Thursday, February 19, 2009

Journey Across the Seas

Hello everyone, I am back! I've had an excellent weekend. We went to St. John’s Island (A hangout spot in Singapore). It was a fun filled trip with exhausting activities. I don't want to pen here how my weekend went. That, I think I should reserve for a different occasion. Some time when I have the time to muse over my past, I'll definitely tell you guys all about this trip later. Now, I would like to pen down my first journey to Singapore. This whole idea of telling you guys about my first journey across the seas is to let you know what it takes to come here and how I felt when I landed in 'videsh' (Singapore).
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
This was once said by Don Williams, Jr., an American novelist and poet. After great twists and turns in getting admissions (will explain in detail what they were in my coming posts), I had my NUS admission letter/package in hand. What this new road of life was going to teach me? Where am I going to end up? Does the end matter? With all these questions I started my journey to Singapore.
Since I am from Tanjore, I wanted to board a flight from Trichy (an upcoming metropolitan city in the middle of Tamil Nadu with an international airport). But unfortunately there were no direct flights to Singapore (SIN) from Trichy (TRY) during that time (luckily after few months we have got one budget carrier flying at cheaper rates which takes only only 4 hrs from SIN to TRY). Hence, I was forced to take the route via Chennai (MAS). So my travel agent planned a trip from TRY to SIN via MAS with. Firstly, I didn’t want to wait or change flights at Chennai and secondly, I wanted to fly on the night of Jan 1st ( I thought I would spend the new year at home along with my parents and friends). But…he booked a ticket for Jan 1st 00.15 hrs from TRY (which was New Year's eve) and I would also have to get off and wait for 2 hours in Chennai before I could catch my next plane to Singapore. I wondered if this was the right beginning.
After all these goof ups, I half-heartedly began my journey on the 31st of Dec 2006. The journey from TRY to MAS was on a local flight. It was smooth and nothing eventful happened. Whereas after a 3 hour wait at Chennai airport, I found out that my onward carrier had been delayed by 2 hours. I started to question myself…Is this the right day to travel??? And finally at 6 AM, “INDIAN AIRLINES” opened their check-in counter and I was the first one to run and get my boarding pass done. Soon after that I went into immigration and gave my passport and IPA letter (A letter from Singapore immigration department which serves as a visa). Another surprise was in store for me. The immigration officer asked for my visa. I told him that it was inside my passport. He said this is an IPA letter but you officially need a visa to enter Singapore. And finally it took more than 15 min for me to convince him and his superiors to allow me out of India. The reason for this confusion stems from the single line on my IPA letter, which stated that I would be given a students' pass on successful completion of my medical test upon arrival in Singapore. So their question was what if I fail my medical test? I was like...first allow me to take the test then we can discuss whether I pass or fail.
After boarding the plane it took me sometime to get in sync with the surrounding environment. Luckily the carrier was a brand new airbus 320. So I was quite relieved. After a few instructions from the beautiful air-hostess regarding in-flight safety and emergency landing, the captain announced the takeoff. I felt quite nervous as the plane gained momentum on the tarmac. After all this was my first experience.
And 'whoosh', the plane set out with a sudden screech of the wheels. We could feel the instruments (TV panels) in the plane wobble under the tremendous power that was building up and then for a brief instant I felt all the organs inside my body, suspended in air as the plane left the tarmac. The ascent felt as if I was riding a roller coaster. After a brief while, I saw the plane take a U-turn or half a U turn in mid air and I lost all sense of direction as the plane continued its ascent.
My feelings of sorrow at leaving my country and dear ones was one thing and on the other hand, thoughts of how my future was going to be in 'videsh'. Soon dizziness crept in and I fell asleep because I had gotten really tired of waiting at the Anna International Airport, Chennai. The air-hostess promptly served food and it was then I realized that we were flying above Andaman & Nicobar Islands (but I couldn't see anything from my flight window). After a nominal meal I soon dozed off again. And I'm feeling really sleepy now too, so more about my in-flight experience in my next post.

My Tyrst With Destiny

You see things and you ask, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were, and I ask, "Why not?"
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) ' Back to Methuselah' (1921), part 1, Act 1.
With these words in mind I dared to dream of being an engineer and now… I am. Hello everyone, I am Thanneer Malai Perumal, an ardent soul from the temple city (Tanjore) of Tamil Nadu, India. I don’t want to write anything about myself because I believe my life is on 'quick change' mode so anything I write today will be obsolete soon. So I'll spare you and myself the trouble. Rather, I'm going to write about my past, present and future.

On the dawn of 4th April 2006, I had secured my engineering degree and was trying to figure out what to do next. I wasn't jobless, more like clueless. I had a few offers but was totally confused as to what to choose. Hence, I ended up changing 3 jobs in a span of 7 months, ranging from software to research. You can imagine how bemused I was. I was a wanderer then…searching for more challenges and opportunities and therefore a new place. My experience in Industry and Academic made me realize that higher education is indispensable.
Why does one need higher education? What made me make this choice? I tried to find reasons/justifications for my choice. I ended up with the following answers,
As expected, my prime concern was,

1) Higher salaries.
2) Pursuing a passion, gaining in-depth knowledge and skills.
3) A concern for career growth, increased promotion possibilities.
4) Increase in Job opportunity.
5) Changing careers.

And also more time to prepare for life after work (If you're not sure soon after your under-graduation, life after graduation really gives u more time to think and mold yourself for better prospectives)

So, what next? I had to choose my course, university and place of study. Believe it or not guys…this is really a tough decision to make. Because… you're responsible for your own decisions which will change your life. After some homework and research for a month or two, I narrowed down my choices. Like most of my other friends I too decided to apply in the United States. Why you ask? I didn’t really have any reason, but I was in no way different from others, holding the same list of brands such as MIT, Stanford, Rice etc. I was affected by the US craze too.
Some of the familiar words during my undergrad days are GATE, GRE, CAT, GMAT, etc…Each and everyone of my friends wants to give one or the other. In fact one ended up giving all the exams. But what did I give? The answer is…None. Hence, it’s my turn now…to try my hand at some of these cut throat thrillers. Somehow I managed to score decently in these exams.
As I said earlier my life is really on ‘quick change’ mode, things change overnight. It was during my SOP (statement of purpose) preparation I got to know that one of my seniors was doing his masters in Singapore. This encounter with him made me realize how biased I was during my homework/search.

With his suggestions and my ‘research’, I also decided to apply to the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore. Anyway, I finally had two choices. And NUS turned out to be my final choice. What made me take this decision? (1) Change in my field of study: I was mostly involved in environmental research but I wanted to shift to process/controls. Studying at NUS really gave me time and a choice of courses to take up whereas in the US I only had the option of environmental research. (2) Faster Degree with same recognition: A Doctoral degree at NUS is 4 years when compared to its counterparts in other countries. More specifically this is a direct doctorate for undergraduates without masters (with the same quality) which significantly saves time. (3) Good Financial aid: Lucrative financial aids that are equivalent to industrial pay packages and (4) Most importantly, Singapore is close to home.

Am I right by making this choice? Try to look for the answers in my coming posts. Right now I am packing my stuff. I'm going on a vacation…Considering this is my first post I am opening this blog with a note of anticipation and hope this will be an informative blog for you so you can get a very good review of essentials of living and education in Singapore.

Keep reading and don’t forget to have fun. See u soon…until then bye.