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Ze Grad School Visit Trip

Admittedly, not the most original of titles. As some may know, I’m inclined towards academic research, and have been admitted to PhD programmes at MIT, CMU and Stanford. So, grabbing hold of this golden opportunity to evade work, I spent the 2 weeks visiting these places, meeting professors and students and generally having a ball of a time. The trip happened in early March, so this post is still within experimental error of my usual procrastination delay1.

There and Back Again

Let me begin with a customary warning; do not fly Kingfisher. I didn’t know I was; British Airways codeshared the connecting flight to Mumbai, which got so terribly delayed I missed the flight out. On the positive side, they put me up in a (fairly crappy) hotel, and I got a chance to go out and have some Vada Pav. Oh, and I had the opportunity to be a perfect gentleman to a pair of Paraguayan ladies (who knew nothing but Spanish) who also got jilted thanks to Kingfisher. For the record, the Hyderabad airport is better than Mumbai’s.

My first stop was MIT, in Boston. I went via London Heathrow, an excellent airport which I shall remember for their simply divine Mocha, especially as it preceded 2 weeks of terrible coffee in the US. My word for Boston is “vivacious” - it really feels like a proper city, with people bustling about and all that jazz. Their public transport system (the “T”) is extremely efficient and effective. My favourite sight was the Charles river (better remembered as the river the Winklevoss twins rowed down in the Social Network). Though it was cold (yes, there was snow), people were still jogging around.

I bunked at Anirudh SK’s place, and it was nice meeting up with him again. We had an awesome “social gathering” with RF (Naveen Karthik), Tehelka (“Sri”ram), Nachiket, Gauri and Suvinay. Later, RF showed me the “flavours” of MIT life; the MIT Pizza place(?) and the Snickers ice-cream bar.

Next up, Carnegie Mellon, which is in Pittsburgh for other geographically challenged readers. I took the bus to get to the hotel, but ended up missing my stop. I had to trudge snow through for about a mile to get back to the warm confines of the hotel. Let me just say that I strongly reconsidered my decision to apply to CMU during the walk. On the flip side, the next two days were extremely pleasant. There are some very nice buildings (mainly cathedrals and hospitals) in Pittsburgh, but otherwise it’s a pretty dead town. I met up with Vivek, and that felt great. I never knew Vivek too well while at IIT, but I felt very younger-brotherly around him, and that gave me that warm feeling inside. It might be biased by the fact that I was going to meet my brother the next day after more that six months.

I took a Greyhound bus down to Cincinnati, spending half the trip sitting next to a guy who just got out of jail. To his disappointment, I didn’t have any rap on my phone, despite having nearly every other genre from western classical to heavy metal. The experience was a bit unnerving, to be honest. Anyways, I spent the remaining half sitting next to a senior citizen hopping buses from Nova Scotia (Canada) to Kentucky, hopping 5 buses over 2 days to meet friends he’d made online. Atleast the ride wasn’t boring.

Of course, meeting my brother, Aditya, was the highlight of the trip. I can still feel the brotherly awesomeness of meeting him again; elder brothers rock. We spent a lot of time talking about random things.

5 Generations of IITians at Stanford
5 Generations of IITians at Stanford

Finally, I took a flight down to San Francisco, and a bus down to Palo Alto, where I was entertained en route by a drunk latino, claiming he was the real OG (original gangsta’) and Bruce Lee. Yet again, I got off at the wrong stop, and had to trudge down to the hotel. There was no snow this time though. Palo Alto frankly pales in comparison with Boston as a city, but its down town exists and is fairly “happening”. I had a pleasant time meeting Vimal and Anant (also bumping into Saad serendipitously); Vimal is another brotherly figure for me, so it was really nice talking with him. I spent my buffer day buying stuff from a shopping center (quite a while away from Stanford). I must recommend Pearl’s Coffee Shop for their absolutely fantastic banana waffles. Anyways, later that day, I treated 4 generations of IITians to dinner; Vibav, Nikhil Handigol (2008), Vimal, Ananth (2009), Chinmoy (2010) and Rakesh Mishra (2011) to some nice Greek food. All in all it was a great time.

  1. My standard unit of procrastination has a mean of a month, and standard deviation of a year, rendering the statement more or less pointless. Also, the unit applies only to things I have resolved to do.