Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Into the Unknown

The only thing that is constant is change!  

             I have always been enraptured by the world of biology and since my school days, albeit I was an average students, was quite good in this field. Being an average student, my mom had been of the opinion that no sooner I complete my 10th class, than I shall find any job and settle in. I, however, have had some other ideas and was determined that I am not going to give up so easily as I wanted to continue my studies in the field of science. After scoring a very miserable grade in 10th class, I was lucky enough to be admitted in one of the science colleges in Mumbai (Bombay) and, of course, my friends and family laughed at me for opting for science. After completing 2 years of mandatory junior college, I didn't face much troubles getting into the University of Mumbai for my bachelor's degree in zoology and oceanography. 

             My mom, upon leanring that I am going to complete my graduation, was very happy as up until my 10th class, she has had absolutely no hope from me as far as passing junior college was concerned, let alone getting a graduate tag. After completing my graduation from the University of Mumbai and getting a first class, I went on to pursure my masters degree in biotechnology and molecular oncology from Kannur university in the state of Kerala, India. This was the first time that I went very far from my home for 2 years but I loved it. I learned a lot of things, made new friends, learned a new language (Malayam) which I wouldn't have learned, had I not been out of my comfort zone.
             After passing my masters degree (again with first class), I decided to pursue PhD (doctorate of science) degree abroad and applied to many universities in the UK and other countries. I was again lucky to be accepted by 3 universities in the UK but sadly they didn't give any financial help and I knew I wouldn't be qualified for any scholarship program, if any, considering my poor grades in the school and as a result I was not able to go the UK. I was, however, determined to pursue my research, and while working, I concurrently continued to apply for PhD program abroad. Many universities never replied to my emails, and some that did, had rejection written all over them! But I still didn't give up as I was sanguine enough to get into a PhD program.

….and then came a twist!

          As I was browsing through some university page on Facebook, I came across a comment in which somebody had mentioned about the university in Udmurt Republic. At first I wondered as to where is this place located and then after a few Google searches, I stumbled upon the Udmurt State University website. By this time, I figured out that Udmurt Republic is in Russia and that the university is located in the city of Izhevsk (I had no clue about the pronunciation then)  

          After browsing through the website, I sent an email to the international relationship department with no hope of getting any reply, as most of my queries to other universities have had turned futile.  But after a few days, I was surprised to receive a reply (and this was the first ever positive reply I got in my hundreds of query emails that I had sent to many universities across the world).

         Upon seeing a positive reply, I decided to ‘step on the gas’ and head to Russia!! And after a month, it became clear that my destination is Russia and that I would be finally be pursuing my PhD degree, a dream of my life! Had I not been stumbled upon and scrolled to the ‘comment box’ of that Facebook post, I wouldn’t have been writing this blog from Russia! Russia, an unexpected destination for me! 

The Departure Day

       27th February 2015 would always remain a date that changed a lot of things for me. Once again moving to an unknown place completely out of my comfort zone was very difficult decision for me to take, and especially leaving my mom alone but I knew that if I don't snaffle upon this opportunity, I wouldn't get another. My mom was quite disolated to see me going and didn't know when she would see me again, yet she was very happy about my decision and suppoted me. It was probably the most emotional moment in my life to bid adieu to my mom who was in tears, yet I could see hope in her eyes that things would turn around and change for good for me. 

     As a devouring Indian railway fan, my original plan was to board the Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani express however the last moment rescheduling of my Moscow bound Air India flight forced me to board a flight out of Mumbai, sadly. I boarded an Indigo flight for Delhi and then boarded the Air India AI-155 for Moscow and finally boarded Izhavia airlines from Moscow to Izhevsk. As always, Air India has always been an amazing Indian airlines but this time I wouldn't say that I was totally happy with their service. As expected, the flight got further delayed and departed at 9PM as against 7:55PM. The entire duration of flight was uneventful except for some small turbulences while flying over Pakistan and Afghanistan. Landing in Moscow, too, was smooth despite heavy snow around the airport. 

Leaving Mumbai! On board Indigo airlines bound for Delhi
Moscow bound Air India's Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the background at Delhi IGI Airport
Moscow Domodedovo Airport
             Being all alone in a country where English is not spoken widely and I had absolutely no clue about Rusisan language then, it became a quite a challenge for me. After spending about 8 hours at the airport (whole night), I went to my friend's place in the wee hours of the morning for much needed sleep.

The Yak 42 Experience

            I was very excited about my travel plan from Moscow to Izhevsk as I was going to fly on a Russian made Yakovlev Yak 42 aircraft for the first time. Although a small aircraft, it was more comfortable than Boeing or Airbus and there were no turbulences despite flying through heavy snow. I would absolutely love to fly the Yak 42 again. The flight departed on time from Moscow's Domodeovo airport and landed in Izhevsk 30 minutes before its scheduled arrival. Thus ending my 48 hours journey from Mumbai to Izhevsk.

On Board Izhavia Airlines Yak 42 Aircraft about to Land in Izhevsk, Russia