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Before joining UMass, I had a head full of dreams. I used to get so excited imagining what living and learning outside my home country would look like. With a skip in my step and a bittersweet heart, all the farewell parties commenced, all the goodbyes said, and tears shed. The plans were right next to ready when international travel bans left me hanging, so I decided to stay back. It was one of the toughest decisions of my life, knowing that my freshman year is going to blow away with the wind in the blink of an eye.

Jet Cloud Landing Aircraft
Pixabay / Pexels

Weeks later, crying at 3 a.m. on the bathroom floor has started becoming less about relationship issues and more about what meeting or seminar I need to attend in the next hour. Living the lockdown life in India, I’m always ten and a half hours ahead of Massachusetts. It honestly makes me feel part of some badly directed sci-fi movie: I’m stuck between two dimensions, never completely a part of either. My body clock had to shift dramatically and although I have adjusted to waking up at noon, the first few weeks were a whirlwind. Classes in the morning and surviving on copious amounts of coffee, I never knew how I would ever return to normalcy.

During those formative weeks, it was difficult to get to know other students because our timings refused to match. I had let go of fun movie nights and Among Us tournaments; more than that, I had to let go of countless hours of socializing which would have been so much easier to do if I could have just been on campus. Having never been to the United States, there was a huge cultural barrier I had to cross, which can prove to be tough for some, especially for non-English speakers. Additionally, working on college assignments from home slowly decreased the difference between study and home-life so I was prone to frequent burnouts, zero exercise, and the responsibility of keeping up with a completely novel education system.

woman lying in white bed
Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy from Unsplash

Into my second semester, I’ve created a brand new normal for myself. I’m pushing past boundaries that stopped me earlier. Every day presents several opportunities to learn about the beautiful campus I’ll be going to in the near future and more importantly, unlearn so many assumptions that had unconsciously become a part of me. Through this journey, I have met some wonderful people, gotten to know a bunch of interesting places to visit in Amherst, and familiarized myself with most of Massachusetts’ slang; a major throwback to the time I had to search up “what’s the word”! Today, I’m making conscious choices in favor of my mental health, eating healthy, and sleeping for at least eight hours a day but along with that, I make it a point to concentrate in my classes, have fun with friends in club meetings, and figure out comfortable timings without feeling overwhelmed!

Solo Travel
Photo by Element 5 Digital from Pexels

What I’m hinting at is that I’m your modern-day Hannah Montana: a little tired, carrying a head full of dreams but with a lot of fight left in me to get through my daily battles. I’ll always have the best of both worlds!

Rhea Mukherjee

U Mass Amherst '24

Rhea Mukherjee is a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is majoring in Psychology and double minoring in English and Biology. A people's person, Rhea has a deep passion for mental health, awareness and adolescent wellness. When she's not nose-deep in work, you can find her strumming her ukulele, reading memoirs or writing poetry!
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