During my undergraduate studies in Singapore, I was invited for Princeton University’s annual Business Conference and it was hosted in New York City. So, an eighteen-year old-me boarded the flight from Singapore and arrived at the JFK Airport in New York, NY on November 22, 2012. While the airport was generally clean and organized, the wait time at the immigration counter made me realize that in certain dimensions, USA was more similar to India than Singapore.
However, after around an hour of wait, I was out of the airport and as soon as I stepped outside, the first thing I noticed was the air. Apart from being chilly, which was a sharp contrast to Singapore’s yearlong tropical weather, it felt very fresh and crisp. That air was a beautiful reminder I have flown halfway around the globe to one of the world’s most developed nations. I hopped on the shuttle bus, which was much nicer than any public transportation I had ever stepped foot in, and reached my hotel without any traffic congestions. On the streets, I was surprised by the number of flags on the buildings and by people wearing college sweatshirts, sport teams hats and everyone seemed to be holding on to a “huge” cup of coffee or soda.
Later that evening, I went for dinner with some friends. When the check arrived, I was thrown off by the tipping system and the tax added on to the price listed on the menu. On my way back, I was astonished by how much energy was being wasted just to keep everything looking flashy throughout the night. I also remember noticing way more police cars patrolling the street at all times than in any other country, be it Germany or India.
People were so friendly and I felt so welcomed that my 3-day sojourn made U.S feel more like home to me than India and Singapore ever did. While certain experiences were sharp contrast to my imagination, I was overall amazed and fell in the love on my very first day in the U.S. This motivated me to transfer to the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, and continuing the American experience of an immigrant.