engaging with people on an international platform and exposure to other cultures would give me an opportunity to enhance my long term career prospects and the experience would also give me additional self-confidence, independence, and cross cultural skills. So I decided to transfer internationally to finish my undergraduate degree. I researched universities and colleges around the world and finally choose to come to the United States of America. I ranked Texas A&M University among the top five universities for Electrical Engineering in the US. I received other offers, and had everything in order to go to IIT Chicago – including my visa, airline tickets and $300 non-refundable deposit. I was about to depart when at the last minute I got my acceptance letter from Texas A&M University. I was accepted! However, I had to retake my TOEFL exam because TAMU requires a score of 100, so I was just three points short. I did this, then I petitioned the U.S. Embassy in Hyderabad to change my visa from IIT to TAMU – they were bewildered why I would make a change like this when couple weeks before I made my case for IIT Chicago. I explained to them why coming to Texas A&M University was so important to me. I not only had to repeat the entire process but I also had to cancel my initial tickets. And now that I was finally ready to embark on my journey there were hardly any plane rides available and barely any time to reach out to current students at Texas A&M University for any arrival help. But this was least of my concern as all that I was worried about was not to miss the last new student conference of the fall semester. So I worked with whatever options I had and started my journey.

So, after a 15 hour train ride, five airports later (approximately some 35 hours), jet-lagged and a whole new world away, I reached the Easterwood airport in College station the night before my new student conference. Also, this was my first time travelling on a plane. Early that day there was a shooting near college campus killing a student. While waiting for my connecting flight at Dallas airport I thought, what a warm welcome. I arrived in College Station already scared and in addition to that, an hour later after midnight, the airport authorities informed me that the airport was closing and I had to leave. I was shocked as I never heard of an airport closing before in my life and I had nowhere to go since I could not check in at my temporary accommodation since the office didn’t open until 7 a.m. However, I took a taxi from the airport and decided to wait in the waiting area outside the leasing office.

After waiting for an hour, a guy approached me and started questioning.

“Are you an international student? Did you just arrive? Do you need a place to spend rest of the night?”

At the end of his little investigation he asked me to wait there for him while he comes back with his friends to help me. Although I agreed to wait for him, I was scared half to death thinking that him and his friends were planning to rob or kidnap me. A couple minutes after he left, I dragged my two, 64-inch bags, a carry-on bag, and a laptop bag two blocks away from the leasing office. I have no idea where I got the energy to do so. Next, I requested a pedestrian to call a taxi for me. I loaded my luggage into the taxi the minute he came and asked him to take me to the campus. While he was driving, I realized that there was an African American lady smoking cigar in his front seat and the driver was Mexican American. Provided that all I knew about America was from the media and Hollywood movies, I was scared to death thinking that I was better off on street than in the taxi. In the span of that short minute, I thought of all possible bad things that could take place. Although scared, I requested the driver if I could borrow his phone to call the international student services emergency line. He kindly allowed me to use his phone, however, I was told that the emergency number was to be used only if I was bleeding or getting deported. I had no idea where to go from there. However, the kind lady suggested the driver to drop me at a hotel close to the campus. I felt very stupid after she made the suggestion thinking why I did not think of that option myself. Maybe I was too tired to think. The night ended and with the sun rising, I started my journey as an Aggie at Texas A&M University.

I am sharing this story with you because I learned a valuable lesson that night. There are so many stereotypes in our community. It is foolish to even consider these stereotypes. Life is too short to believe in something that the society has made up instead of experiencing first-hand the truth. If not for these kind people, I do not know what I would have done that night. This incident strengthened my belief that no matter what people are kind and good at heart. Who knows, the guy I first met had pure intentions of helping me and I regret I will never know. That night I learned never to be afraid to ask for help.

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