By the time this article comes out, I will have been in Minnesota (and the United States) for four months. It is a long way away from my home in India. I have had one of the best times because of the people I have met and the things I have learned about science and life in general. I can't be more thankful for the experience. Here are five things I've realized since coming to Minnesota.
1. It's not that difficult to start a conversation.
Before coming to the U.S., I had heard stories about strangers on the street who would make your day with some of the kindest gestures. One night, I was walking from school to my apartment at 11:00 p.m. There were two men walking in front of me talking about their finals. Suddenly they turn to me and ask, “How are the finals treating you?” We talked for about two minutes and then went our own way, wishing each other good luck on the upcoming exams. The barrier for starting a conversation is quite low here compared to most Asian nations.
2. It doesn't cost you anything to be nice to people.
Seriously. This is something I have learned from the people here. Or maybe it’s just the phenomenon of "Minnesota Nice." All of my bus rides have started with a huge grin from the driver, which makes my day. My trip to Target is actually a happy one, as the cashiers there also make my day. So does my advisor, with a smiling face regardless of how shitty my idea or work is!
3. Being on time doesn't hurt anyone, it actually helps! Surprise!
Classes start on time, so do presentations and meetings. And people are where they said they would be at a particular time. The only reason anyone has been remotely late is due to heavy snow and traffic. That’s it. Being on time is something I appreciate very deeply as you show respect for someone else’s time.
4. University of Minnesota students value their studies.
Though high tuition fees might motivate you to study, I have found that many people here are passionate about their work. There is nothing worse than people whining about what they are doing with their lives while studying something completely unrelated to their interests.
5. Saying no is not a crime.
In most Asian countries (or maybe it's just an Indian thing), people don’t usually directly say "No." They usually say things like, "I will try to do that," "I may be able to do that," and convoluted versions of this same phrase. They will later regret not saying no to something in the first place. If is hard to disappoint and even harder to ask for what you want or need. Here, your opinion is at least respected and no one will force you to do something you don’t want to and hold it over your head.